Airbnb to sponsor 2016 Rio Olympics

March, 28, 2015
Mar 28

Rio Olympics, athletes village, housing, airbnbAP Photo/Silvia IzquierdoWhile many athletes will stay in the Rio 2016 Olympic village, accommodations are in short supply for the influx of people Rio is expecting next year. A partnership with Airbnb is promised to help alleviate the housing shortage.

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Rio de Janeiro's hotel bed shortage was eased on Friday, as online home share startup Airbnb inked a deal to be the official "alternative accommodations" sponsor of the 2016 Olympic games.

The deal, which saw Airbnb pay an undisclosed amount to local Olympic organizers, means official Olympic sites will feature a link to Airbnb's site and encourage spectators traveling to Rio for the games to use the service to rent space in private homes and apartments.

This marked the first time the Olympics has had an alternative accommodations sponsor, said officials with the local organizing committee.

Rio's notoriously poor hotel infrastructure has been long been considered a critical issue. When the city won the Olympic bid in 2009, it had just half the 40,000 beds required for the games. Since then, new infrastructure has been built, and the city now has the 42,000 spots needed to house members of the "Olympic family," including athletes and their entourages, the media and sponsors.

Airbnb's around 20,000 offerings in Rio -- rooms, apartments, and houses scattered across the width and breadth of this chaotic seaside megacity -- will be aimed primarily at Olympic visitors, officials said.

"When we started all that (Olympic bidding process) several years ago, the major problem was hotels. How are we going to host so many people," Sidney Levy, CEO of the Rio 2016 organizing committee, said at a news conference.

An initial plan to put people up aboard several cruise ships docked in waters off of downtown Rio fell largely flat, and the bankruptcy of Brazil's one-time richest man, Eike Batista, who was supposed to deliver restored hotels, only aggravated Rio's housing crunch. Owners of some pay-by-the-hour love motels received subsidies to help transform their establishments into conventional motels, but it didn't help much. During Pope Francis' 2013 visit to the city, the flocks of faithful slept largely in churches or on the floors of local schools.

(Read full post)

IOC downplays concern on Pyeongchang preparations

March, 19, 2015
Mar 19

IOC, Pyeongchang, 2018 Winter OlympicsAP Photo/Ahn Young-joonGunilla Lindberg, left, head of the IOC coordination commission for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Cho Yang-ho, president of the 2018 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee, smile during a press conference in Gangneung, South Korea.

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- An International Olympic Committee inspection team has downplayed worries about the pace of preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea and insisted there will be no venue changes.

Gunilla Lindberg, who heads the IOC's coordination commission for the Pyeongchang Games, said Thursday that organizers have made significant progress in the construction of the venues and arranging the test events that begin next year. She added that organizers must show more urgency in advancing operational planning and refining budgets.

To compensate for South Korea's lack of experience in hosting large winter sports competitions, Lindberg said international experts will be coming to Pyeongchang in the coming months to help organizers arrange the test events and help in other administrative tasks.

Organizers have been facing pressure from local groups to spread the games outside of Pyeongchang to reduce costs, despite the IOC insisting that the current venue plan is final.

The organizers are also having difficulty attracting sponsors, with only five companies having joined the domestic sponsorship program.

Lindberg and Christophe Dubi, the IOC's executive director for the Olympic Games, were part of the delegation that concluded a three-day inspection trip in Gangneung, a city near Pyeongchang that will host some Olympic competitions in 2018, including ice hockey, speedskating and figure skating.

"The first test events are less than a year away and POCOG (Pyeongchang's organizing committee) and its partners will need to focus simultaneously on multiple projects over the next year in order to deliver them successfully," Lindberg said.

(Read full post)

Pyeongchang to start test events in 2016

March, 16, 2015
Mar 16

SEOUL, South Korea -- Organizers of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang have set up a special body in charge of arranging test events for the games, addressing one of the major concerns raised by international sports officials.

The organizing committee says Monday it created the "Pyeongchang Winter Series Foundation" to run the sports test events that will be crucial in evaluating venues and conditions ahead of the games.

Gian-Franco Kasper, head of international ski federation FIS, recently expressed concern that test events would not be ready for next year. The IOC has also pushed South Korean organizers to speed up preparations.

