Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess

Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess a unique U.S. Olympic hopeful

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Courtesy: U.S. Ski Team

With a name like Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess, you better have an interesting life story.

Blackhorse-von Jess is a U.S. Olympic cross-country skiing hopeful. His mother is of Native American descent, his dad is German and he has child acting and modeling credits.

“I’m probably the first of my kind,” he said by phone amid wind gusts on a break from skiing in the Oregon woods.

He would probably not make the U.S. Olympic Team if named today. Blackhorse-von Jess, 27, is the fifth-ranked U.S. sprinter, and the top four are expected to be picked for Sochi.

He is also not on the U.S. National Team, but he could make gains in competitions to get into the Olympic picture before the team for Sochi is named in late January.

Blackhorse-von Jess’ mother is of Nez Perce Native American descent. The Pacific Northwest tribe’s French name translates to “pierced nose.”

“It’s a complete misnomer,” he said. “They gave the name to the wrong tribe. They have no piercings. My ear is pierced, but I haven’t had an earring in it since probably the sixth grade. I was a product of the ‘90s.”

His father’s German family is quite large and supportive of his skiing. His uncle is Peter von Jess, the chairman and chief executive of USfalcon, a defense contract company and his primary sponsor.

“I have just the right mix of strength and power and cardiovascular endurance,” said the bearded, backwards-baseball-cap-wearing Blackhorse-von Jess.

He also has an IMDB page with one credit.

“I was a child actor,” he said. “A couple commercials. An independent movie.”

They included a spot for Taco Time, a Mexican fast-foot chain, when he was about 8.

And, for Cellular One, a knockoff of “Sleepless in Seattle” called “Cellularless in Seattle.”

“The male and female leads looked just like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan,” he said. “They used the houseboat from the movie.”

Blackhorse-von Jess played the role of the matchmaking boy from the 1993 romantic comedy, Jonah.

“I watched [‘Sleepless in Seattle’] before the first day of our filming,” he said. “I don’t think they were ever able to air [‘Cellularless in Seattle’] because of lawsuits.”

In another commercial, he played a boy throwing a pet frog onto a conveyor belt sorting out green beans.

“I actually enjoyed it a lot,” he said. “I don’t want to make it sound like tiger moms or set moms that destroy lives. It was a busy childhood, but I wasn’t Macaulay Culkin.”

source:
Courtesy: Mariah Blackhorse

When he was 9, an agent asked his mom if she would take him to Los Angeles to advance his career.

She declined and instead went to Pocatello, Idaho, where he learned to ski. They later moved back west to Bend in 2001.

Blackhorse-von Jess attended Mountain View High School with Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton.

He went to the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and watched the tainted cross-country skiing competition at Soldier Hollow.

A high school state skiing champion, he said he scored “1,500ish” on his SAT (back when it was out of 1,600) but turned down a full ride to the University of Washington.

The offer was accompanied by an internship with NASA and direct admission into the school’s college of computer science and engineering.

He was more interested in the 2005 World Junior Championships in Rovanieme, Finland, just south of the Arctic Circle.

“I decided that I wanted to take a year, instead of going to college, take a year and try this ski racing thing,” he said. “I would certainly be a lot less broke now if I took [Washington’s offer], but I certainly wouldn’t be skiing.”

NASA was hard to resist.

“I don’t think you know what you’re turning down,” officials from the University of Washington and NASA told him.

“I didn’t do a lot of prep for the SAT,” he said. “I didn’t take school super seriously. The fact that it came so easily made the decision so easy for me. I thought I could [come back later to college and] do this again.”

He finished 29th in a junior worlds race and did go back to college.

He enrolled at Dartmouth in fall 2006, without financial aid, and graduated in spring 2010 with a computer science degree.

Any hopes of making the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team vanished when he contracted the swine flu over the 2009-10 holidays.

“It was the worst sickness I’ve ever had,” he said.

They called it the Smallwood Sickness, after the name of a family that hosted the holiday party where so many people got sick. But nobody got it as bad as Blackhorse-von Jess.

“Crawl, pass out 30 minutes, wake up, crawl some more,” he said.

He waited about a week before getting antibiotics and competed at the U.S. Championships in January 2010, one month before the Olympics, on “a boatload of Ibuprofen.”

He finished 38th and 41st in two races and watched the Vancouver Games on TV.

Blackhorse-von Jess now lives in Bend, Ore., where he’s coached by 1992 and 1994 Olympian Ben Husaby and trains with high schoolers.

“A bunch of snot-nosed kids,” he joked. “We have middle schoolers, too.”

Do they ever beat him?

“No. God no,” he said. “That’s funny though. It’s more of a mentor relationship. Usually I’m encouraging them to at least try to do a pull-up.”

Blackhorse-von Jess is not concerned about the lack of competition. He’s trained alone for most of his life and gotten pretty good at it. He won his first national sprint title in January.

He supports his training as the associate director of the Bend Endurance Academy, an independent computer software professional and a handyman.

This year, Blackhorse-von Jess flew to Europe before the World Cup season starts Nov. 29 to enter lower-level FIS races.

He said he felt confident, having beaten likely U.S. Olympians Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton in a tune-up race in late October. At 5-foot-9, he looks up to them.

“They are the two best [U.S.] racers,” he said. “To ski away from those guys, that was a big deal.”

Before flying to Finland, he said he needed to race “at a top-20 level” to boost his chances of making the World Cup team. Blackhorse-von Jess finished 34th in his first FIS race Friday.

He’s making news in Scandinavia, where cross-country skiing is a way of life.

