Vic Wild, who switched from U.S. to Russia and won Olympic gold, readies for last ride

Vic Wild
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Vic Wild, the snowboarder who switched from the U.S. to Russia and won two Olympic gold medals in 2014, is preparing for the likely final season of his career. He’s not one to make a big deal about retirement, though.

A Russian TV report last week stated based off an interview that Wild will race for the last time this winter.

“Probably after the Olympics, we’ll see,” he said by phone when asked about it. “If I [qualify for and] go to the Olympics, maybe I finish the season, maybe not. I’ll feel it out.

“Probably should have retired a long time ago. But I’m going to stop now.”

Wild, 35, has one World Cup podium in the last five years and is trying to cling to fourth place on the Russian depth chart in parallel giant slalom, where a maximum of four riders per country can go to the Olympics.

“For me to be able to snowboard, it’s just a big sacrifice,” he said. “I can’t really do anything else because it just takes up so much time. And I’ve done everything I needed to do.”

He authored one of the fascinating athlete stories of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The native of White Salmon, Washington, sought to leave the U.S. program because of a lack of funding and overall support paid out to the Alpine team, the least-publicized (and the U.S.’ least successful) discipline in snowboarding after halfpipe, slopestyle and snowboard cross.

So he rode for Russia starting in 2012, gaining eligibility after marrying Russian snowboarder Alena Zavarzina. Then something happened that stunned Wild — he swept both the parallel slalom and the parallel giant slalom events at his first Olympics after ranking ninth in the world the previous season.

“I would have retired after the Olympics in Sochi had I not won,” he said Friday. “For sure it was the easier money to keep snowboarding. And I didn’t really know how else to earn money back then. And also, I felt like I kind of was obligated to keep going for the [Russian] snowboard federation, for a lot of people that invested a lot of time in me to come to Russia.”

Wild was one of two Russians to win multiple individual golds in Sochi. The other was also a foreign-born athlete, former South Korea short track speed skater Viktor Ahn. When Wild met Vladimir Putin after the Games, Putin spoke to him in English.

Now, Wild is the last active individual gold medalist for Russia from those Winter Games who wasn’t stripped of a medal (temporarily or permanently) as part of the nation’s doping scheme.

Wild believes that some Russians were cheating in Sochi, but not to the extent that whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov said happened. Wild was not implicated, but said some tried to lump him into the tainted group anyway.

“You can’t accidentally take drugs,” he said. “You’ve got to know you’re doing it. This is just silly.”

Wild was stressed to not know whether he was going to be on the list of Russians invited to compete at the 2018 Olympics until one week before the Opening Ceremony. He made it to South Korea, placing 10th in the parallel giant slalom (parallel slalom was removed from the program after its Sochi debut).

Wild knows he can still ride fast. He felt it in training, but it hasn’t recently translated to results. “Last year was kind of a disaster,” said Wild, who had a best World Cup finish of ninth and was 22nd at the world championships.

Wild was quoted by Russian media last week questioning vaccine requirements for young, healthy athletes, while supporting vaccinations for those who are older and immunocompromised. Asked about those comments, he said he will reluctantly adhere to the Olympic vaccination requirement to avoid a 21-day quarantine upon arrival in China, should he qualify for the Games.

“I support vaccines for whoever wants to have them,” he said. “I also support humans right to choice.”

Once he’s done snowboarding competitively, Wild wants to free ride and “make it in Moscow” with a snowboard gear business he runs with two friends. After that, he would consider spending more time in the U.S.

“I’ve been in the game a long time,” said Wild, who debuted on the World Cup in 2004. “There’s a bit more to life.”

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Germany goes 1-2 at bobsled worlds; Kaillie Humphries breaks medals record

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Kim Kalicki and Lisa Buckwitz gave Germany a one-two in the world bobsled championships two-woman event, while American Kaillie Humphries earned bronze to break the career medals record.

Kalicki, who was fourth at last year’s Olympics and leads this season’s World Cup standings, edged Buckwitz by five hundredths of a second combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Humphries, with push athlete Kaysha Love, was 51 hundredths behind.

Olympic champion Laura Nolte was in third place after two runs but crashed in the third run.

Humphries, 37 and a three-time Olympic champion between two-woman and monobob, earned her eighth world championships medal in the two-woman event. That broke her tie for the record of seven with retired German Sandra Kiriasis. Humphries is also the most decorated woman in world championships monobob, taking gold and silver in the two times it has been contested.

Humphries rolled her ankle after the first day of last week’s monobob, plus took months off training in the offseason while also doing two rounds of IVF.

“I chose to continue the IVF journey through the season which included a Lupron Depot shot the day before this race began,” she posted after her monobob silver last weekend. “My weight and body fluctuating all year with hormones, it was a battle to find my normal while competing again. I’m happy with this result, I came into it wanting a podium and we achieved it as a team.”

Love, who was seventh with Humphries in the Olympic two-woman event, began her transition to become a driver after the Games.

Worlds finish Sunday with the final two runs of the four-man event.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.