Log-rolling, Abby Hoeschler, OlympicsCourtesy of Abby HoeschlerChampion log-roller Abby Hoeschler hopes the growing popularity of log-rolling coupled with the rise of artificial logs could help expand the sparring sport into the Olympics one day.

Sports enter and exit the Olympics all the time. Baseball and softball became medal sports in 1992, were kicked out after 2008 and are lobbying hard to get back in by 2020 in Tokyo (where baseball is a Japanese national pastime). Wrestling has been in the Olympics since the ancient games in Greece, but was oddly temporarily booted out after 2012 before being voted back in for 2016.

Tug of War was in the Olympics until 1920. There are movements to get squash, ballroom dance and chess in the Olympics, as well as log-rolling.

Yes, log-rolling. While I would much rather see baseball back in the Olympics, I definitely would choose log-rolling over ballroom dance or chess.

"We're pretty realistic. I definitely don't think that I will be competing in the Olympics but hopefully I will at least be one of the coaches," champion log-roller Abby Hoeschler said. "I think it could take 20-25 years, but you look back at where snowboarding was in the late '70s, and things happen a lot faster these days."

Hoeschler's mother, Judy Scheer, grew up in Hayward, Wisc., where she fell in love with it 9she became a seven-time champion) and passed that love onto her children.
Log-rolling, Abby Hoeschler, Olympics
Courtesy of Abby HoeschlerHoeschler, right, hopes log-rolling continues to rapidly expand. "More people have learned to roll on the key logs in the past two years than in the past 150 years of the sport," she says.

"My siblings and I were big ski racers, tennis, soccer -– we did all those normal sports," Hoeschler said. "Log rolling was something we did in the summer. It definitely set us apart. It was a fun sport to train for."

I grew up in a town built on the logging industry (my high school team was the Lumberjacks) and each Fourth of July there were log-rolling and pole-climbing competitions. Log-rolling is definitely fun to watch.

"It's such an intense sport. It's a sparring sport," Hoeschler said. "You're on this log in the water with an opponent and you can't touch them. There's a center line you can't cross. It's sort of like boxing with your feet. You're doing maneuvers to dislodge your opponent. As a female, there aren't many opportunities where you can compete in sports that are intense like that.

"You step on the log, and if you make one wrong move, you've lost. You don't know if it will be 15 seconds or five minutes that you have to stay on. It requires a serious amount of focus and concentration. You can't let up."

(Read full post)

IOC eases on 'Rule 40' after protests from athletes

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
11:40
AM ET
RIO DE JANEIRO -- The IOC is relaxing a rule that prohibited athletes from promoting non-official sponsors during the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee executive board agreed on Thursday to modify a provision known as Rule 40, which athletes strongly protested because it stopped them from mentioning their own sponsors.

Under the proposed new rule, the IOC will allow "generic" or "non-Olympic advertising" during the Games. The change, which requires formal approval by the full IOC in Kuala Lumpur in July, would be in effect for next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"It has to do with advertising around the games, on a social media site, or newspaper, or whatever," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "So if someone has a contract with a watch manufacturer, that may continue as long as the advert doesn't relate to the games."

Rule 40 prohibits athletes from using their names or likenesses for advertising during a nearly monthlong period around the games. Sanctions for violators can include disqualification and stripping of medals.

"Athletes have wanted this changed for a very long time," Adams said. "It's been a very long discussion."

Rule 40 was intended to protect official Olympic sponsors, who spend tens of millions of dollars for exclusive marketing rights.

The rule states: "Except as permitted by the IOC executive board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games."

