Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess

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

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source:
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

Fallout from Larry Nassar scandal continues with latest resignation

AP
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Michigan State University’s governing body on Thursday accepted interim president John Engler’s resignation , but said it would be effective immediately rather than next week. It’s the latest development stemming from the sexual assault investigation of now-imprisoned gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

Engler took over at the school on a temporary basis after the previous president quit in the wake of fallout from the scandal. The board appointed Satish Udpa as the new interim president. He currently serves as the school’s executive vice president for administration.

Numerous people have been charged, fired or forced out of their jobs during the investigations into the once-renowned sports doctor. He was sentenced to decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women said he sexually molested them under the guise that it was medical treatment, including while he worked for Michigan State and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Here’s a look at some of the individuals and organizations that have been affected:

MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY

— Lou Anna Simon: The university president and school alumna resigned last January amid growing pressure. She denied any cover-up by the university. The governing board later hired Engler. Heresigned amid fallout from remarks he made about some victims of Nassar.

The school has settled lawsuits totaling $500 million. Simon is charged with two felony and two misdemeanor counts of lying to a police officer in connection with the investigation.

— Mark Hollis: The athletic director called his departure last year a retirement, but he, too, faced pressure to leave.

— Kathie Klages: The former head gymnastics coach resigned in 2017 after she was suspended for defending Nassar over the years. Klages was charged with lying to investigators. If convicted, she could face up to four years in prison. She has denied allegations that former gymnast Larissa Boyce told her that Nassar had abused her in 1997, when Boyce was 16.

— Brooke Lemmen: The former school doctor resigned in 2017 after learning the university was considering firing her because she didn’t disclose that USA Gymnastics was investigating Nassar. A state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs investigation cleared her of any violations in November.

— William Strampel: The former dean of the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine is awaiting trial after being charged in March amid allegations that he failed to keep Nassar in line, groped female students and stored nude student selfies on his campus computer. Strampel, who has also been named in lawsuits, retired June 30, even as Michigan State was trying to fire him.

— Bob Noto: The university in February announced the departure of its longtime vice president for legal affairs. The school called it a retirement. Noto had been Michigan State’s general counsel since 1995.

USA GYMNASTICS

— Rhonda Faehn: The former senior vice president of the organization was dismissed this month by the University of Michigan after working for just a few days as a coaching consultant for its women’s team. She was fired after an outcry over her hiring. USA Gymnastics parted ways with Faehn as senior vice president in May after she was criticized by Nassar’s victims for not contacting authorities about potential abuse concerns.

— Valeri Liukin: The coordinator of the women’s national team for USA Gymnastics announced in early February that he was stepping down, less than 18 months after taking over for Martha Karolyi. Liukin said that while he wanted to help turn around the program, “the present climate causes me, and more importantly my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty.”

— USA Gymnastics said last January that its entire board of directors would resign, as requested by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The USOC last month took steps to decertify the gymnastics organization that picks U.S. national teams, and USA Gymnastics filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition last week as it attempts to reach settlements in the dozens of sex-abuse lawsuits it faces and to forestall its potential demise at the hands of the USOC.

— Steve Penny: The former president and CEO of the organization resigned under pressure in March 2017. He was replaced by Kerry Perry, who took over in December 2017. Penny pleaded not guilty in October to a third-degree felony alleging he ordered the removal of documents relating to Nassar from the Karolyi Ranch in Texas.

— Less than a year after being hired as USA Gymnastics’ president and CEO, Perry resigned in September after the USOC questioned her ability to lead the scandal-rocked organization.

— Former California U.S. Rep. Mary Bono was hired in October as the interim president for USA Gymnastics only to resign four day later. Bono said she felt her affiliation with the embattled organization would be a “liability” after a social media post by Bono criticizing Nike and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick drew widespread scrutiny within the gymnastics community. Six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman also questioned Bono’s association with a law firm that advised the organization on how to handle portions of the Nassar scandal.

— Ron Galimore: The longtime USA Gymnastics chief operating officer resigned in November but denied any wrongdoing in the Nassar scandal. The Indianapolis Star reported in May that an attorney hired by USA Gymnastics directed Galimore to come up with a false excuse to explain Nassar’s absence at major gymnastic events in the summer of 2015. The organization was looking into complaints against Nassar at the time.

TWISTARS GYMNASTICS CLUB

— John Geddert: The owner of the Michigan club was suspended last January by USA Gymnastics and announced his retirement. He was the U.S. women’s coach at the 2012 Olympics. Geddert has said he had “zero knowledge” of Nassar’s crimes.

KAROLYI RANCH

— USA Gymnastics said last January that the Texas ranch where a number of gymnasts said Nassar abused them would no longer serve as the national training center. Owners Martha and Bela Karolyi have since sued the USOC and USA Gymnastics, seeking damages for a canceled sale of the property. They also have been named in lawsuits.

— Debra Van Horn: Texas prosecutors in June filed sexual assault charges against Nassar and Van Horn, a trainer who worked at his side at the Karolyi Ranch and also worked at USA Gymnastics for 30 years. She was charged with second-degree sexual assault of a child. The local prosecutor said Van Horn was charged with “acting as a party” with Nassar.

U.S. OLYMPIC COMMITTEE

— Scott Blackmun: The CEO resigned in February, citing difficulties with prostate cancer and the federation’s need to move forward to deal with the sexual abuse scandal. There had been calls for his departure.

— Alan Ashley: The USOC fired the chief of sport performance last month in the wake of an independent report that said neither he nor Blackmun elevated concerns about the Nassar allegations when they were first reported to them.

 

Reports: Denis Ten’s killers sentenced

AP
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Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten died on July 19 in his home city of Almaty, Kazakhstan, after being stabbed by robbers attempting to vandalize his car. Ten died after being brought to the hospital for two stab wounds to the femoral artery. He was 25.

Those suspects, reports said Thursday, were sentenced to 18 years in a penal colony.

Arman Kudaibergenov and Nurali Kiyasov, both in their 20s, were found guilty in his death while a woman, Zhanar Tolybayeva, was sentenced to four years for failing to report the event to authorities and withholding information.

Ten’s family has said through their lawyer they believe the murder was pre-planned and Ten may have been lured to that location. So far, nothing in the investigation indicates that.

Ten was a three-time Olympian, most recently finishing 27th in PyeongChang. He also silver and bronze medals at the world championships in 2013 and 2015. He struggled in the lead-up to the 2018 Winter Olympics but wanted to compete because he was of South Korean descent. His great-grandfather fought for South Korean independence and is depicted in a statue in Wonjnu, about 35 miles from PyeongChang.

MORE: Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew Poje debut free dance tribute to Denis Ten

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