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Downing’s Side of the Story: What Happened to Team Dominica in Sochi

Team Dominica nordic skiers, the oldest Olympians at the 2014 Winter Games, Gary di Silvestri (with flag) and his wife Angelica Morrone (l) at the Opening Ceremony in Sochi, Russia.

Team Dominica nordic skiers, the oldest Olympians at the 2014 Winter Games, Gary di Silvestri (with flag) and his wife Angelica Morrone (l), and coach J.D. Downing (r) at the Opening Ceremony in Sochi, Russia.

After the Olympics in late February, FasterSkier published a news blog about an American couple, Gary di Silvestri and Angelica Morrone, that represented the island nation of Dominca as cross-country skiers at the Sochi Winter Games. The post was based on allegations and reports that the couple pulled a fast one in order to get to the Games, and once there, did not compete. 

We then reached out to their coach, J.D. Downing, who founded the XC Oregon nordic team in Bend, Ore., and is a well-known figure in the US master’s circuit, for his take. Downing’s frustration with the negative coverage his athletes received was apparent. What follows is an article based mainly on excerpts from his thorough response. 

(Note: In the interest of writing the most-straightforward article, only Downing’s statements that pertained to the  FasterSkier’s news blog were included in this article. In his original email, Downing addressed the issue of taking advantage of a loophole in the rules. A few more excerpts from Downing’s email that are relevant to the first comment on this article have been added under the heading ‘What Exactly is the Problem Here?’)

***

“You have two people that have fallen madly in love with cross-country skiing and the combination of their unbridled enthusiasm and personal resources has spread proven positive benefits far and wide in the worldwide XC ski community.” — J.D. Downing, XC Oregon head coach and Dominca Olympic coach

“I first had the pleasure to work with Gary and Angelica at the 2005 Oregon Spring Camp,” J.D. Downing wrote in an email. “Shortly after that camp they became supporters of the XC Oregon non-profit under our Friends of XC Oregon program. Gary and Angelica have been two of our many generous donors over the past eight fiscal years.

“Within the Friends of XC Oregon program, all donors to XC Oregon receive as benefits access to our XC Oregon workouts, camps, and training programs,” he continued. “So in that way I have coached Gary and Angelica for the past eight years. Beginning spring 2013 we mutually increased my time demands beyond the Friends of XC Oregon program to match the pressing requirements for Olympic qualification and the Games itself.”

What distinguishes di Silvestri and Morrone from the other wealthy donors Downing coaches was that they were attempting to qualify for the Sochi Olympics under the flag of the tiny Caribbean nation of Dominica. Forty-eight and 47 years old, respectively, at the time of the Olympics, Morrone and di Silvestri weren’t quite at the level for qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team, or, for that matter, the Italian Olympic team, as Morrone is Italian-born. (Di Silvestri is from Staten Island and the couple lives in Montana.)

The Rules

There are two separate issues on the table — what anyone chooses to think of Morrone and di Silvestri, and what anyone chooses to think of the rules they followed.  Downing wrote that criticism of the rules was being improperly directed at his athletes:

“If it’s a matter of short versus long-term citizenship that bugs people, then feel free to take appropriate steps with your IOC representatives to suggest an international rule change that requires a certain period of time of holding citizenship before you can represent a country at the Olympics.  

“If you have a problem with how specific nations legally grant citizenship, take it up with national leaders worldwide for the next Olympics. You know, the people that actually write and enforce laws in various countries.

“If you have a problem with how specific nations set their national Olympic participation criteria, again, please speak with the specific national leaders in question.”

Morrone and di Silvestri qualified according to the “B Standard” — nations that do not have any “A-Standard” athletes can still send one male and one female representative of each sport. However, the B-Standard qualification must still be met, which is a maximum of 300 International Ski Federation (FIS) points in order to enter the mid-distance classical races. Dominica had never previously fielded a team at the Winter Olympics, and their B-Standard cross-country ski spots were open.

“Now there’s been plenty of commentary and opinion about the level of skiing required to meet the Olympic B standard,” Downing continued. “I am perfectly OK with that conversation and if anyone is really bent out of shape about that standard then I’d encourage writing to your FIS and IOC representatives to voice your views. For example, you can argue for lowering the Olympic B standard to an average of 250 or even 200 FIS points. If a tougher ‘standard’ of the Games is your mission, those official entities are the right parties to lobby.

