A husband, a dad, and now, an Olympic gold medalist

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – David Wise says he holds it down for the “rad dad” club as an action sports athlete with a wife and daughter.

He joined another movement by winning the first Olympic halfpipe skiing title Tuesday, one that’s keeping the U.S. among the most successful nations into the second week of the Winter Games.

Wise’s 92-point run amid fat, falling snowflakes marked the U.S. Olympic Team’s 20th medal, matching it with the Netherlands’ speed skating teams for the overall lead.

Half of those medals have come from athletes in Winter X Games disciplines, including both American podium finishers Tuesday. Earlier, Alex Deibold won a surprise snowboard cross bronze, extending the U.S.’ hopes of winning a medal on every night of these Games.

Wise’s gold was special in many ways, but he put in this perspective: Wise came to Sochi as the three-time reigning Winter X Games champion and the reigning world champion. Other Olympians under similar circumstances have not fared so well – Shaun White, Hannah Kearney and Kelly Clark at this same Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, to name a few.

“I’ve been watching a lot of favorites lose this Olympics,” Wise, 23, said with the Stars and Stripes draped over his back, “so being part of the whole Olympic experience and seeing how much pressure it can be and how you have to perform regardless of the conditions or how you’re feeling that day, etcetera. It’s kind of sobering, to say the least.

Wise’s winning set of tricks – which he called a watered-down “C” run due to falling snow for the first time at these Winter Olympics – included two double corks. It was still enough to beat silver medalist Mike Riddle of Canada and bronze medalist Kevin Rolland of France.

Wise skied on the same pipe that foiled White and Clark. He prevailed with inspiration on a stick, in his pocket and back home, in The Biggest Little City in the World.

A Stick: Several friends and family members cheered Wise on from the finish area, but the group lacked Wise’s 2-year-old daughter Nayli. Wise’s wife, Lexi, and daughter were able to travel with Wise all season, but Lexi stayed home in Reno, Nev., with grandma, nana and papi this time.

The next best thing, it was decided, was to put her head on a stick, as seen below:

Wise noticed.

“To see that looking up at me from the bottom of the halfpipe was really cool,” he said.

The words “David” and “Wise” usually adorn the cheeks of Lexi, too, but she made a change for the Olympics. She opted for “Go” and “World.” It’s not an advertisement for Visa.

“The Olympics, to me, it just represents hope, and it represents peace,” Lexi said. “It gives us something to believe in as a world, as a globe.”

His Pocket: Wise has a tradition of collecting heart-shaped rocks when he travels as gifts for Lexi.

She returned the favor in Sochi, passing him a rock from Reno through a friend before the competition Tuesday.

He placed it in the pocket of his ski pants, zipped them up and went down the pipe four times in competition with “a little piece of home” along for the ride.

Back Home: John McKendricks, pastor at Valley View Christian Fellowship in South Reno, watched one of his congregation’s youth directors win gold on his church office computer.

If he tuned in early enough, he could have heard the stadium announcer introduce Wise as a “father, husband and philanthropist.”

McKendricks knows better than anyone how selfless Wise is, having witnessed both Wises help junior high and high school kids overcome drug abuse and depression the last five years. David and Lexi first met at a church camp.

Wise has aspirations to be a pastor, and he and his wife currently lead a group of about 30 teenagers. It’s called the Tribe.

Wise spent two or three nights a week with them, before the busy Olympics run-up, and took them to conferences, on hiking trips and to amusement parks.

“David is one of those rare people with intellect, ability and personality,” said McKendricks, who gave the avid reader Wise the book, “God As Love,” about Russian theology, before his trip to Sochi. “David likes to be an example. He’s a nurturer.”

He said Wise has remained humble despite growing into an action sports star.

source:  For all the hard work Wise puts in training, “he’s just as likely to enter a Big Gulp Slurpee drinking contest with a 13-year-old,” McKendricks said.

Wise plans to take his prize money from the U.S. Olympic Committee, typically $25,000 for a gold medal, and put 10 percent of it into Clean Water Project, his non-profit fund to provide clean drinking water to Malawi.

“Life is not just about your skiing,” Wise said.

But it primarily was for a few sleet-splashed hours Tuesday. Wise prevailed under the pressure of a heavy favorite. Now, he can bring home that rock and a gold medal for his daughter and his youth group to see.

“I came at it with the approach like, hey, I’m as accomplished as I need to be already,” Wise said. “So I just get to go out and put on a show.”

Jordan Thompson, U.S. volleyball’s new weapon, took unique route to NCAA history

Jordan Thompson
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It was about this time last year that Jordan Thompson first appeared on the radar of U.S. women’s volleyball coach Karch Kiraly. Since, Thompson emerged as the youngest starter, and arguably a star, for the national team.

She goes into what could be her final weekend of college volleyball as one of the most dominant athletes in any sport. And one of the most unique stories in NCAA history.

Thompson plays not for a Big Ten or Pac-12 powerhouse, but for Cincinnati, a school that, before she arrived, never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The unranked Bearcats upset second-ranked Pittsburgh in the second round last Saturday. They play Penn State, winner of six of the last 12 NCAA titles, in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

In 33 games this season, Thompson has registered a Division I-leading 768 kills, which is 143 more than the next most prolific attacker. That margin of 143 is the same number that separates No. 2 from No. 31.

Last season, she had 827 kills, which was 240 more than anybody else and a single-season record (by 112 kills) since NCAA match formats shifted from 30-point to 25-point sets in 2008.

She is a contender, if not a favorite, to be AVCA National Player of the Year. All of the previous winners dating to 1985 came from schools that reached at least one Final Four.

