Archives For Olympics

By Shawn Smith,

All the talk leading up to the slopestyle final was about Canadian domination and triple corks.

American Sage Kotsenburg put an end to that.

Scoring a 93.50 on his first run, Kotsenburg earned the first gold medal of the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the first-ever gold medal awarded in the new snowboarding slopestyle discipline.

Kotsenburg has eschewed the trend of hucking huge triple corks, instead finding other ways to progress the sport. Not only did he have creative maneuvers in the rail section and unique grabs on the jumps, he also decided to go for it all and bust out a new trick – a backside 1620 with a Japan grab – that was both stylish and technical at the same time.

Kotsenburg had never attempted the backside 1620 before his run – not even in practice – but decided to try it after talking to his coach and his brother.

According to Kotsenburg, U.S. Snowboarding team coach Bill Enos told him, “If you do the 1620, I guarantee you’re gonna land it.”

So the 20-year-old from Park City, Utah went for it. “I dropped in, no stress, just having fun and doing stuff I normally do. And it ended up working out,” Kotsenburg said after his victory.

Kotsenburg kept it stylish. (Photo: Getty Images)

Norway’s Staale Sandbech earned the silver medal, and Canadian Mark McMorris – one of the favorites entering the day – took the bronze medal.

Once again for McMorris, it came down to his second run. He landed a clean run with two triple corks – one on the first jump, one on the last jump – but was still scored five points shy of Kotsenburg’s first-run score. It put him in second place for the time being, but he was bumped down to third soon after by Sandbech after the Norwegian’s second run.

Canadian Max Parrot – the top qualifier in Thursday’s opening round – was expected to contend for a gold medal as well but finished off the podium. Like McMorris, Parrot attempted two triples on his first run but washed out on the second one. He changed it up the second time out but with only one triple, he ended up in fifth just behind Sweden’s Sven Thorgren.

Sandbech and McMorris joined Kotsenburg on the podium. (Photo: Getty Images)

It was widely expected that it would not be possible to win in Sochi without one of those much-talked about triple corks. But Kotsenburg stood his ground and decided he was going to do things his way.

In the end, he was the one rewarded.

“It ended up working out in my favor because everyone was doing the same grabs and tricks today,” Kotsenburg said.

Kotsenburg had a busy day thanks to the format of the Olympic slopestyle event. After failing to qualify through Thursday’s opening round, he had to get in through the semifinal just a few hours earlier in the day on Saturday. He finished second in the semi, becoming the lone American rider to earn a spot in the final.

Great Britain’s Jamie Nicholls – another rider who landed a triple cork – finished sixth in the final with 2010 halfpipe silver medalist Peetu Piiroinen of Finland behind him in seventh. Japan’s Yuki Kadono, Canada’s Sebastien Toutant and Great Britain’s Billy Morgan rounded out the top ten.

Left to right: Steven Holcomb (bobsled), Ashley Wagner (figure skating) and Shani Davis (speed skating).<br>

Four years ago, American athletes took home 37 medals in Vancouver – a Winter Games record.

Leading the way were star skier Lindsey Vonn, who became the first U.S. woman to win gold in the downhill, and speed skating icon Apolo Ohno, whose three medals in Vancouver cemented his place as the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete of all time.But now that Vonn has been sidelined with a knee injury and Ohno has officially retired, who will be the face of Team USA as it goes for gold in Sochi? Here are 10 athletes who figure to have a strong shot of making the medal podium at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

Putin promises ‘ring of steel’ around games 

BOSTON — When the Winter Games kick off next month in Sochi, Russia, one figure-skating pair will be closely watched by fans in the Boston area.

Watch NewsCenter 5 report

Marissa Castelli, of Cranston, R.I., and Simon Shnapir, of Sudbury, won the National Championships earlier this month in Boston, effectively clinching a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

They leave next week for Sochi.

“We’re so excited. This is a dream come true,” Marissa, 23, said Sunday, her 6-foot-4 partner, Simon, 26, standing to her left.

“We’re still kind of on cloud nine from our championship win just a few weeks ago here in Boston,” Simon added.

And the two, who’ve been skating together for eight years at the Skating Club of Boston, insist they’re not fazed by the much-talked about security concerns in Russia leading up to the 2014 games.

“We’re putting our trust into the U.S. and obviously the Russian security over there,” Shnapir said. “And it’s gonna be great. We’re going there to represent our country proudly, and our focus is our training and our competition, and that’s it.”

For U.S. security officials, the situation in Russia is far more alarming.

“The fact is, this is a dangerous region in Russia by the north Caucuses,” U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-NY, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “There are active terrorist organizations there.”

The Republican lawmaker slammed Russia’s government for refusing to share its intelligence with U.S. security officials. He claimed the country’s leadership is worried that giving the U.S. such information would reveal sensitive secrets about how its security forces gather intelligence.

President Vladimir Putin, in the meantime, has promised a “ring of steel” around Sochi, but King is skeptical.