“But please understand just who you impact versus how little you accomplish by lowering the 300 FIS point average. The list of nationalities eliminated largely would be smaller, poorer, and/or snow-challenged. [The resulting pool of athletes will closely resemble] a typical World Cup race. So you’ll successfully make the Winter Olympics far less inclusive while changing nothing in terms of the overall pros and cons of the Olympic movement.”

How It Really Went in Sochi

The Deadspin article quoted in the article by FasterSkier had a great deal of personal criticism for the couple. Downing’s irritation with the negative coverage was apparent, beginning with the coverage of their Olympic experience:

“[That their Olympic experience was an] un-mitigated disaster is completely true. I take issue with how this Olympic experience was presented. Deadspin clearly painted the health of the athletes with a wide brush of suspicion, derision, mocking, and doubt. FasterSkier itself doesn’t exactly leave readers with an accurate portrayal by claiming Angelica just had a ‘broken nose’ and the sarcasm of Gary ‘didn’t get the memo’ on potentially tainted water.”

Downing described their untimely predicaments:

“On Saturday, February 8 Gary woke up with severe abdominal cramps so severe he could not walk nor even stand for more than a few seconds. [...] Ultimately he was diagnosed [...] as having a serious bacterial gastroenteritis infection. Our best guess was the water in our lodging as the culprit. The symptoms came and went for over a week. In the best of times he could ski, but felt very weak. At the worst, he was back to the day one misery and barely able to walk or stand.

“That very same morning of Saturday, February 8, Angelica and I were skiing on the race courses before the women’s skiathlon and she had a high speed crash into the fence on the exact same downhill corner of the ‘Red’ course that caused so many problems for many athletes in the early portion of the Games. In fact, the exact location of her crash was precisely where Anders Gloeersen hit the bottom of the same fence in the men’s sprint final and where Marcus Hellner and Sergey Ustiugov collided in the same race.

“Although the fence you could see on TV footage was padded, the padding ended just shy of the top metal cross bar (it’s a permanent fence). In her crash, Angelica hit her face right on that exposed cross bar which resulted in a heavy craniofacial injury with multiple fragmental open fractures. Most serious initially was the penetrated open crania-cerebral injury where surgeons were worried that bone fragments might enter her brain. She was transported by ambulance [and] quickly admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, and subsequently underwent four surgeries between the evening of February 8 and lasting until February 24.”

“The medical record regarding this crash provided by the hospital is comprehensive and without dispute. Yet the Deadspin writer actually goes out out of his way to characterize Angelica’s injuries as trivial and Gary’s infection as imagined — and in a bizarre twist insinuates they made it all up for some unspecified reason. Thus he was such a great ‘reporter’ that he supposedly uncovers pointless dirt dating back 30 years ago [including tax-evasion accusations in the Deadspin article], but he couldn’t be bothered to actually get an accurate account of one of the worst injuries to take place at the 2014 Winter Olympics? Even the accounts of Angelica having a ‘broken nose’ are horrifically incomplete in painting the true picture here. [...] If you have just a broken nose, it’s painful, but rarely a serious medical emergency. Angelica’s injuries were Intensive Care Unit for the better part of a week serious. Four surgeries serious. In the hospital almost the entire Winter Olympics serious. But apparently not serious enough for accurate reporting. As I’ve already pointed out, the writer never bothered fact checking the medical realities drawing his credibility in all regards into total question.”

And as for di Silvestre’s illness?

“For Gary, his Olympic routine consisted of daily trips to the hospital to be with Angelica and dealing with the ups/downs of his bacterial infection. The morning of the men’s 15k (Friday, February 14) the abdominal cramps brought on by his infection returned with a vengeance. Even after the Endurance Village clinic treated him with every cramp-relieving medicine at their disposal, he was barely able to walk from the village shuttle to our wax cabin.  [...] it was literally everything Gary could do to make it around the stadium in a vain hope that Angelica could at least see him start (from her hospital bed). [The assertion that he made it] 300 meters is about right and yes, he collapsed off the track (so as not to impede other skiers in any way) before I could run around the stadium to assist him off the field of play.”

“To top off Gary’s erstwhile Olympic start, his race skis were stolen that afternoon from a credential-only ‘secure area,’ ” Downing added.

