Ten things about the upcoming Winter Olympics that I know, and you should, too.
1. Reigning world and Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yuna of South Korea said in a statement Tuesday that her first competition of this season will be the Golden Spin of Zagreb (Croatia) Dec. 5-8 in Croatia. Kim pulled out of her two scheduled Grand Prix events with an injured foot.
2. Two-time U.S. figure skating champion Ashley Wagner’s sponsor portfolio keeps growing. Cover Girl is the latest to sign her, joining Nike, P&G, Hilton HHonors, the Century Council, Highmark, Pandora and BP. I can’t remember a U.S. figure skater without an Olympic medal who has had more endorsements, and it is more remarkable for one who has not even won a senior world championship medal. The woman who called herself the "almost girl" now has joined Lindsey Vonn as the winter "it girls" to corporate America.
3. More power to her, given that Wagner was the only figure skater at the Olympic media summit to decry Russia’s anti-gay legislation. While no one should feel obligated to take a stand, you would have thought more athletes in a sport with many gay champions would have felt a moral compunction to speak out.
4. Ex-Division I basketball player (Florida Atlantic) Brittany Bowe, a sprinter, will be the breakout star of the U.S. speedskating team in Sochi. The long track World Cup season opens this weekend in Calgary.
5. My new motto (and this isn’t car talk) is ABS: Anywhere But Sochi. Is it too late to move the 2014 Olympics to Lillehammer? Salt Lake? Nagano? Innsbruck?
6. Anyone who wants to understand a little more about President Putin and his Russia should read Masha Gessen’s book, “The Man Without a Face. The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin,” published last year. Title of Chapter 3: “The Autobiography of a Thug.”
7. U.S. Olympic curling trials begin Sunday in Fargo, N.D. The men have yet to earn an Olympic spot (last chance in December). The top women’s team at the trials (you betcha) includes four Olympians, including Chicago’s Ann Swisshelm Silver (2002), who has competed at 19 straight U.S. Championships. Swisshelm was on the U.S. team that took fourth at the 2013 worlds.
8. Great timing: Ted Ligety was named U.S. Olympic Sportsman of the Year three days before winning the opening World Cup race of the season. Giant slalom master Ligety, overshadowed in his sport by Vonn and Bode Miller, is the least known (to the general public) superstar U.S. Winter Olympic athlete.
9. Anyone worried about the Olympic future of women’s hockey should be rooting against the U.S. and Canada, which dominate the sport to a degree that makes their games against each other the only ones worth watching. (Fights and all.)
10. Lauryn Williams, world champion and Olympic silver medalist in the 100 meters, clearly is as delightful and insightful as a winter sports athlete as she was as a runner. From her must-read blog on trying to make the Olympic bobsled team as a sled pusher: “I thought my job was to run and jump in. No one explained that we are our own pit crew. Each driver has her own tool box and these girls know their wrenches from their ratchets.”
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