Pyeongchang says 28 test events will be held between February 2016 and April 2017.

Organizing committee chief Cho Yang-ho says "there isn't much time left" and "now it is time for all of us to come together and gear up for games preparations."

Berlin or Hamburg? Germany to decide for 2024

March, 16, 2015
Mar 16

FRANKFURT, Germany -- German Olympic officials are meeting to decide whether to choose Berlin or Hamburg as their candidate for the 2024 Games.

The eight-member board of the national Olympic committee will announce its recommendation later Monday.

The decision is expected to be ratified Saturday at the committee's general assembly.

Both cities presented their case over the weekend. The committee also consulted with German sports federations before talking to representatives from sport, politics, industry, church and culture on Monday.

Hamburg has more popular support than Berlin, but will need to build more facilities. Berlin already has most of the sports infrastructure in place.

Boston and Rome have already announced bids for the 2024 Games. Paris is also expected to join the field.

The deadline for submission of bids to the IOC is Sept. 15. The host city will be selected in 2017.

Olympic champ Lizzy Yarnold takes skeleton world title

March, 7, 2015
Mar 7
Lizzy Yarnold, Skeleton, world championshipAP Photo/Jens MeyerOlympic gold medalist Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain held on to her early-round lead to win the first skeleton world title of her career on Saturday.
WINTERBERG, Germany -- Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold of Britain clinched her first skeleton world championship title by holding off home favorite Jacqueline Loelling on Saturday.

Yarnold, who was fastest in Friday's opening runs, maintained her dominance by completing the quickest times across all four for a combined time of 3 minutes, 49.95 seconds.

Yarnold beat Loelling, the German two-time junior world champion, by 0.67 seconds and Canada's Elizabeth Vathje by 0.79.

Vathje's bronze was Canada's eighth medal by a female skeleton athlete in the twelve world championships since 2000.

Another Canadian, Jane Channell, was fourth -- ahead of Germany's Tina Hermann.

Martins Dukurs won the men's title on Friday. It was the Latvian's third skeleton world championship title after wins in 2011 and 2012.

Anne O'Shea was the top American finisher in 18th place.

Martins Dukurs wins third skeleton world championship

March, 6, 2015
Mar 6
Martins DukursAP Photo/Jens MeyerMartins Dukurs of Latvia starts his third run of the men's skeleton race at the Skeleton World Championships in Winterberg, Germany. He held on to oust Olympic champion Alexander Tretiakov.
WINTERBERG, Germany -- Martins Dukurs of Latvia won his third skeleton world championship title on Friday by holding off Olympic champion and holder Alexander Tretiakov of Russia.

Dukurs, who also won the title in 2011 and 2012, beat the Russian by 0.69 seconds.

Tomass Dukurs took the bronze medal, 1.52 seconds behind his younger brother.

Earlier, Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold of Britain took a slim lead midway through the women's competition.

After two of four heats, Elisabeth Vathje of Canada was 0.07 seconds behind.

Junior world champion Jacqueline Loelling of Germany and Jane Channell of Canada were tied for third, 0.39 seconds back, going into the final day of the competition on Saturday.

Germany's Tina Hermann is close behind in fifth, 0.52 seconds back.

Megan Henry and Annie O'Shea were the best American finishers at 17th and 19th place with two heats to go in the competition.

Dalhausser: No excuses (OK, maybe a few), Brazil smashed us

March, 5, 2015
Mar 5
Phil DalhausserAP Photo/Marc SerotaPhil Dalhausser and the U.S. won 11 of 36 matches during their tour in Brazil.
Olympic gold medalist Phil Dalhausser and the rest of the U.S. team were in Rio last week for an Olympic test event against Brazil. He shares his takeaways from the trip with

Last week, the top four U.S. men’s and women's beach volleyball teams played against the top four Brazilian teams on one of the most iconic beaches in the world, Copacabana Beach.