Dozens of athletes launched a Twitter campaign during the 2012 London Olympics to urge an end to the rule. They used the hashtag "WeDemandChange2012."
Emily DayMatthew Stockman/Getty ImagesThe U.S. team is getting a preview of the venue and conditions in Rio ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

What better way to preview the 2016 Rio Olympics than testing out Copacabana Beach? That's exactly what the top four U.S. men's and women's beach volleyball teams are doing this weekend when they face off against Brazil in a team event in Rio de Janeiro through March 1. Here are some of the athletes' first impressions of the Olympic city and the match action so far:

Emily Day


It’s amazing that we’re out here in 2015. We’re getting a glimpse of what the 2016 Olympics will be like and getting used to the environment, the sand, the fans, how hot it is. All of that is huge for us. Playing on the Copacabana sands, under the hot Rio sun with the loud Brazilian fans, is something you can't get anywhere else. We can take those mental pictures and lessons learned back to the States and remember them when we’re training.

[+] EnlargeJen Kessy
USA Volleyball Emily Day, left, playing partner Jennifer Kessy and Kessy's daughter, Ala, are ready for Rio.

My partner, Jen Kessy, and I started practicing together in mid-January. It’s somewhat frustrating to be out there because our intentions with the ball are good, but they are not as crisp as we’d like them to be. We’re playing one game to 21, and if you aren’t ready, it’s tough. When you get done playing, our bodies are so used to playing and then you feel like you still have energy left -- you want to keep going.

The coolest thing about being in Rio? I love that we are Team USA. We don’t get many opportunities where we can all root for one another. On the world tour, we are competing for ourselves as much as we are for Team USA because we’re all vying for Olympic spots. Here, there is no pressure with Olympic qualification; everyone is cheering for one another. That’s special, that’s not something we get all the time.

Tri Bourne


The first day was a learning experience for us. We learned what level our training is at compared to where we want it to be during the season. I think we're feeling good for this point in the year. I keep catching myself saying, “Oh yeah, I should never do that,” or “Oh yeah, I can't be foot faulting ... ever!” Learning how to deal with mistakes is a huge part of being an elite athlete. I'm loving my experience here in Rio. It's a great city and I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to compete against the best in the world during my preseason.

[+] EnlargeLauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat
USA VolleyballLauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat take in the Copacabana views after their match on Thursday in Rio.

Jen Kessy


Sadly, my first match back from having my baby went too quickly. It was only to 21 points, and I would have loved to have two games to 21, obviously. I was a little nervous that I was going to embarrass myself or my team -- I didn’t know. I haven’t played a lot, only for one month. It was better than I expected; we lost, and I hate losing, but it’s a good learning experience for me. It felt really good to compete again. It gives you that something in your chest that you don’t get when you’re not playing.

After one of my first hits went down pretty hard, I turned to Emily and said: “Wow, I can still do that!” It’s surprising sometimes; I thought for sure I was going to get blocked. The ball went down hard and I was super fired-up. I still got it -- it’s just going to take a little longer to get back.

Kerri Walsh Jennings


I firmly believe in visualizing and knowing where you want to go in life. This event is perfect for that. We are hearing the sounds, seeing the sites, feeling the energy. Each place we play is unique, and Copacabana is certainly that. There is a lot of chaos and energy, so we’re going to learn how to deal with it because we know the Olympics will be that times a million. At least we will have an idea, so when we prepare mentally, we will be ready for that.

There is definitely heat to contend with here. The thing about the heat is that it’s the same for both teams. The Brazilians train in this every day, but they’re still hot, and sweat. I’m never worried about the heat. I personally like it when it’s hot or really cold because I feel like we can outlast other people. We played at night and it was no issue. We came out here a couple days early to get used to it; we trained twice a day in dead heat and got better with every training session.

[+] EnlargeEmily Day, Jennifer Kessy and coach Rich Lambourne
USA VolleyballEmily Day and Jennifer Kessy, pictured here with U.S. coach Rich Lambourne, say the test event will help the team familiarize itself with the conditions in Rio.

Off the sand, we hiked Sugarloaf Mountain and that was wonderful. We trained twice at the army base and then went to the gym afterward. It’s at the bottom of Sugarloaf, and everything is so beautiful. You’re in the culture and you don’t feel like a tourist much because you’re in the mix. I appreciate that.

