Vic Wild’s wild ride into snowboarding history

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KRASNAYA, POLYANA, Russia — Vic Wild has cemented his place in snowboard history, and in far more ways than one. Let’s count the accomplishments that began on Wednesday and culminated on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Wild won the parallel giant slalom event, which made him the first Russian to win a gold medal ever in snowboarding. Simultaneously, his wife won bronze in the same event, making them the second married couple to earn medals in the same event at a Winter Olympics — the other was in figure skating, which Wild laughed off as “cheating.”

Then came Saturday when he competed in the first-ever Olympic parallel slalom event, a new addition to the Olympic program for Sochi. Wild won gold, again. The second gold meant he was not only the first-ever gold medalist in the new sport, but also the first Russian snowboarder to now win two medals in snowboarding. Additionally, he was the first snowboarder to clinch two medals at a single Games – both of which ended up being gold.

“That’s just crazy, I didn’t know about any of that. This is just beyond anything I could ever hope for,” said Wild, truly stunned and struggling to find the words to equate to his accomplishments. “I don’t know. I really don’t know… I made it, man. Everything worked my way.”

Still floored, Wild was truly at a loss. His goals had been realized. His dreams were now reality, and then some.

VIDEO: Watch Wild’s ride to parallel slalom gold

“This is way more than a dream come true. I never ever dreamed of one gold medal, and now to have two. No words.”

Wild is an interesting character. Born in the state of Washington, Wild was unable to find the support he needed to continue snowboarding competitively in the States. He nearly hung up his competitive hardboots for good.

Fortunately for him, and the sport, he was dating a Russian snowboarder, Alena Zavarzina, who posed the idea of getting married, moving to Russia and keeping his Olympic dreams alive. They did just that. Wild quickly turned his snowboard career around with her support and that of his newfound home country.

Thank you Zavarzina!

However, his wife was not the only key player to Wild’s success.

Riding for Team USA was his good friend of many years Justin Reiter, and despite riding against each other in competition the two actually work together.

RELATED: Friends Wild, Reiter take divergent paths to Sochi

“He coaches me in between my runs. I’d have to guess that it would be way more difficult to win the last two days without his help,” said Wild gratefully and excited to speak to the value of Reiter. “He’s there for me. He knows a lot about snowboarding, a lot more than all of the coaches because he’s doing it and has been for a long time. He’s the man. I definitely owe him a lot.”

Unfortunately for the lone American representative Reiter, he was eliminated following his first run in qualifying after riding his board slightly over a gate, rather than around it. Reiter earned second at the 2013 World Championships and was considered a medal contender at the event in Sochi.

Despite his circumstances, Reiter wanted to stick around the event and do everything he could for his long time friend.

WATCH: Vic Wild earns second gold of Sochi Games

Before Wild’s final run, Reiter was spotted giving him his last bit of confidence, motivation and strategy with regard to how they saw and felt the course to be riding.

“[We were] basically just talking about course reports. I was trying to keep him focused, keeping him as solid as a friend can and just trying to be there for him,” said Reiter, wearing his striped and starred helmet.

Reiter went on to speak to Wild’s initial decision to make the move from the States to Russia as a way to continue his career, saying, “We spent a lot of time talking about it and I’ve supported his decision ever since the beginning. It was a great opportunity and I’m stoked he took it.”

A true friend indeed.

RELATED: Expat Wild, wife storm parallel giant slalom podiums for Russia

From his wife, his good friend and of course his new home country of Russia, Wild has had quite the support system around him following the lack thereof while striving to make it work in the States.

When hypothetically asked if he would return to race for Team USA if approached, he took absolutely no hesitation in saying, “no. These people took care of me. I’m going to continue riding here for the next four years and hopefully make the team again to win more medals for them in [South] Korea.”

With or without that support system, in the end it was Wild that laid the assault on the various slalom courses at the Sochi Games, but he would be remiss if he didn’t attribute some of that success to all those that made it happen. Wild will surely be remembered in the world of snowboarding indefinitely.

Lawmakers choke back tears, scream at Olympic sport leaders for sex-abuse scandal

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The tears and anger this time came from lawmakers who spent the day fuming over a growing sex-abuse problem in Olympic sports that leaders have taken too much time to solve while devoting too little money for the fixes.

“I just hope everyone here realizes the time to talk is over, and you need to walk your talk,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said Wednesday shortly after choking back tears while questioning leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

The hearing of the House subcommittee was filled with both substance and spectacle — the latter coming mostly courtesy of a five-minute burst from Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., who told the USOC’s acting CEO, Susanne Lyons, “you should resign your position now,” and tore into USA Gymnastics CEO Kerry Perry and the rest of the panel for not uttering the exact words: “I’m sorry.”