Brazil and USA Volleyball have an intense rivalry, it's like the Duke-North Carolina or Yankees-Red Sox match-up of our sport. The last time we had an event like this was in 2009 in Arizona, where the U.S. beat the Brazilians in a very tight contest. This week was a different story -- we got smashed! We won 11 out of 36 matches. I am not one to make excuses, especially in volleyball, but I am going to be a huge hypocrite and give you some reasons or excuses (however you want to look at it) as to why we got beat:

1. The Brazilians are in midseason form. They are in the midst of their domestic tour season, while most of the Americans have just been in training for a few weeks. After our season ends, we take a break from volleyball to let our bodies and minds heal. Sean Rosenthal and I usually start training three months before our first tournament, which happened to be the beginning of this month. There is a slow progression in our training; the first two weeks are easy ball-control drills with no jumping, so we basically had no business playing high-level volleyball so early in the year.

2. Team USA was out of shape! While we are trying to shed our offseason weight gain, Team Brazil was quite the opposite in form. They are fit and trim with tans, which we are also working on. Plus, it was really hot in Rio, which was another huge disadvantage since it's been a pretty chilly winter for us in Southern California.

3. We have two new women's teams and one new men's team. It’s quite simple -- it takes time to find team chemistry.

With all that said, the Brazilians played high-level volleyball, and even if we were in midseason form, it would've been tough to beat them (it pains me to admit this). Since Sean and I didn't do so well, we had time to checkout Rio de Janeiro and enjoy what this city has to offer.

Martins Dukurs leads, American Matt Antoine 11th at skeleton worlds

March, 5, 2015
Mar 5
WINTERBERG, Germany -- Martins Dukurs of Latvia took a narrow lead over Olympic gold medalist Alexander Tretiakov of Russia at the halfway stage of the skeleton world championship.

Dukurs was .17 seconds ahead of defending world champion Tretiakov after Thursday's two runs. Dukurs is the silver medalist from the 2010 and 2014 Olympics.

Dukurs' brother Tomass was in third place, .69 seconds behind the pace.

Matt Antoine, who won a surprising bronze medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, was the leading U.S. finisher, sitting in 11th overall. Teammate Kyle Tress sits at 15th.

"I thought we'd be more in the mix based on our training times this week," U.S. skeleton team head coach Tuffy Latour said in a statement. "Coming off an Olympic bronze medal, Matt is the top performer on the team, and he's put a lot of pressure on himself. We are three years out from the next Olympics, so if you're going to struggle, this is the year to struggle and work out the kinks. He's pushing himself to get better, and he's hungry for it."

The men's final two runs and the first two heats of the women's event are on Friday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


The NHL and NHL Players' Association are fully engrossed in fleshing out the logistics and details of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, but it is hard not to ignore the elephant in the room while they're doing that.

Will NHL players be going to Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February 2018 or not?

It's a question that's far from being answered yet.

"We haven't had any discussions about it," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told on Wednesday. "And I said in Columbus [at the All-Star Game], this decision about the World Cup has no bearing on that decision. We're focused right now on the World Cup. When we get to discussing and evaluating the Olympic opportunity, that decision -- whether or not we go or not go -- will rise and fall on the merits of making that decision."

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr agreed with Bettman's characterization of the Olympic decision not being tied to the return of the World Cup.

"Yes, I think that's a correct statement, that the Olympics have to be evaluated on their own, and you have to get the right kinds of agreements with the IIHF and the IOC," Fehr told on Wednesday. "Assuming you can, it's no secret what the players' position is going to be. But this [World Cup] is something we would do if we had already decided to go to the Olympics or if the Olympics had shut down and you never had them again. It wouldn't matter."

[+] EnlargeDuncan Keith
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesGary Bettman isn't writing off a repeat appearance by NHLers at the Olympics just yet.
Now, while it is true there haven't been any real Olympic discussions just yet, it should be noted that Fehr went to Switzerland in mid-February -- rather under the radar, I might add -- and met with IOC president Thomas Bach.

I wonder how Bettman felt about that. But let's move on.

The players have always wanted to participate ever since the door opened with the 1998 Nagano Olympics. And it's not just the small percentage of NHLers who get to actually play in the Olympics that continually endorse the idea, but it's also the majority of regular Joe Blow NHLers who love getting the long February break in order to heal their bumps and bruises and take in some sunshine on a paradise island somewhere nice and warm. Let's not kid ourselves about the importance of that factor.

The NHL and its owners? They can barely hide their lack of interest in going to South Korea.

But that NHL-NHLPA showdown on Olympic participation is putting the cart in front of the horse. There are other things to figure out way before it becomes about that.