“Accountability in any writing matters. The original Deadspin account openly challenges Angelica was ever severely hurt or that Gary was ever seriously ill. Right there I don’t need any more proof that the writer in question wasn’t interested in honest and factual reporting. I know what happened to these people because I was there every second. The writer didn’t ask me. He didn’t ask the Dominica National Olympic Committee. He didn’t ask the IOC. The medical issues that confronted both Angelica and Gary were not insignificant sidebars. Any writer and any resource that doesn’t can’t get very basic medical facts straight simply cannot be trusted with anything that was alleged.”

‘What Exactly is the Problem Here?’

“It is a fact that Gary and Angelica were hardly the only athletes in Sochi with multiple past or present passports in their name. Multiple examples exist in both XC and biathlon. In several cases the athletes very openly switched national affiliation purely for athletic reasons. In many cases the athletic reasons involved a measure of direct financial gain to the athlete which is most certainly NOT the case for Gary or Angelica.

“I’m fascinated the vitriol leveled at Gary and Angelica that conveniently ignores the situations where many other athletes (including multiple medalists) gained citizenship for various nations with the clear and often admitted motive of, ‘I’ll get better support or simply have access to the Olympics if I switch to such-and-such country’. I know of no example where any athlete in these many other situations was then subject to the character assassination that Gary and Angelica have been through.

“Try as anyone might, no valid argument can be made that Gary or Angelica bumped someone else out of the Olympics. There was never going to be a Dominica Winter Olympic Team at all if they didn’t make it. They didn’t take a dime from the Dominica NOC. They covered every Olympic and National Ski Federation expense and would have happily covered more if ever required by FIS, the IOC, or Sochi organizers. The IOC and the Sochi O.C. were openly delighted they were there representing Dominica. So please tell me — what exactly is the problem here?

“Finally, I can guarantee the world that if there was any other Dominican citizen that really had a serious plan for making the 2018 Winter Olympics — Gary and Angelica would be the first in line to offer support. How many ‘legitimate’ athletes from other nations can say the same?”

Good People

Throughout Downing’s email he paints di Silvestre and Morrone as kind, generous, and hard-working.

“Both Gary and Angelica would have to be among the most impressive examples I’ve ever come across of near-total devotion to a sport. Any age. Any ability. Their work ethic is literally off the charts. More often than not I needed to warn them about working too hard or too much, which is often the case with the most motivated skiers of any age.

“Over eight years I honestly cannot think of anyone that got to know Gary and Angelica that has not expressed enjoying the positive energy that comes with being around them. But I can document a very long list of clubs, athletes, events, associations, fundraising campaigns, ski retailers, ski industry companies, websites (yes, including FasterSkier) that have all benefited from contributions, expenditures, participation, etc. by Gary and Angelica’s love of cross-country skiing.

“XC Oregon can document an extensive list of athletes, ski programs, and other worthwhile causes that our program has impacted and supported over the past eight years around the XC world. These positive efforts would not have been possible without the support of donors such as Gary and Angelica.

“In sum you have two people that have fallen madly in love with cross-country skiing and the combination of their unbridled enthusiasm and personal resources has spread proven positive benefits far and wide in the worldwide XC ski community.”

Comments

  1. I don’t doubt Mr. Downing’s statement that these two particular athletes he coaches love cross country skiing, and have a great deal of enthusiasm for the sport. Clearly, his program has benefitted from their generosity, and this has likely allowed XC Oregon to provide more resources to their other athletes.

    However, his defending of their use of what amount to loopholes in the Olympic qualifying standards demonstrates a serious lack of personal ethics and a great deal of disrespect for the Olympic movement and the athletes that participate in the Games. He completely dodges the real question at hand—what business did his two athletes have participating in the Olympics? That’s because the answer is a resounding “none.”

    Their presence did nothing to foster the sport in developing countries, and in fact the attention they called to themselves may actually be detrimental in many ways. Mr. Downing characterizes this couple as generous, and we have no reason to doubt his statement. A better use of their wealth, enthusiasm, and generosity would be to support and promote the sport in developing countries in ways that are more appropriate for world citizens with their resources.

    As for Mr. Downing, any coach worth their salt should have the sense to tell an athlete when their aspirations and actions run afoul of ethical and moral lines, even if they fall within the boundaries of several loopholes. Instead, Mr. Downing simply defends his role in enabling the wishes of his wealthy athletes. Shame on him.

