For four years since he won the men's title at the Turin Olympics, Russia's
This past weekend, Plushenko confirmed his return and his form, winning the Russian Olympic trials with a world-record score of 271.59 points. The question is still just how much is real and how much is wishful thinking. He says has been practicing a program with options for two quadruple jumps (either a quad-quad or a triple Axel, quad combination) that could vault him to another planet of execution marks, but has yet to pull them off in competition.
Some observers suspect that none of the contenders for the men's crown will need a quad to win. Plushenko landed one quad over the weekend and has only competed twice in Russia, once with exclusively Russian judges. He should also get a favorable shake at the European Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, next month, his last scheduled competition before the Olympics. But what happens when he travels abroad and faces more measured scrutiny from international judges in Vancouver?
What's more, Plushenko confesses that he is still suffering from the lingering knee ailments that led him to retire in the first place. After his victory in October, he told reporters, "I was sleeping late, drinking wine, eating pasta. I was not prepared for anything." Yet, even with all those uncertainties, it is no longer possible to ignore the reigning champion.
An advisory panel recently established by the USOC and chaired by USA Hockey executive director
The U.S. Olympic movement is in tatters. Chicago's bid to land the 2016 Olympics fell on deaf ears this fall in Copenhagen when the IOC voted the capable city out in the first round. It was a sort of punishment for a year of discontent during which the USOC took several steps that offended the IOC.
In March, the committees quibbled openly about the percentage of revenues the USOC receives from domestic television contracts at about the time CEO
In a poll of domestic sports federation leaders, Streeter was given a resounding 40-0 vote of no-confidence. Hers is the position up for consideration now. Over the summer, the USOC went ahead with a decision to announce the formation of an Olympic network despite the objections of the IOC, which noted an existing agreement with Universal Sports, a partner of NBC, that paid more than $2 billion for Olympic broadcast rights. At a time when Streeter and Probst needed to visit with IOC members and the international sports community at large in order to explain themselves and build relationships, they chose to skip certain meetings and leave others early.
There are no U.S. representatives on the IOC's 15-member executive board and no presidents of international sports committees under the Olympic umbrella. It is an astounding fall from grace for a nation that provides the lion's share of revenues to the IOC and is always at or near the top of the Olympic medal count. Given the state of the USOC within the international community, it is critical that the search group opt for a least-objectionable-candidate, someone who can speak the Olympic language without baggage, somebody who comes off as more "Olympian" than "corporate."
Backroom schmoozing and relationship-building determine who wins Olympic bids, who gets elected to international sports presidencies, and which cities are awarded rights to world championships and regional events such as the Pan-Am Games, European championships, Asian Games and so on. U.S. Olympic interests will only be served by someone who has a lifelong commitment to the lifestyle and the Olympic world's quirky metabolism.
Several of the candidates carry potential baggage to their candidacy. Alderson comes from baseball, a sport recently voted out of the Olympic program by the IOC's executive board. Blackmun is a lawyer who worked for Anschutz Entertainment Group after leaving his USOC post the first time. The IOC questions the USOC's revolving-door leadership that seems to change with every season. Blackmun may be seen as another recycled candidate.
The Harvard-educated Bellingham cares deeply about the Olympics, but he was the man who tried to push through the Olympic network at Ueberroth's behest. It didn't go over well at all. If he can get past that, at 45, he would have time to build relationships that could prosper if he stays in the position. Lewis led a joint marketing venture between the USOC and organizers of the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. Those Games were rocked by scandal before the new regime took over. And the Olympic hospitality world has dicey hints of interest conflicts lurking.
Moglia brings no Olympic experience whatsoever to the table and would have a hard time saying hello to people in that world; Wielgus would seem to be a safe pick, an agreeable guy who would play well abroad, although his experience is focused on one sport, albeit a major one.
USOC leaders have come (and gone) from the corporate world before. The reigns of
In a wildly inconsistent season that has ranged from DNFs to sizeable victories, add an injury scare to the Jekyll and Hyde campaign of World Cup champion
For the most part, the Olympic freestyle trials that took place last week in Steamboat Springs, Co. were weighted competitions designed to generate buzz around winner-take-all moments that could play well on TV. With only one berth up for grabs and remaining places determined by cumulative results, there were few surprises.
The sport's bumpy nature seems fitting for Peterson, a 2006 Olympian who knocked off teammate
Is it possible that the U.S. squad with the greatest depth might be the Nordic combined team? This is a sport in which the U.S. has never won an Olympic medal, yet the team entered the Olympic trials in Steamboat Springs with two individual world champions,
Spillane was certainly overlooked after a pair of offseason meniscus surgeries, but made up nine seconds on his hometown course to capture the spot. Pain has never fazed the 29-year old, who won his world title despite racing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Lodwick and Demong, second and third in Steamboat, will surely be in Vancouver, leaving the U.S. with an excellent chance to win the team event after a seventh-place finish in 2006. The rest of the roster will be selected on Jan. 19.
Blizzard-like conditions couldn't stop favorites
Despite not playing in the NHL this season,
Team USA will be announced after the Winter Classic game in Fenway Park between the Bruins and Flyers on New Year's Day.