To wit:
  • Bach took over as IOC president in September 2013, so this is his first crack at the NHL Olympic discussion. Sochi had already been ironed out before he came on board as the big boss. As a factual point, Bach has to make a decision with his IOC council on whether or not they are going to extend the same benefits to NHL players as they have since 1998. Unless I missed it, I don't think that's happened yet.

    Why this is interesting is that Bach reportedly stated years ago that he didn't think pros (NBA, NHL players) should get benefits that other athletes don't get. Mind you, now that he's IOC president, it wouldn't surprise anyone if he feels differently, given the money involved in having the best hockey in the world featured in the showcase event of the Winter Olympics. Still, I point that out as a matter of interest.

    I asked Fehr on Wednesday what would happen if new IOC leadership isn't quite as interested in guaranteeing the same kind of benefits and comforts that NHLers got in past Olympics, particularly in Sochi last year, when players were the happiest they've ever been with the way things worked out.

    "At this point, I have no reason to think that the IOC's approach will vary from what we've seen in the past," Fehr said. "But that remains to be seen. We haven’t started the discussions yet."

    Either way, there's zero point in the NHL and NHLPA beginning official discussions on Olympic participation until Bach and the IOC council express an official desire to keep the thing going with NHL participation, although again, it would be surprising if they didn't.
  • Another important official discussion has to take place between Bach and Rene Fasel. Fasel, as IIHF president, is the one who has to get the IOC's commitment on the funding for NHL participation.

    The NHL and NHLPA likely won't have any real Olympic discussions until that is all resolved. If Bach and the IOC say no, then the whole thing is dead before it even starts. But if Bach and the IOC green light the funding and the desire to keep the same standard NHLers have had in past Olympics, then the NHL and NHLPA spring into action. Bettman needs to get the go-ahead from his board of governors and then the league and union need to bang out an Olympic agreement, which will likely follow more or less the templates from before. That's if NHL owners vote to go this time ...

In closing, what will also be interesting is the timing of the Olympic decision, regardless of whether it's a yes or a no. Would the NHL and NHLPA want this all decided before the September 2016 World Cup of Hockey? Could the Olympic decision overshadow their own event?

Again, you sense from the NHL that going back to the Olympics isn't a priority at this point. But perhaps that's just what they want conveyed publicly for the IOC to see in order to make sure Bach delivers.

The difference this time around, whatever way it goes, is that the NHL has its own best-on-best event to fall back on for years ago come, and that's no small factor.

But the players still want to go to the Olympics.

As always, it will be ultra-intriguing to see how this plays out.

Environmental activists disrupt meeting by Olympic officials

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
Rio Olympics, pollution, golf, Marapendi nature reserve, Rio de JaneiroAP Photo/Silvia IzquierdoProtesters hold a banner that reads "COI go home," at the entrance of the hotel where International Olympic Committee met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday.

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Environmental activists burst into the lobby of a luxury hotel on Rio's Copacabana Beach where IOC officials were meeting Saturday, protesting against ecological destruction related to the 2016 Olympics.

With little progress visible on Olympic promises to clean up the city's waterways filled with sewage and trash, and the Olympic golf course being carved out of a nature preserve, environmental issues have become a major issue.

A small group of activists managed to steal the spotlight from IOC President Thomas Bach when at least two women pushed their way into the lobby of the hotel where Bach was chairing a meeting of his executive board on another floor.

One of the activists, who grabbed a five-ring Olympic flag and tried to wave it, shouted and blew on a whistle as security guards tried to restrain her. Other protesters outside the hotel held banners, including one saying "Ecological Holocaust. IOC go home." Another read: "Thomas Bach is a nature killer!"

The chaotic scene was witnessed by about 100 journalists from around the world waiting for the start of a news conference by Bach.

Jean Carlos Novaes, who eventually reached the hotel lobby, said he represented the environmental group "Golf for Whom." Other protesters said they represented a group called "Occupy Golf," and "Occupy Marina da Gloria," the venue for Olympic sailing.

"We are not against the Olympics, but we are against the corruption around the golf course that is being arranged by the mayor (Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes)," Novaes said. "They are stealing with the Olympics as an excuse."

(Read full post)

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
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, Aïla, 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
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
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)