  2. muskegflyer says:

    One could say that Mr.Downing’s involvement and ultimately his decision to participate in this scam was clouded by his long term association with the skiers. Additionally, I expect he was compensated for his services, benefiting from the whole process. Going in the back door of this loophole with “honorary citizenship” is simply not what 99.99% of us would do no matter how much we loved cross country skiing. This was simply a carefully thought out deliberate manipulation of the system for predominantly personal reasons. There are thousands of “better” skiers living in the US and Canada who could have attempted this manipulation because they love the sport and consider the Olympics the pinnacle of anyone’s career but they didn’t because their consciences would not allow them.

    No one takes any sort of satisfaction from seeing any athlete injured and I for one, wish Angelica a speedy and complete recovery.
    Ultimately, I don’t think either of them could look anyone in the eye and say it was the “right” thing to do. Their generosity and resources could have been much better spent doing some actual good.

  3. What disgusting comments by mailman and muskegflyer! I wonder If it had been a U.S. or Canadian athlete that had used a legal loophole to get in the Olympics, whether or not they would have complained. They certainly haven’t written about others that did so. There are a lot of good reasons not to like the “Olympic Movement” – I don’t for its pseudo populism – but criticizing people who were eligible under the rules is beyond the pale. Like J.D. wrote, if you got a beef, go after the rules and the ones who make them, not the athletes. They didn’t cheat you or anyone else. And clearly, muskegflyer, you don’t know Downing, because if you did you would not have talked this trash about his judgment being clouded and his being paid off for supporting them. I know from working with him (at a distance, unpaid) for many years that he’s one of the honest, honorable and dedicated people around cross-country skiing in America, the cream of the crop. I’m all for the use of aliases when necessary, but hiding behind one to spew these false and malicious charges is not to your credit.

    I’m wondering if Gary and Angelica are going to sue Deadspin for libel. I hope so – and for big bucks. They seem the kind who’d donate any proceeds beyond lawyer’s fees (and medical expenses) to the sport.

  4. I didn’t realize my comment would show a semi-alias, rather than my name. – Gene Goldenfeld

  5. Mailman and muskegflyer: Read J.D.’s comments again. Okay, now a third time. Maybe then you’ll get what he said. These folks broke no rules of the IOC, FIS, or the Dominica OC. In fact, the story I heard is that they were approached by Dominica to represent the country in the Olympics, not the other way around. There are plenty of examples of Olympic skiers who have no chance of finishing with the field, let alone have a chance at the podium, but that’s the Olympics. And as was pointed out, there are plenty of athletes who have changed citizenship or obtained dual citizenship in order to compete in the games.

    I agree with Mr. Goldenfeld; If you knew Mr. Downing, you would know that there is no way he would knowingly be involved in a scam. There is hardly anyone who is less tolerant of cheating. And, going to bat for his athletes with a full swing is entirely within his character.

    Obviously, these people have the financial resources to fund the effort themselves. Is a little envy at work here, perhaps?

    Randy Bladel

  6. Tim Kelley says:

    Sure no rules were broken. But people have the right to disagree with a person’s principles and choice of tactics that are used to obtain a goal.

    Let’s start with another example from the Olympics. A Russian coach that admitted that his Olympic athletes huff Xenon gas. Inhaling such a performance enhancing substance is not against the rules. But the principles of this are wrong. Not surprisingly, many people ridicule this loophole. And many people would like to see this loophole closed.

    Likewise with the loophole that allows people to can gain entry to the Olympics from tropical countries that don’t have snow and have never fielded an xc ski team at any level. You can’t be surprised that people ridicule this loophole whem it is used to get into the Olympics. Yes it’s legal. But the principles are shady, and quite frankly, very pathetic. And what’s the point of doing this? To feed an unsatiable ego?

    This isn’t the first time a tourist has gained access to the Winter Olympics via citizenship juggling. And it won’t be the last. “Winter Olympic tourism” has a long tradition, especially in Alpine skiing.

    The simple solution would be for the IOC to recognize that these are the “Winter” Olympics. If you can’t compete in your sport in natural winter conditions in your country of citizenship, then your country should not be eligible to compete in that sport. When was the last time they had a FIS sanctioned xc race on natural snow in Dominica?

    Like JD says, you should go after the folks that make the rules. That’s true to a degree. But people will always be working angles around the rules when it comes to the Olympics.