Summer Ross


I love the Rio heat. I'm enjoying playing and also watching so many high-level games with only a five-minute wait in between the games. Playing in Rio is tough without many of our U.S. fans, but the Brazilians are all really nice to us. This one staff member follows Jen (playing partner Jennifer Fopma) and I around asking if we need water, fruit or anything.

John Hyden


During our matches today, it was pretty hot! In our first match, you could tell we were a bit rusty and we just began training three weeks ago. In the second game, we settled down and found our groove, and hopefully we can carry that into the weekend. It's great to be here to get a taste of where the Olympics will be held. The experience just makes you want to train even harder to get back here in 2016!

Austrian Mario Stecher ends 21-year Nordic combined career

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
2:09
PM ET
Mario Stecher, Nordic combined, ski jumping, cross countryAP Photo/Matthias SchraderAustria's Mario Stecher soars through the air at the Nordic Ski World Championships in Italy in 2013. The 12-time Nordic combined World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist retired following a 21-year career.

FALUN, Sweden -- Six-time Olympian Mario Stecher of Austria has ended his Nordic combined career, 21 years after winning his first of 12 World Cups.

The 37-year-old Stecher, who has been left out of the Austrian team for the Nordic skiing world championships, says "this is the right time. So far I've enjoyed this sport incredibly but now something is missing."

In 1994 at 16, Stecher won the second World Cup he competed in to launch a career that earned him 10 medals from major championships, including two Olympic team event titles in 2006 and 2010, and two world championship golds in 2011.

Stecher calls winning silver at the 2013 worlds shortly after recovering from knee surgery "one of my greatest moments ... That was my emotional highlight."

By the numbers: Meb Keflezighi headlines NYC Half elite men's field

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
1:45
PM ET
Meb KeflezighiAP Photo/Seth WenigMeb Keflezighi is back in New York after finishing fourth in last fall's NYC Marathon.
The New York Road Runners have announced the elite men’s fields for the 2015 NYC Half, headlined by 2014 Boston Marathon Champion Meb Keflezighi and three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein as they prepare for the 2015 Boston Marathon.

The overall for the March 15 race field includes a mix of talented runners who will run the full marathon distance in April and those using the bump in distance as endurance training for the 2015 track and field season.

“It is always a thrill and an honor to compete in New York City, and NYRR has been the most consistent supporter of my running career,” Keflezighi said in a press release. “As I train to defend my Boston Marathon title in April, there is no better race to prepare than the United Airlines NYC Half.”

Keflezighi opened his 2015 with a fourth place finish at the U.S. Half-Marathon Marathon Championships on Jan. 18, where he ran 62:18. Following up with the NYC Half Marathon puts him on the same race schedule he followed leading up to last year's Boston victory.

Ritzenhein’s preparation for Boston differs from Keflezighi’s in that all of his races in 2015 have been on grass, with three cross-country podium finishes. He earned a spot on the U.S. national team for the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships, which he passed to focus more on Boston. His last race at the 13.1 miles was the 2013 NYC Half, where he finished third in 61:10.

The rest of the American field includes 2012 Olympic Marathoner Abdi Abdirahman (60:29), Fernando Cabada (62:00), Jeffrey Eggleston (62:41) and Brett Gotcher (62:09). Coach Jerry Schumacher’s training group will be represented by Matt Tegenkamp (62:04) and the debuts of Andrew Bumbalough and Chris Solinsky.

The American field will be challenged by Kenya’s Stephen Sambu (60:41), Leonard Korir (61:19) and 2012 Boston Marathon Champion Wesley Korir (61:19). Mexico’s Juan Luis Barrios has the second fastest half-marathon personal best of the international field with his 60:46.

