USOC CEO: Boston risk should not have been taken; L.A. is a second chance

Scott Blackmun
AP
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The leader of the U.S. Olympic Committee compared the choice of Boston as a bidder for the 2024 Olympics to Seattle’s choice to pass the ball at the goal line at the end of the Super Bowl last season.

Fortunately, CEO Scott Blackmun said, “unlike the Seahawks, we have not lost the game.”

In his most candid public comments about the ups and downs of the tumultuous bid process, Blackmun used his speech Thursday at the U.S. Olympic Assembly to focus on the second chance Los Angeles has given the USOC to land the 2024 Games. He also conceded he owed an explanation about the Boston mess to this annual gathering of 400-plus members of the Olympic family.

“The Boston bid failed because, from the beginning, it was not a bid supported by the people of Boston,” Blackmun said. “Should we have taken the risk? In hindsight, the answer is ‘no.'”

He equated that to the Seahawks’ decision to throw at the goal line in the closing moments of the Super Bowl, while trailing New England by four. That pass was intercepted and the play call has been derided as one of the worst ever made in sports.

“But here’s the thing,” Blackmun said. “Unlike the Seahawks, we have not lost the game. We are back on our feet, we have found a second chance waiting and the whole game is in front of us.”

Indeed, the Olympics won’t be awarded until 2017. Los Angeles is in the race along with Paris; Rome; Hamburg, Germany; and Budapest, Hungary.

Blackmun introduced LA 2024 chairman Casey Wasserman to the crowd, and Wasserman touted Los Angeles as a storytelling city with 85 percent of its venues already in place, along with a stellar Olympic pedigree as a two-time Olympic host.

Wasserman told his own Olympic story — saying he cut his teeth on the games, back when he was 10 and the 1984 Olympics came to town. Those Games — with Peter Ueberroth calling a lot of the shots while Wasserman’s grandfather, Lew, was a major power player in LA — created the modern-day template for the Olympics and proved they could make money and help a city grow.

“In a very real way, our bid is the ‘Back to the Future’ bid of this campaign,” Wasserman said. “And no, ‘Back to the Future’ is not our tagline — but stay tuned.”

Los Angeles offered some news Thursday, announcing Olympic swimming medalist Janet Evans as its vice chair and positioning that move as a strong sign that athletes are at the heart of its plan.

But mostly, these speeches were to get members of the U.S. Olympic movement pumped again after a start to 2015 that Blackmun called “the most unsettling and challenging time in my professional life.”

The USOC picked Boston in January, dumped it in July, then re-upped with Los Angeles earlier this month.

Chairman Larry Probst said the USOC moved forward after the Boston bid tanked because it was encouraged by international colleagues who he portrayed as “surprised and disappointed (but) not discouraged.”

He spent the bulk of his speech giving details about the USOC’s improved international relationships, one sign of which is showing up in a number of world-championship events taking place in the United States.

Those numbers, Probst said, had been “abysmal.” But in 2014, the U.S. hosted eight world championships in Olympic and Paralympic sports, with 10 more this year, including the World Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas and the World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Chicago, both earlier this month.

All that, plus the fact the U.S. hasn’t hosted the Summer Games since 1996, leads some to call Los Angeles a favorite, or even go so far as to say 2024 is America’s to lose.

While Wasserman read a laundry list of selling points for Los Angeles — a transparent, athlete-centered bid with nearly 90 percent support among residents — he rejected the idea that it’s all over but the voting.

“I think it’s reckless and even arrogant,” he said. “We have to earn this, just like athletes do on the field of play, every day. Nothing is given except that we have to produce a bid that is superior to our competitors.”

MORE 2024 Olympics: Watch L.A. 2024 promo video

World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
Getty
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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