  7. I would like to know how they got their Dominica passports.
    I´ve read “They claim to have financed educational and humanitarian projects throughout the Caribbean, including Dominica, although they have been reluctant to provide details.” I also read “They visited Dominica and helped build a children’s hospital there”.
    And I also read this website, which has 189 comments from Dominica people:
    http://dominicanewsonline.com/news/homepage/news/sports/olympic-fairy-tale-gone-horribly-wrong/
    Many of those write things like that:
    “Please note that no children’s hospital was ever established in Dominica. We DO NOT HAVE a children’s hospital. Further more, this saga has had all be negative press for our country. Dominicans are patriotic, proud and independent people. These 2 are making fools of our citizenship- which by the way has raised many questions. No one knows how much and to whom the Di Silvestris gave $$$. Locally, this saga reeks of corruption. Someone got some dough and it did not go to any charity.”

    Which one is the true story?

  8. timdonahue says:

    When I was younger and less wise, I jumped into the New York City Marathon at the halfway mark and ran a few miles with guys who would finish in the top 40. I have to admit, hearing the screams from the throngs on 1st Avenue, and being among super elite international runners felt pretty cool. But it also felt dirty. For the next few weeks, people mentioned they saw me running way up there, and all I could do was apologize.
    When this Domincan contingent emerged into the stadium at Opening Ceremonies, among the Russian models and “A” grade athletes to receive the applause of 50,000 people, I have to think they felt a little hollow too.
    Though they apparently broke no rules, a certain amount of discretion is advised. In my minimal Googling of Di Silvestri’s results, for instance, I saw that he finished dead last or second to last in the U.S. races he did this year, timing 25% or so back of men who did not make the U.S. team. As a whole, this would make him a strong skier, the kind you might look at going by at your local touring center and think, “That guy’s pretty good.” He might — might — make the elite wave at the Birkie. But the Olympics? We know of Eddie “The Eagle,” that hapless British ski jumper, and the 55 year-old Mexican Alpine skier with the matador skin suit. But are they really upping the value of their sports? To me, the Olympic spirit happens when a coach from France gives a skier from Russia a replacement for his broken ski. It’s not when someone from India finishes 34 minutes behind Therese Johaug. More than anything else, this couple inspired annoyance to me.
    Despite the clearly nice relationship they had with the clearly nice JD Downing, their fantasy league ski should have stayed just that.

  9. T.Eastman says:

    It could be argued that for many years, the US XC skiers could have been considered “tourists” by the Scandanavians and Soviets…

  10. jonesy5000 says:

    Don’t hate the playa’ . . . hate the game!

  11. nordicguy says:

    Eastman to compare Americans competitiveness in the past and these guys is way off. They aren’t even great master blasters. Sure they didn’t break any rules but that doesn’t make what they did right, honorable or ok. Frankly I’m surprised that JD and the Silvestri’s weren’t embarrassed doing this. I don’t think anyone is arguing that they technically cheated but what a joke to go to the Olympics this way. You would think that these people understand how stupid this looks.
    Jonesy5000 I’m going to hate on the player and the game. The rules should be changed but the participants in this also know they were in the wrong. People know better than to be a pretend Olympian…

  12. garimundi says:

    I hope moving forward the staff at FasterSkier decides to provide more than summaries of defamatory stories from other web sources. The FS writer’s “didn’t get the memo” comment combined with no response from the couple or Downing besides re-quoting Downing from a local OR paper is less than I expect, even from a small “for the love of it” website. Fairness requires an attempt to allow the couple or Downing to reply to the claims on Deadspin *in the original post*, or include their non-reply in the FS post. If part of the FS mission is building community, please learn from this episode. Not hatin’ FS; I enjoy and appreciate the website.

  13. Meanwhile, the US decided to leave Liebsch, Ellefson, and Caitlin Gregg off the team. After their appeal to the USOC the USSA decided to relent, but because the slots had been reallocated they were left off the team.