Here is a look at the field by the numbers:

(Read full post)

The pros and cons of betting on the Games

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
10:49
AM ET
David Purdum discusses the Nevada Gaming Control approving an amendment to state gaming regulations, allowing sportsbooks to offer wagering on sporting or athletic events sanctioned by the IOC:

video

Thousands of dead fish found near Rio Olympic sailing venue

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
1:31
PM ET
Rio Olympics, pollution, sailing, Guanabara Bay, Rio de JaneiroAP Photo/Leo CorreaA large fish die-off was found in Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro near the Olympic sailing venue. The discovery came amid a visit by International Olympic Committee inspectors, in Rio to check up on the city's preparations.

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Rio de Janeiro's state environmental agency says it is investigating a fish die-off that has left thousands of carcasses floating in waters where sailing events are to be held when Brazil hosts next year's Olympics.

The dead twaite shad, small whitish gray fish, were discovered Tuesday by inspectors conducting routine water testing in Rio's sewage- and trash-filled Guanabara Bay. The agency was conducting tests to determine the cause of the die-off, with results expected in a week, it said in a statement Tuesday.

The discovery of the fish, which were washing up on the coastline outside Rio's international airport and about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the starting point for the 2016 Olympic sailing events, comes amid a visit by International Olympic Committee inspectors, in Rio to check up on the city's progress in preparing for the games.

It also follows upbeat comments by Rio Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao, who said the city was working to meet its pledge to treat 80 percent of the sewage in the sprawling urban area that rings the bay. While the lion's share of area sewage long has long flowed, raw, into the bay, Pezao said 49 percent of the area's sewage was now being treated. Still, he acknowledged that Rio is unlikely to meet its goal of 80 percent treatment.

"It's not easy," he told reporters at an event in Rio's subway system on Wednesday. "Every time we have a negotiation, the bidding process (for the project) slows and postpones things."

The IOC executive director of the Olympic Games, Christophe Dubi, said at a news conference in Rio on Wednesday that it's his understanding the goal of depolluting Guanabara Bay by 80 percent remains.

"We are still aiming for this goal. We cannot judge until the finish line," he said. "We are like athletes in that we are pushing toward the finish line and we should respect that every effort is being made."

(Read full post)

Air + Style brings big air and snow to Pasadena

February, 23, 2015
Feb 23
5:42
PM ET
Big Air in PasadenaBrett Wilhelm/ESPNA 150-foot-tall big air ramp was the centerpiece of two days of snowboarding, skiing and music at the inaugural Air + Style: Los Angeles.

PASADENA, Calif. -- Air + Style, a 22-year-old contest known as the breeding ground for snowboarding trick progression mostly held in Innsbruck, Austria and Beijing, came to the United States for the first time last weekend thanks to new majority owner Shaun White. This time, skiers were invited, too.

Dubbed "a mix of Coachella and X Games" by White, the inaugural event was occasionally at odds with its Pasadena neighbors, much like the annual music festival and its hosts in Indio.

Noise ordinances prompted Saturday's headliner Kendrick Lamar to rant about the low volume, and he left the stage with 40 minutes remaining in his scheduled set. A riser designed for VIPs had to be dismantled and removed during the opening hours of Saturday's festival, among other reported permitting difficulties.

Even the ramp, originally planned to be inside the Rose Bowl based on renderings revealed at the announcement last fall, was constructed on the front lawn outside of the stadium.

But the contest itself, the reason for the event in the first place, kept with its innovative tradition. Yuki Kadono landed the first switch backside triple cork 1620 in a snowboarding competition to take the gold medal on Saturday. Sebastien Toutant of Canada finished second and Norwegian Stle Sandbech got third. Sandbech also wrapped up the snowboard season title after making the final.

"It's awesome," said Kadono, the 18-year old from Japan who speaks very little English. "I'm so happy."

Just two years ago, only four riders could land a triple cork. Now, it's a trick anyone with gold medal ambitions has to have in their repertoire as Air + Style has continuously rewarded progression. Saturday was no different.