“In America, it’s less exotic I guess,” he said. “But I just made the Norwegian Nordic ski website. They wrote an article, and I was included in it simply because of my name, which is absolutely absurd and kind of funny, too.”

U.S. skier tore ACL, competed at Olympics 2 weeks later

Copenhagen withdraws as 2021 World Gymnastics Championships host, cites pandemic

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Copenhagen withdrew as host of the 2021 World Gymnastics Championships, citing financial strain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gymnastics worlds are usually not held in Olympic years, but the October 2021 edition remained scheduled when the Tokyo Games were postponed to summer 2021.

Denmark’s gymnastics federation board made the decision to not host worlds due in part to uncertainty about the global development of the coronavirus pandemic. That combined with financial losses already associated with the pandemic led to the bowing out.

The International Gymnastics Federation executive committee will “consider all consequences” from Copenhagen withdrawing, including launching a new bid process.

The 2022 Worlds are set for Liverpool, Great Britain, and 2023 in Antwerp, Belgium. Denmark will look into bidding to host in 2025.

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Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles headline Inspiration Games; TV, stream info

Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles
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In Allyson Felix‘s 17 years on the senior international level, she has never experienced anything like what Thursday will bring.

Felix, a nine-time Olympic medalist, will line up at a track in California to race 150 meters. Her opponents will be on the other side of the country — Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo in Florida — and the other side of the Atlantic Ocean — Swiss Mujinga Kambundji in Zurich.

The Inspiration Games air live on Thursday from 2-3:30 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. The meet is a repurposed version of a Diamond League stop in Zurich, Switzerland.

“I’ve just been training and training and training, so anything to break it up. … this seemed like something great. I just loved the concept,” said Felix, who memorably raced alone in at the Rio Olympics in a re-run of the 4x100m first round. “I’m not really sure what to expect. I think [it’s] the first time that we’ve all done anything like this. I’m just approaching it to have fun and hopefully give people something to watch and to be entertained by. I think we all miss sports so much.”

Meet organizers had to get creative with the coronavirus pandemic limiting athlete travel and group events. The Impossible Games was first to go on June 11 — in an Oslo stadium with few spectators and even fewer athletes (and others competing in different countries).

The Inspiration Games takes virtual competition to another level. Felix, Miller-Uibo and Kambundji are all slated to sprint at the same time in different locations. As are world champion Noah Lyles, Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre and the Netherlands’ Churandy Martina in a later 200m.

It marks the first meet since the coronavirus pandemic for Felix, bidding to make her fifth Olympic team and first as a mom. The pandemic and restrictions in California forced her to train on streets.

“Everything is still pretty much locked down,” she said. “You can’t get onto a track without jumping a fence.”

Felix admitted she’s “definitely not sharp” going into her first race since February.

“Once we knew for sure that the Olympic Games would be postponed, we really had to think about being at our best a year from now,” said Felix, a 34-year-old bidding to break Michael Johnson‘s record as the oldest Olympic 400m medalist. “In my situation and where I’m at in my career, I had to make some adjustments, just with the level of impact on my body so that I could still be able to continue to train, but to save something and to have that one last time to be at my best next year. I definitely think things have shifted now.”

Lyles raced last Saturday at a small meet in Florida, outsprinting Justin Gatlin in a 100m heat (9.93 seconds to 9.99 with a hefty four meter/second tailwind).

The regular Diamond League calendar is scheduled to resume in August.

Here are the Inspiration Games entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1:35 p.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
1:35 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:05 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:10 — Women’s 150m
2:27 — Men’s 100 Yards
2:41 — Women’s 300m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 200m
3:20 — Women’s 3x100m Relay

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:35 p.m.
Greek Katerina Stefanidi, a Stanford grad, and American Sandi Morris renew their rivalry. Stefanidi will be in California. Morris will be in Florida. Swede Angelica Bengtsson rounds out the field. Stefanidi relegated Morris to silver at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. But Morris snapped’ Stefanidi’s streak of eight straight wins in their head-to-head back in 2018 and has bettered Stefanidi in four of their last six meetings.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:05 p.m.
Double Olympic champion Christian Taylor takes on longtime rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo, a Cuban-born Portuguese, and American Omar Craddock. Taylor bettered Pichardo in five of their last six meetings. In more than 30 meets together, Taylor has lost to Craddock just once (when Taylor has competed in full).

Women’s 150m — 2:10 p.m.
Felix and Miller-Uibo go head to head for the first time since the 2017 World Championships. Their most memorable duel came at the Rio Olympics, where a diving Miller-Uibo edged Felix by .07 for 400m gold. While Miller-Uibo and Felix primarily compete over a full lap, the 150m is closer to Kambundji’s wheelhouse. The Swiss earned 200m bronze at the 2019 World Championships, taking advantage of a depleted field.

Men’s 100 Yards — 2:27 p.m.
Triple Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada, Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica and French veteran Jimmy Vicaut all train in Florida and will presumably be racing at the same venue on Thursday. The 100 yards is scantly contested in top-level meets. Nobody has broken nine seconds in a 100-yard (91.44-meter) race, according to World Athletics. But Usain Bolt‘s estimated 100-yard time en route to his 2009 world record in the 100m was 8.87 seconds.

Men’s 200m — 3:06 p.m.
Lyles has lost an outdoor 200m just once in this Olympic cycle and wouldn’t normally be pestered by Lemaitre or Martina, but these are unusual times and this an unusual competition. Lemaitre is the Olympic bronze medalist but was sixth at last year’s French Championships. Martina, 36, and, like Lemaitre, hasn’t broken 20 seconds in more than three years.

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