  14. What happened with Liebsch, Ellefson, and Gregg was ridiculous. The USSA should have just taken them in the first place. Why was this ever a problem? Just because they weren’t the US Ski team’s multi-year coddled athletes? Age? Not OK.
    On the other hand, people who aren’t great skiers, doing passport juggling to get to the Olympics, different issue. Not everything that’s within the rules is ethical. Those rules are meant to allow athletes who grow up in, and live in, countries that are at a huge disadvantage, to have a chance to qualify for the Olympics if they work hard, and in doing so, bring some sports development momentum to their home country. The standards are set to be realistic for people who live in that situation. For people who live in the US to use a technicality of citizenship in a country like that, to get into the Olympics, I don’t think that’s ethical Then again, these two aren’t the only ones who have done it. In the last Olympics, some people who were from the US and living in the US, raced in the Olympics for Australia, coached by a longtime US resident. No one complained then. I also don’t think it’s safe to assume JD Downing has a shining ethical record. People are complicated. Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner. JD Downing seems more like a mixed bag, in my experience. He’s not incapable of major ethics lapses.

  15. In this past Olympics, a young man originally from Peru, who lives in the States, raced the 15 K classic. His time of 66 minutes (and change) was 28 minutes behind Cologna’s. Cologna waited to meet him at the finish line.

    I recall that in the Calgary Olympics, Nike was behind the attempt to teach a world-class distance runner from Kenya or Ethiopia to ski, in the hope that his endurance fitness would allow him to compete. The memory I have of seeing him in a race on television is that he was having a hard time just staying upright. Again, the winner (Dahlie?) either met him at the finish or went back out on the course to ski in with him.

    More recently, there was a citizen of Cameroon, who lived and worked in Wisconsin, coached by Lee Borowski, who skied in the Olympics, with no chance of staying with the competition.

    None of these cases has resulted in the development of nordic skiing in the respective countries represented, although I suppose it could still be possible in Peru.

    In all of these examples, as ridiculous as they may seem as legitimate competition, there is an element of, I don’t know, sportsmanship? brotherhood? I get a little put-off by the near-religious hysteria of the “Olympic Movement” sometimes, but there is still something compelling about stories like this. Eddie the Eagle, as dangerous as he was to himself, and the always-last-place Jamaican bobsled team are as popular as they are/were for a reason.

    The Olympics are different from other world class competitions.

  16. nordicguy says:

    Rbladel, Ok so are you comparing the people you mentioned to the Silvestri’s? None of the people you mentioned bought their citizenship. Some of these stories are interesting to others. I think many of us do a little bit of an eye roll when calling those people Olympians as well. What the Silvesstri’s did though was unethical and they stretched the limit on qualification rules for the Olympics. As I said before I have Zero respect for them and I think it’s bizarre that a long time coach would want to be involved with this…As Nexer said mean while people who have worked much harder and dedicated their lives to the sport were left off the US team without much of an explanation. Doesn’t seem fair…

  17. Now I am confused. Buying the citizenship is what makes it unethical? But wait- in xc skiing nearly everything is bought anyway. In order to have any chance, you have to have rich parents who buy you equipment and coaching, and probably a college where you can be on a ski team and not graduate in debt, and then you have to be a favorite of someone or some group, that will keep buying you things. The entire sport is all about who has the ability to buy whatever is needed, or get others to, anyway. It’s entirely about money all the way through, anyway, so who really cares? Maybe this incident can help us look in the mirror, at where our sport is, and get us to ask ourselves some questions. Because what they did is not actually any different from what all the other Olympians did in one form or another anyway- and have to do in order to get any chance.

  18. Except that they spent their own money, not their parents’ or sponsors’.

  19. Oh don’t think that if there were another way to purchase their way into the Olympics they would not have done it. It’s not the specific act itself. The ends do not justify the means.

  20. Countries without snow won´t ever have many winter athletes, but they can still generate money that will help to develop the sport.
    I´ve just read on FIS website: “Brazilian TV broadcast an approximate duration of 400 hours of snow sports including 56 FIS World Cup events in the 2013/14 season. According to statistics this transmission reached an accumulated audience of nearly 1.1 billion people.”
    I believe Brazilian Olympic athletes may have helped a little to build this audience.
    That doesn´t mean people who bought their citizenship should be allowed to compete. I think it would be a good thing if there was a rule change that requires a certain period of time of holding citizenship before you can represent a country at the Olympics.

  21. Nordicguy: I happen to agree with you about some of the hard-working deserving people who were left off the US Olympic team. However, that is a completely different issue, and the argument is with the USSA.

    It will always be true that there are athletes better than most of the field left home, because they come from a country dominant in their sport. It has often been said that the US Olympic trials for swimming are more competitive than the games themselves, for example. The Norwegian nordic trials or selection process is likely the same.

