Pyeongchang, South Korea — U.S. Olympic Committee leaders defended CEO Scott Blackmun’s response to sex-abuse complaints from gymnasts, and said no decision on Blackmun’s future would be made until an independent investigation spells out how he, and the USOC as a whole, handled the matter.
Blackmun is under fire from critics who say he didn’t do enough upon learning about abuse by Larry Nassar, who treated gymnasts on the U.S. team in his role as a volunteer doctor. Two U.S. senators and a group led by gold-medal swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, which includes 17 other Olympians, are among those calling for the CEO’s resignation.
Blackmun is home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, recovering from surgery to treat prostate cancer, leaving chairman Larry Probst and America’s other two IOC members, Anita DeFrantz and Angela Ruggiero, to speak about the CEO’s future Friday at a pre-Olympics news conference in which 14 of the 20 questions asked were about the gymnastics scandal.
“I’ve known him for a very long time. I thought he’s done a great job for us, and think he deserves to have everything cleared before we take any action,” DeFrantz said. “I don’t know what the investigation will show, but I’m pretty confident it will show he did a great job.”
At issue is Blackmun’s response in the summer of 2015 upon learning about allegations against Nassar after a phone conversation with Steve Penny, who was president of USA Gymnastics. The USOC has said that USAG reported it was in the process of contacting appropriate law enforcement agencies when it notified the USOC of the case.
Russian appeals denied
Russia’s desperate attempt to get 45 banned athletes — including several medal favorites — into the Pyeongchang Olympics failed just hours before Friday’s opening ceremony.
The International Olympic Committee had banned Russia because of a massive doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Games, but gave individual athletes the chance to apply for admission to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” There were 168 Russians who passed the vetting process. Dozens more filed appeals with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
On Friday, the court upheld the IOC’s right to decide who can compete.
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford made up for teammate Patrick Chan’s shaky short program to give Canada the lead in the team competition after the opening day of figure skating.
The powerhouse Canadian squad, which is expected to challenge the team of Russians for the gold medal, compiled 17 points through the first two disciplines.
The U.S. team was second with 14 points, followed by Japan and the Russians with 13 points each.
Duhamel and Radford scored 76.57 points in their program set to “With or Without You” to finish behind Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, whose season-best 80.92 dazzled the crowd.
Still, that big number couldn’t make up for teammate Mikhail Kolyada’s poor program. The bronze medalist at the grand prix final fell twice to finish eighth among the 10 skaters.
Nathan Chen was wobbly for the Americans, but the pairs team of Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim bailed him out with a strong performance set to music from “Moulin Rouge.”
Maia and Alex Shibutani (Ann Arbor) will skate in the short dance segment, the U.S. team announced.
High winds in the weather forecast could move the Olympic men’s downhill race from its scheduled Sunday slot.
Markus Waldner told team leaders a Monday lunchtime start is the favored backup plan if needed, sandwiched between two runs of the women’s giant slalom.
“This is my message: Be patient and flexible because now the next three days will be tough,” Waldner said Friday after a practice run was affected by gusts of wind.