The roster of snowboarders and skiers featured 22 Olympians, including American Sochi gold medalist snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg (who didn't qualify for the finals). Even though the ramp ended up on the lawn, the 200-foot tall snow covered centerpiece shone like a giant icicle in the middle of Southern California utopia framed by palm trees and mansions.

And on Sunday, when a rare rainstorm threatened to wash out the competition, the skiers gave it their best, despite the conditions. After several long bouts of rain, however, the ramp had had enough. Round 1 standings held, and American Olympian Gus Kenworthy was awarded the ski gold medal.

Despite all the medals, money and sponsors, giant ramps and cameras, Toutant said snowboarding is always all about having fun.

"Snowboarding has advanced so much that we're continuously pushing the limits of what we can do." Toutant said. "But I think kids need to just have fun and forget about the fame."

Check out more photos from Air + Style on XGames.com.

Action sports at the Sochi Olympics: One year later

February, 21, 2015
Feb 21
1:35
PM ET
One year ago this month, the lives of a dozen or so freeski and snowboard athletes were flipped upside down when they won gold medals for their countries at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in Russia.

XGames.com checked in to see what's changed for the freeski and snowboard slopestyle and halfpipe gold medalists since bringing home the prestigious hardware. See the gallery here and check out an update from slopestyle gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg below.



video


The most famous moment in American sports took place 35 years ago this week when the U.S. hockey team shocked the world by defeating the Soviet Union 4-3 at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. The victory led to "U-S-A! U-S-A!" chants, nationwide celebration, repeated honors for the "Do You Believe in Miracles?" team (including the 2002 Olympics torch-lighting), a dozen or so books, a 1981 made-for-TV movie, a 2001 documentary and a 2004 major movie starring Kurt Russell.

And all of that, naturally, was from the American perspective.

Now, 35 years later, we’re finally seeing the Soviet view of what happened in the recently-aired ESPN 30-for-30 documentary "Of Miracles and Men" and the recently-released documentary "Red Army." Rather than write about the documentary made by my employers, I’ll focus on the telling and entertaining "Red Army" which explores the fascinating story of the Soviet team.

As an old black-and-white clip of Ronald Reagan says in the "Red Army" trailer: "In the traditional motion picture story, the villains are usually defeated and the ending is a happy one. I can make no such promise for the picture you’re about to watch."

"Red Army" describes the development of the Soviet team under coach Anatoli Tarosov, considered to be the father of Russian hockey. He is then followed by the brutal Viktor Tikhonov, who is more the Dictator of Russian hockey and, according to the documentary, got the head coaching gig due to KGB links.

(Read full post)

U.S. Ski Team brings the funk

February, 19, 2015
Feb 19
4:26
PM ET


FALUN, Sweden -- The U.S. cross-country skiers are showing off some funky dance moves to get fans back home excited about the world championships.

The American team spent three weeks producing a four-minute video with the men's and women's cross-country skiers dancing in the snow, moon-walking in ski boots and lip-syncing to "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson. It was choreographed by reigning team sprint world champion Jessie Diggins, who said the team wanted to "share our passion with the rest of our fans back in the U.S."

It seems to be working. Less than a day after being uploaded on Wednesday evening, the video had been viewed more than 250,000 times on the team's Facebook page.

The Nordic skiing world championships began Thursday with individual classical-style sprint races. Diggins said the U.S. team started filming its video in Davos, Switzerland, three weeks ago, then continued shooting scenes during a World Cup meet in Ostersund, Sweden, this past weekend before wrapping it up in Falun.

Diggins took dance classes as a child and choreographed the moves, while men's skiers Simi Hamilton and Andy Newell did the video editing. It also features some of the team staff and a cameo by Swedish sprinter Emil Jonsson, who had the Americans over for dinner in Ostersund one night.

"It's great team bonding, especially when people are getting nervous about worlds," Diggins told The Associated Press. "We'd have dance practice in the hallways and meeting rooms for weeks. I'd wake up and come outside in the morning and the boys would be out in the hallway on their own practicing. It was so cool."