On Oct. 4, a UCF player’s face caught the wrong end of a Thompson attack. Cincinnati teammates watching from the bench dropped to the floor in astonishment.

Thompson tallied 50 kills in one match alone on Nov. 3, becoming the first D-I player to do so in 20 years.

That happened on Senior Day. Before that match, Thompson received a plaqued No. 23 jersey and flowers.

She posed for a photo standing with her husband, former Cincinnati offensive lineman Blake Yager, her mother, Mary, whose bribes helped Thompson develop into an attacker, and her father, 1990s Harlem Globetrotter Tyrone Doleman (and brother of Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman).

Mary has been most instrumental, raising Thompson as a single mom in Minnesota. Thompson, who is 6 feet, 4 inches now, was always tall for her age.

She played youth basketball against older girls and grew frustrated by the physical contact. Kneepads weren’t comfort enough. She decided to give volleyball a try in middle school.

“She was very timid,” Mary said of her daughter, who has since gotten 10 tattoos, including one of a hummingbird. “She would tell me she didn’t want to hurt anyone on the other side of the net. I told her I would give her a dollar for every time she would whack it. And I would give her $10 if she would actually hit someone on the other end of the court.”

It took a while, but Thompson was motivated by her love of horses. The payouts from her mom went toward a saddle and a bridal. A box with horse equipment remains in the family garage back home.

“She was trying to build up her supplies to be able to one day say to me, look, I’ve got a saddle, I’ve got all of my tack, I’ve got stuff to clean the hooves, can we get a horse now?” Mary said. 

After just two years of club volleyball, Thompson received her first Division-I scholarship offer. It came from Syracuse. Thompson was a high school sophomore.

“In the back of my head, I’m thinking, I’m never going to get another offer, so I better take this one,” she said.

Thompson was intent on Syracuse for a year before a coaching change led her to decommit. She wasn’t sure if many schools knew she had reopened her recruiting. A Minnesota club teammate had committed to Cincinnati and suggested Thompson take a visit.

The Bearcats went 3-29 the season before she committed.

“I said, Jordan, you can play D-I at Texas. You can go to Nebraska,” Mary said. “She was like, no, no, I want to play all four years. I actually want to get playing time, mom. She really struggled believing how good she could be.”

The biggest obstacle came junior year. In a preseason training session, Thompson collided with that Minnesota club teammate, Jade Tingelhoff, and tore the UCL in her dominant, right arm. She was in an armpit-to-wrist brace for two months post-Tommy John surgery, including three weeks with her arm locked in place.

She couldn’t brush her hair, had a hard time brushing her teeth and found it difficult showering and getting dressed.

She still went to every Bearcats game and traveled with the team. Cincinnati went from 22-10 her sophomore season to 13-19 that year without her on the court.

“It ended up being OK,” Tingelhoff said. “She came back that next season — I’m not kidding — 10 times as better than she was even the previous year.”

As a redshirt junior, Thompson and her 827 kills helped Cincinnati to a 26-8 record and its first NCAA Tournament win in seven years. She also caught the eye of Kiraly by the end of that 2018 season.

“She was one of the elite players in all of college volleyball,” he said. “Probably the only one who came from a conference other than the ones known for producing the most NCAA champions, like the Big Ten and the Pac-12.”

By last spring break, Thompson had become a favorite of U.S coaches at a camp to help select teams for summer international tournaments.

She had a one-on-one conversation with Kiraly, the only person to own Olympic indoor and beach gold medals. The legend told her she had potential to play at the Pan American Games. Later, he upped the praise to say she was ready for the top-level Nations League, a precursor to Olympic qualifying.

Thompson made her national team debut in May. By August, she came off the bench to help spur a comeback in a crucial Olympic qualifying match. The next day, she was in the starting lineup for the U.S.’ final Olympic qualifier, where the Americans clinched a Tokyo 2020 berth.

“I think a lot people don’t know she is still in college,” two-time U.S. Olympic outside hitter Jordan Larson said then. “She still has one more year left.”

Agents reached out, but Thompson had no intention of giving up her final year of NCAA eligibility. She wanted to make history at Cincinnati. That was secured with the Sweet 16 berth.

With the new year, she will trade the Cincinnati red and black for Team USA colors. She will keep in mind what the U.S. coaching staff told the team during Olympic qualifying and what she called a dream summer.

“My big goal in life was I just wanted to be in the USA gym,” said Thompson, who is working on her master’s in criminal justice. “To hear that we’re all working towards this goal of trying to make this roster, and we are being looked as potential players to make that roster, my jaw dropped. To know that it’s even a remote possibility is mind-blowing.”

VIDEO: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Tahiti chosen for Olympic surfing competition at 2024 Paris Games

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Paris 2024 Olympic organizers want the surfing competition to be held in Tahiti, an island in French Polynesia that is about 9,800 miles from Paris.

It would break the record for the farthest Olympic medal competition to be held outside the host. In 1956, equestrian events were moved out of Melbourne due to quarantine laws and held five months earlier in Stockholm, some 9,700 miles away.

The Paris 2024 executive board approved the site Thursday — specifically, the village of Teahupo’o — and will propose it to the IOC. It beat out other applicants Biarritz, Lacanau, Les Landes and La Torche, all part of mainland France.

“If, ever, we have two alternatives, and where one alternative gives the athletes of a particular sport more closeness to the heart of the Games and allows them to enjoy the magic and the spirit of the Games better, then in the interest of the athletes, we prefer this solution,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in June when asked about Tahiti’s interest in hosting surfing.

Surfing will debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games but is not on the permanent Olympic program. Surfing was among sports added to the Paris 2024 program in June and could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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