“If you don’t want to say you’re sorry, I don’t want to talk to you,” said Carter, who represents the district where a lawsuit that triggered the mushrooming scandal in gymnastics was filed.

In fact, members on the panel of U.S. sports executives did apologize to the victims, whose numbers grow almost daily and whose pain was most heart-wrenchingly displayed during the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, the Michigan State doctor who also worked for the U.S. gymnastics team.

But set against the USOC’s slow-moving reforms, to say nothing of the raw numbers presented by SafeSport CEO Shellie Pfohl, some of the apologies felt hollow.

The USOC started talking about reforming its sex-abuse policy in 2010 after a scandal was exposed inside of USA Swimming. From then, it took seven years to open the SafeSport center to independently investigate sex-abuse claims made by Olympic athletes. Pfohl described an office that has been overwhelmed in the 14 months it has been in business.

— When it opened in March 2017, Pfohl said the center received 20 to 30 calls a month. In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the Nassar case, that has increased to about 20 to 30 calls per week.

— SafeSport operates on a budget of $4.3 million a year, $1.55 million of which was recently added as part of the USOC’s mission to bolster its response to the abuse issue. That brought the USOC’s contribution to $3.1 million. (By comparison, the USOC gave the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, in charge of Olympic drug testing in the United States, $3.7 million in 2016. Its budget is more than $19 million.)

— The budget is enough for 14 full-time employees, which includes five full-time investigators. Seven additional investigators work on a contract basis. The center has fielded 840 reports over 14 months. Reports have come in regarding 38 of the 49 national governing bodies.

— Part of the delay in opening the SafeSport center came because the USOC met reluctance from almost everyone in funding, both from outside and inside the Olympic movement. The NGBs are charged on a sliding scale, depending on their size. USA Swimming contributed only $43,000 this year, “but we’re one of the larger NGBs, and based on who we are, we could provide more resources,” CEO Tim Hinchey said.

Pfohl said she wouldn’t turn it down.

Meanwhile, she is still waiting for paperwork to apply for a $2.5 million grant the government wrote into this year’s budget. (The government gave $9.5 million to USADA in 2016.)

The witnesses testified to a continued lack of uniformity in sex-abuse policies among the NGBs, despite efforts that date to at least 2013. Some publish full lists of banned coaches and athletes. Some distribute them only to members of the organizations. Under terms of a recently passed law to protect athletes, the NGBs are supposed to be audited randomly by the SafeSport center, but that project is hamstrung because resources do not exist.

Meanwhile, the role of the USOC in overseeing it all remains confusing.

Brought up more than once was an exchange during a deposition for a sex-abuse lawsuit in which a USOC lawyer was asked if protecting athletes was a top priority for the federation.

“The USOC does not have athletes,” answered Gary Johansen — speaking to the reality that, except during the Olympics, athletes technically fall under the umbrella of their individual sports.

Lyons said that mindset will change.

“We do hold ourselves responsible, and if there’s a failing, it’s from not properly exercising our authority,” she said.

One of the best examples of the USOC using that authority has been the top-to-bottom housecleaning it demanded from USA Gymnastics.

Most news about the federation’s changes, however, has been delivered in long news releases. Wednesday marked the first time Perry has made public comments since her hiring in December. She left after the hearing without taking questions.

“I’m glad you’re here today, but a lot of people have wanted to hear from you since you took the job,” Dingell said.

But Dingell didn’t really like what she heard — “I don’t hear a sense of urgency,” she said — and she was not alone.

“As compared to how much money a district attorney’s office has, or how much money a Title IX office has at a school, it’s not in the same ballpark at all,” Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Olympic swimmer and outspoken critic of the USOC’s efforts, said of the SafeSport budget. “Shellie desperately needs more money.”

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Lindsey Vonn, Ronda Rousey among athletes featured on Shark Week

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Olympic medalists Lindsey Vonn and Ronda Rousey headline an athlete roster appearing on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week in two months.

They follow Michael Phelps‘ much talked about Shark Week shows last year.

Vonn will appear on a show called “Monster Tag.” Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski are also included.

They “will join forces with top shark scientists to learn crucial information about the ocean’s top predators,” according to Discovery Channel.

Rousey, a 2008 Olympic judo bronze medalist, will dive with a mako shark in “Uncaged: Shark vs. Ronda Rousey.” The title is similar to “Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White” from last year.

“First, Rousey, in a cage, dives into the ring with several lightweight shark species in the waters off Fiji and then moves onto the main event in New Zealand where she’ll ‘free dive uncaged’ with the heavyweight mako shark,” according to Discovery Channel.

More on Shark Week from Discovery Channel is here.

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