    As to whether the di Silvestris “bought” their Dominica citizenship or not, I am not sure. As I said earlier, the story I heard is that they were approached by the government of Dominica, not the other way around

  22. nordicguy says:

    So the Dominica somehow knew these new citizens were relatively poor cross country skiers and came to the idea themselves that, “Hey, we should send these chappy skiers to the Olympics as citizens of our country! “. Hmmm, somehow I have my doubts… Again just because it wasn’t cheating doesn’t mean it’s right.

  23. nordicguy says:

    Ateriz, frankly your analogy sucks. In no way is buying your way into the Olympics through a loophole, with very little hard training, similar to the true Nordic athletes competing at the games. Those competing at a high level in Nordic skiing have been training for something like this for 10-20 years that is in no way similar to some joke who bought citizenship clearly in order to make it to the Olympics because it would be cool to go as an “athlete”. Is some financial assistance helpful as a
    Nordic skier towards this goal? Sure. It’s hardly the same as these people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sponsor’s money? You clearly know very little about this sport. There is very little sponsor money for almost all of our athletes, except Kikkan, who has proven to be the best sprinter in the world.
    I think the people defending these two have never trained or raced at a high level, so they cannot relate to the effort true Olympians have put forth to get to the games.

  24. And most Olympians have not experienced making a living. That is work, too. It is totally different to balance training with making a living. Oh, these Olympic athletes work soooo hard. They don’t even need to have jobs. All they do is go on pricey “training” vacations all over the globe year round. I’d like to “work hard” like that. Most of us need to make a living. So some people go at it later in life, having actually earned their own money, first, people who, perhaps, when they were young, maybe didn’t have the well-off parents these “hard working” Olympians had, and so had to wait till later to do it, when they could finance it themselves, and not only that, they are financing others- and we denigrate them?

    I think this whole thing is actually quite predatory, and never would have come up if this couple had not experienced adversity and a very unfair and inaccurate article having been written about them. You call them “unethical” but what’s really unethical is the way they are being treated due to the fact that they had a hard time when they were at the Olympics. If it was really because they went, this would have come up BEFORE the Olympics, like the hard feelings about certain athletes being left off the team, did. It didn’t. It only came up after they had a hard time and a nasty inaccurate article. It’s predatory, and THAT is what is unethical.

    If you value training hard, go out and train, yourself.
    Has anyone who is denigrating them, ever really trained hard? How many of the people criticizing them, and calling them slow, can beat them in a ski race?

  25. LOL a lot of people can beat them in a ski race. Nordicguy would put three minutes on him in a 10k race.

  26. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    IMHO, how this couple came about their personal wealth is not an issue, as lord knows, the ski world, for better or worse, is flush with participants/ families with substantial financial means. What is interesting to me is, apparently, they like to hold themselves as serious competitive athletes, yet they seem to feel no shame in how they ended up in Sochi representing a country they neither resided prior, were citizens by birth, nor had any legitimate ties to prior to deciding they would like to pursue a way to be titled as “Olympians”. To me, they just a appear to be wealthy douche bags who make the Olympic ideal seem stupid.

  27. muskegflyer says:

    ateriz: 1000′s of skiers, some who have commented here, do know what commitment, hard training and race experience can bring to the start line. Arguing about whether any of us could beat them in a race is ridiculous and not the point. The ski community was talking about this situation long before the article and their ultimate troubles at the Olympics. Their actions are a great insult to those who legitimately dedicate their whole lives to train within their national team programs for a shot at being rightfully selected for the Olympics.

  28. Disney used to have a Guest Assistance Card (GAC) program which you could get if you had a disability. It would get you to the front of the line ahead of everybody else. The problem was people started renting out their “services” for thousands of dollars so those who would not otherwise qualify could jump to the front of the line. Disney knew about the practice, did not approve of the practice (who would?) but didn’t do anything because it was within the rules.

    Well guess what. The GAC is gone now.

    These people decided that they didn’t want to make a go of it the normal way so they used their money to buy their way around it.

  29. Nordicguy: So now you’re casting aspersions on the training regimen history of the people with whom you disagree, and don’t know at all? Shame on you. Not that it’s any of your business, but I have trained 600 to 700 hours/year for the last twenty years, which is probably overdoing it for a guy my age. No, I was never an elite, as I took up competition too late in life, but don’t question my dedication to training, or that of anyone else you don’t know.

