Snowboarder Jamie Anderson knows Olympic goals conflict with beliefs

Snowboarder Jamie Anderson at the 2018 Winter Olympics
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COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. (AP) — There is part of Jamie Anderson that wishes these upcoming Olympics weren’t in China.

The two-time snowboard gold medalist knows she’s not the only Olympian who thinks that. One of the many things that makes her unique is that she is willing to say it.

Even in a sport filled with nonconformists, Anderson stands out. The 31-year-old from South Lake Tahoe, California, is one of the most thoughtful people in her business. Part of that, to her, means the question about whether to go to the Beijing Games, which are riven with conflicts about COVID-19, human rights, cybersecurity and more, should at least be something she can talk about freely.

“I definitely thought about protesting and standing up for what I think is right,” she told The Associated Press earlier this winter. “And I kind of had to find my yin and yang to that and link the pros and cons. And right now, I feel like I still want to pursue this Olympic journey because it really is such a gift to be on that world stage.”

The past few years have forced these kinds of calculations among athletes who want to use their platforms to speak out on a range of issues, but have been hemmed in by the Olympic rulebook. The U.S. Olympic team and the IOC have changed their guidelines in an attempt to better define how, and when, athletes can speak out during the Games.

All those guidelines, however, are being put to a different sort of test in the host country.

Rights groups have documented abuses in China, including forced labor, detentions and torture of Uyghurs. The world has been left to wonder about the safety of tennis player Peng Shuai. The U.S. government and others have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Games — a move designed to underscore their disapproval of China’s policies, but one that stops short of keeping the athletes at home.

All of which has left it up to the athletes themselves to decide whether to attend, or speak up about issues in China or anything else on their minds. Very few have been willing to even talk about the issues encircling these Games, let alone sacrifice their Olympic spot. German slider Natalie Geisenberger was among the few to seriously weigh not going, but last week, she came to the same conclusion as so many of her fellow athletes.

“We only have the choice: Do I fly there and give everything or do I just let my sporting dream burst so close to the end?” she said.

A common theme among the few athletes who do speak up is that it wasn’t their choice to put these Games in Beijing.

“It can feel very powerless when you read those things, because you think, ‘What can I do?'” American figure skater Timothy LeDuc said of some of the reports of abuses in China.

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Noah Hoffman, an American cross-country skier who competed in the 2014 and 2018 Olympics, has been openly critical of the IOC and the Beijing organizers, yet he has said he hopes athletes “stay silent” in Beijing for fear they be punished.

With top-level sponsors, NBC and her own national governing body pushing forward for Beijing, Anderson said she has felt no groundswell among her U.S. teammates to stay home.

“A lot of the athletes I’ve spoken to, no one really wants to, and I’m not strong standing alone,” she said. “And I think it would be a really powerful stance. But I see that a lot of people have been working so hard to go and this might be their only shot.”

Anderson knows how big the Olympics can be for an athlete. She has has two gold medals in slopestyle and a silver in big air, which was added to the Olympic program four years ago.

She has made millions, in no small thanks to her top performance on the biggest stage. Earlier this week, she announced her engagement to Canadian snowboarder Tyler Nicholson. She has also tried to stay down to earth, focusing on conservation and women’s empowerment over her decade-plus at the top of the sport.

She has been unflinchingly honest about the conflicts her lifestyle creates — yes, she wants to be in touch with the planet that literally sustains her career, but she travels heavily and it contributes to global warming.

“It’s easy to get sucked into the system, whether you want to or not,” she said in a 2017 AP interview. “It’s hard to get out until you consciously make the decision. With how passionate I am about snowboarding, it’s hard to make that shift.”

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Her passion, she said, has not waned in the ensuing years, so she, too, will head to Beijing, hoping her presence there might inspire others.

“I don’t know (expletive) about politics,” she conceded. “I feel like me not going isn’t going to make the world any less corrupt.”

And though the Olympics have always brought their own set of conflicts beyond whether to compete in China — snowboarders have never fully felt comfortable living in that world — Anderson said there is one overarching reason she keeps going, no matter where they are.

“At least for this one time in life,” she said, “the world comes together over sports.”

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: A complete schedule of every women’s event at the 2022 Winter Olympics

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.

How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.

Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.

More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.