Matt Tegenkamp setting his sights on 2016 Olympic marathon trials

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
2:04
PM ET
Matthew TegenkampJed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesMatt Tegenkamp is hoping for another chanve to wear a Team USA uniform in the Olympics.
Two-time U.S. Olympian Matt Tegenkamp finished seventh in the 5,000 meters at the Milrose Games, and while the distance is far from the 26.2 miles of a marathon it was still part of Tegenkamp's marathon training cycle ahead of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, to be held in Los Angeles on Feb. 13 of next year.

“(Coach) Jerry (Schumacher) and I talked things through and we knew the ultimate focus was going to be the Olympic Trials Marathon,” Tegenkamp told ESPN.com “I’m not going to run a marathon in 2015, but I am currently in a marathon cycle and doing things necessary pointing towards the trials.”

Tegenkamp did not race after last April’s U.S. 10-Mile Championships in Washington, D.C., and admits there were question marks surrounding his focus before he and Schumacher decided on a plan for 2016.

“Being banged up last year, having it lingering on, not getting the training in necessary and get in a fall marathon made me decide I didn’t want to do anything crazy this year,” Tegenkamp said. “In the U.S. you need to show up to the start line super healthy, firing on all cylinders, and need to finish top three.”

(Read full post)

One year ago today, the Olympic men’s hockey tournament began in Sochi, an event that once again provided memorable moments on a global scale as Team Canada eventually defended its gold medal.

The question that remains unanswered is whether we’ll see NHL players in South Korea in 2018.

[+] EnlargeCanada
JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty ImagesWill NHL players participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics or is the World Cup of Hockey a replacement?
There still haven’t been any meaningful discussions with the IOC on that matter.

"Future Olympic participation is something we will need to focus on at an appropriate time, both with the IOC and with the players' association,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com Wednesday. "There continues to be a lot of moving pieces, including the recently announced World Cup of Hockey scheduled for September of 2016. That tournament and its success may not be determinative with respect to the decision we ultimately make on the Olympics, but it certainly will play a part in the overall discussion."

Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but it seems like all the comments that have been generated of late from the deputy commissioner and the big man himself, Gary Bettman, open the door just a crack to the possibility of no Olympic participation, that perhaps the World Cup is the replacement vehicle for best-on-best hockey.

Then again, it’s also wise for the NHL to send that type of public message to the IOC, so the Olympic organization understands it needs to step up if it wants to keep NHLers in the fold.

All of which brings us to the players. They have always wanted to play in the Olympics and that hasn’t changed.

"Participation in the Olympics has always been important for NHL players," NHLPA executive director Don Fehr told ESPN.com Thursday. "We look forward to an enhanced series of international hockey events, including the Olympics, provided, as in the past, that an appropriate agreement is reached with all relevant parties."

The epic slow-motion video that raises bar for high-jump fans

February, 12, 2015
Feb 12
2:51
PM ET


The British Indoor Track and Field championships are this weekend. And that probably means absolutely nothing to most of us here in the States. But that might change after you watch the slow-motion video of Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s record high jump from last year. Clearing 1.96 meters (just over 6-feet, 5 inches) -- an indoor British record -- has never looked so epic.

Is anyone else in favor of making every high-jump competition air on television in slow motion? If it were set to the right music it could be more dramatic than a Nicholas Sparks movie.

See something entertaining on social media that you think deserves to be shared? Let me know on Twitter, @darcymaine_espn.


What happens when Skype drops Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir

February, 12, 2015
Feb 12
2:42
PM ET


Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir are good at many things, but apparently technology isn't one of them. The dynamic duo was participating in a Skype meeting on Thursday when they lost their connection. The two handled it exactly as anyone would -- by eating snacks and yelling helplessly into the air. Natch.

No word if their attempts helped get the meeting back on track, but it looks they had a good time either way.

See something entertaining on social media that you think deserves to be shared? Let me know on Twitter, @darcymaine_espn.


SPONSORED HEADLINES