    Read Downing’s interview again; the part where he talks about the di Silvestri’s dedication to training.

    And by the way, since you want to make this personal, your use of an apostrophe when indicating the plural of Silvestri is incorrect. Silvestri’s indicates possession, as in my example above. It could also be a contraction of “Silvestri is”, if you are speaking of just one person. Plural is just Silvestris. Got it?

  30. 600-700 hours for the last 20 years? You should have worked up to that.

  31. nordicguy says:

    Well it would not be a comment forum if the grammar police didn’t come out.
    Not that I care about my grammatical mistakes, however, I’m bored and posting from my phone which means that I’m not going to spend a lot of time spell checking.
    My statement, ” I think the people defending these two have never trained or raced at a high level, so they cannot relate to the effort true Olympians have put forth to get to the games.”
    You may have trained many hours but you yourself stated that you have never raced at an elite level. I’m not saying there is something inherently wrong with that, I’m saying you simply cannot relate to an elite athletes life. The cynic in me is going to come out and let you know that had you started training early in life, you likely still would not have been an elite athlete….very few people ever will be.
    There are countless master blasters in this sport and others putting in hours and hours of dedicated training, this couple’s dedication is far from unique.

  32. Since he’s being the grammar police I’d like to point out that rbladel used a plural possesive noun and misplaced the apostrophe. I quote:

    “Read Downing’s interview again; the part where he talks about the di Silvestri’s dedication to training.”

  33. nordic_dave says:

    I don’t think ethics, morals, rules, etc… is the point so JD can rest easy knowing that most of us know him as a good guy. Sometimes odd but still a good guy.

    What is apparent is that Olympic Tourism posing under the guise of an athlete is alive and well. Although I think the picture posted in this article makes everyone featured in this Opening Ceremonies parade march pic look ridiculous that is their choice. Perhaps the sign carried by the person ahead of the flag bearer naming the country could have had it read “Team Poseur” in Russian. The crowd would have laughed and clapped and the poseurs could have smiled and waved back. No harm no foul just some fools taking their vanity lap.

    Keep in mind outside of the world of serious nordic skiers putting 700 hours a year even as a Masters skier, you could just as easily form a Curling Team, drink a lot of booze and spend a lot of money and represent your country in the Olympics almost as easily as these people did. I think they missed their true calling.

    That reminds me that it’s about time to debate which sports town has the best looking people that have the smartest children.

  34. The elite skiers I have known and I relate to each other just fine. Human experience and empathy are like that. Elite you may or may not have been, but elitest you certainly are. What arrogant crap.

    Again, just who was hurt here?

  35. nordic_dave says:

    Maybe more countries should sell temporary citizenships for those willing to pay. In the U.S. It sure could offset a not so little problem here of funding our athletes or in other countries the funds go to building a health clinic or funds education in the host country. Like local 10k races there is a “costume” division.

    Hi we’re from Dominica, oh not really, but it’s our costume that we bought.

    A wealthy Mexican guy has done just that for decades as an alpine skier. He dresses in some of the best costumes and everybody is in on the gag.

  36. nordicguy says:

    What I’m saying is that you or I or the Dominica “Olympians” cannot directly relate to trials and tribulations of a world class Olmpic athlete. Traveling to Europe for an entire winter being away from spouse and family, never focusing on anything else except training. It takes a special kind of person to be able to do these things. There are cool aspects to it but things like being poor, burn out, lack of variety in your life, can be difficult.
    If I volunteer at a school can I relate to a teacher? Sure, but that doesn’t mean I know exactly what it’s like to BE a teacher.

    On the topic of who does it hurt. I like that the Olympics include the whole world but that inclusiveness does not need to extend to unqualified athletes. I think it’s a huge honor to be an Olympian it means you are the best of the best, it’s a joke that people who have purchased citizenship and are not great skiers to also be included this category.

    Love the idea DK. Call it for what it is.

  37. T.Eastman says:

    For your entertainment, Monty Python’s “Argument Clinic”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnTmBjk-M0c

  38. nordic_dave says:

    Eastman, busting out loud laughing all day to that utube post.

    Oh and in regards to next year at West Yellowstone, ” be afraid be very afraid”.
    Winner buys the brewskis see you there my good man!

    Cheers, ND

  39. nordicguy says:

    That video is great! I just can’t help myself even though I know I’m being stupid…

  40. The Python’s were always great. We can agree on that.

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