“The fact is, once you get outside that venue, or even going from venue to venue, there is real vulnerability,” King said. “I would advise the athletes that they do everything they’re asked to do by the security team, by the State Department, by the FBI.”

Marissa and Simon, for their part, told NewsCenter 5 they’re focused simply on their routines.

They trust the American and Russian security forces, and said, as with many other U.S. Olympians, they will not wear their Team USA gear outside of the Olympic Village.

“Generally, when we travel overseas, we try not to wear our Team USA jackets outside; you don’t know what’s going to happen outside of the Village, how everyone else is going to treat you,” Marissa said.

Simon said the pair and their families should be better off than most. He was born in Moscow and speaks fluent Russian.

Ruzana Ibragimova is the subject of a search by Russian authorities in connection with terror threats against the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

By Richard Engel, Albina Kovalyova and Erin McClam, NBC News

MOSCOW — Russian security services may be looking for as many as four “black widows” dispatched to carry out terrorist attacks related to the Winter Olympics, including at least one woman believed to be in or near the Olympic city of Sochi, U.S. and Russian sources told NBC News on Monday.

Wanted posters distributed in Sochi, where the games open Feb. 7, describe at least one suspected terrorist — Ruzana Ibragimova, also known as Salima, the 22-year-old widow of an Islamic militant killed by Russian security forces last year.

The notices describe her as having a limp in her right leg, a left arm that does not bend at the elbow and a 4-inch scar on her cheek.

In a video, recorded before their deaths, that has recently surfaced, two suicide bombers suspected of a deadly attack on a Volgograd train station threaten a “surprise” during the Olympics at Sochi.

The notices say that Russian security officials have been informed of her possible departure from Dagestan, a Russian republic in the restive Caucasus area, earlier this month, and that she may be used for an attack inside the Olympic zone.

Terrorists threaten ‘surprise’ at Olympics

Militant groups in the Caucasus are known to use “black widows,” female terrorists so called because some seek to avenge the deaths of their husbands. They considered by security experts to be harder to pick out in a crowd because they do not fit the stereotype of an Islamic militant and because they can easily alter their appearance with clothing and makeup.

The disclosure Monday added to terror fears as the games approach. On Sunday, a video surfaced in which two men from an Islamist militant group threatened to attack the Olympics, warning that “a surprise” is in store for President Vladimir Putin and tourists attending the games.

The men claim responsibility in the video for two suicide bombings last month in the Russian city of Volgograd that killed 34 people. The Olympic torch passed through Volgograd on Monday on its way to Sochi, where the games open Feb. 7.

“That which we will do, that which we have done, is only a little example, a little step,” one the men, from the Islamist organization Anars Al Sunna, says in the hour-long video, released Sunday.

“We’ll have a surprise package for you,” one of them says, addressing Russian officials. “And those tourists that will come to you, for them, too, we have a surprise.”

With less than three weeks to go before the opening ceremony, security in Sochi is already tighter than at most airports, and Putin has vowed to take every step necessary to protect the Olympics.

The video surfaced Sunday as American officials expressed frustration at what they called a lack of cooperation from Russian security officials.

“They’ve now moved 30,000 armed troops to the region. That tells you their level of concern is great,” Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on the CNN program “State of the Union.”

“But we don’t seem to be getting all of the information we need to protect our athletes in the games. I think this needs to change, and it should change soon.”

Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, said on the same program: “I would not go, and I don’t think I would send my family.”

Russia has promised to protect Sochi within a “ring of steel.” The city is packed with metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs and explosive detectors. But groups threatening the Olympics say they will target not just the host city but other areas of Russia.

“I think the threats are real,” Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think it’s more likely that the attacks would probably happen outside the perimeter, more soft targets, transportation modes, if you will.”

The Obama administration has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for possible U.S. military assistance for Americans inside Sochi in the event of a terror attack, senior U.S. officials told NBC News on Monday.

The military’s European Command has worked up a plan that would rely on military assets already in place — moving warships into the Black Sea, where they routinely operate, and putting transport planes on standby at military bases in Europe.

The plan has not yet been submitted to the State Department or Pentagon, the officials said.

Any U.S. involvement in a military operation in Sochi would require a request from the Russian government to the State Department, then an order from President Barack Obama.

Senior U.S. military officials Monday suggested the likelihood that Putin would ask the U.S. for military help was zero.

The men in the video claim to be from Dagestan, about 1,000 miles from Sochi. Militants see an attack on the Olympics as a chance to humiliate Putin.

The men in the video appear to construct explosive devices and document, step by step, how they planned the Volgograd attacks. They say in a part of the recording directed at Russian officials that they “will continue to kill you and your soldiers.”

“This is for all the Muslim blood that is shed every day around the world, be it in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, all around the world,” they said. “This will be our revenge.”

Putin said over the weekend that he “will try to make sure that the security measures taken aren’t too intrusive or visible and that they won’t put pressure on the athletes, guests and journalists.”

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