Torah Bright

Torah Bright to skip Sochi Olympics if safety problems worsen

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At least one gold medalist is considering not competing at the Sochi Olympics after suicide bombings rocked a city 400 miles northeast of Sochi.

“If the political position gets any worse I sure as hell won’t be risking my safety just for an Olympic Games,” said Australian Torah Bright, the reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, according to The Australian Associated Press.

Two-time Olympic snowboardcross champion Seth Wescott said he doesn’t think he’ll attend the Opening Ceremony if he qualifies for the Winter Games, according to USA Today.

More than 30 people were killed after explosions Sunday and Monday in Volgograd, a city of more than one million people about 400 miles northeast of Sochi.

The president of the Russian Olympic Committee said security will not be increased for the Winter Games, which begin Feb. 6.

Bright, eyeing her third Olympics, said she needed to learn more about the situation before making a final decision.

“I’m not too worried but if it comes down to countries saying, ‘go at your own risk,’ I would make a decision that would keep me safe,” Bright said. “As far as now I think it would be OK, but I guess we’ll see when the time comes.”

American athletes expressed varying levels of concern.

“I don’t want to be pessimistic about it,” Wescott said, according to USA Today. “I think you’re watching events start to happen. It’s a country that’s had massive amounts of internal strife that has manifested itself into actual combat. We’re not far away from where a lot of that has gone on in their country. It’s definitely a concern.”

Figure skater Ross Miner, who is preparing for next week’s U.S. Championships and a potential first Olympics, said he doesn’t worry, citing high security when he competed at the 2011 World Championships in Moscow, where athletes went through metal detectors.

“Given the history of the Olympics and the tragedy that occurred in Munich, the IOC takes this very seriously,” Miner said.

Speed skater Jilleanne Rookard, who made her second Olympic team last week, said she’s unsure if she trusts the security forces in Russia.

“But they don’t want a national embarrassment, either,” she told The Associated Press. “I use that thought to relieve some of my worry. I’m sure they want to save their image and their pride.”

Austrian ski jumper Thomas Morgenstern, a three-time Olympic champion, said he saw sharp shooters roaming the woods at a competition in Sochi last year, according to the AP.

“It’s terrible we have to live in fear,” four-time Olympic speed skating medalist Shani Davis told the AP, “but that’s just kind of how it is.”

Russia sports minister scales back Olympic medal expectations

‘Race and Sports in America: Conversations’ primetime special covers social justice, combating inequality

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Athletes, including Olympians, discussed social justice, locker room conversations about race and ways that sports can help combat inequality in “Race and Sports in America: Conversations,” airing Monday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Olympic Channel, Golf Channel and NBC Sports Regional Networks.

NBC Sports’ Damon Hack hosted roundtables with active and retired athletes at the American Century Championship Golf Tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, last week.

Panelists, including Olympians James Blake and Charles Barkley and Tokyo Olympic hopeful Stephen Curry, also reflected on personal experiences.

Barkley, an Olympic gold medalist in 1992 and 1996, said coaches recently reached out to him to speak to their teams.

“First of all, relax and breathe,” Barkley said. “This crap started 400 years ago. We can’t do nothing about that. We can’t do anything about systematic racism. What I challenge every Black person, every white person to do: What can I do today going forward?

“You have to ask yourself, I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Because if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Blake, a retired former top-five tennis player and 2008 Olympian, was wrestled to the ground, handcuffed and arrested by a plainclothes New York City police officer in 2015 in a case of mistaken identity caught on video. The police officer’s punishment was a loss of five vacation days.

“The first thing I said when I got tackled was, I’m complying 100 percent,” Blake said. “And that shouldn’t have to be your response the first time you interact with a police officer. And because that’s the way my dad taught me is stay alive. Do whatever you can to stay alive. Sort it out later with lawyers or however you want to do it, and stay alive in that moment. The fact you have to have those rules in 2020 means maybe we have to do something drastic to change the way police interact with the African-American community and the way the community interacts with the police.”

Curry said his daughters, 7-year-old Riley and 5-year-old Ryan, asked questions about the images they recently saw. He’s not shielding them, but rather being honest about society, going back centuries.

“We have to continue to double down and double down and keep people accountable in all walks of life, all industries, all forms of leadership, the judicial system, all those type of things,” Curry said. “And hopefully for my kids’ generation, their kids, we will see change. I’m hopeful and optimistic about, but I understand how much work will need to go into that.”

The full list of athletes who participated in the “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” roundtables:

• Charles Barkley – 1992 and 1996 Olympic basketball champion
• James Blake – 10-time ATP tennis champion, 2008 Olympian
• Stephen Curry – two-time NBA MVP, two-time FIBA world champion
• Troy Mullins – World Long Drive competitor
• Anthony Lynn – Los Angeles Chargers head coach
• Jimmy Rollins – World Series champion shortstop
• Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings tight end
• Ozzie Smith – Major League Baseball Hall of Famer

Additionally, Hack was joined by Super Bowl champion running back Jerome Bettis for an extended interview that will be published on NBC Sports’ digital and podcast platforms.

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Shelby Houlihan shatters American 5000m record

Shelby Houlihan
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Shelby Houlihan chopped 10.52 seconds off her own American 5000m record, clocking 14:23.92 at a Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, Ore., on Friday night.

Houlihan, who was 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, has in this Olympic cycle improved to become one of the greatest female distance runners in U.S. history.

She first broke Shannon Rowbury‘s American record in the 5000m by 4.47 seconds in 2018. In 2019, she broke Rowbury’s American record in the 1500m by 1.3 seconds in finishing fourth at the world championships in 3:54.99.

On Friday, Houlihan and second-place Karissa Schweizer both went under the American record. Schweizer, 24 and three years younger than Houlihan, clocked 14:26.34, staying with Houlihan until the winner’s 61-second final lap.

“I knew Karissa was going to try to come up on me and take the lead. She does that every time,” Houlihan told USATF.tv. “I had decided I was not going to let that happen.”

Houlihan improved from 41st to 12th on the world’s all-time 5000m list, 12.77 seconds behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record.

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