(NEW YORK) — A mishap involving fireworks on the Fourth of July took the life of Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, investigators said.
First responders in Oakland County, Michigan, rushed to the scene of the incident Sunday night where they found the 24-year-old injured, the Blue Jackets said in a statement. Kivlenieks succumbed to his injuries soon after help arrived, the team said.
Although an early statement from the Blue Jackets said initial information showed Kivlenieks suffered a head injury, a representative from the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office told ABC News that Kivlenieks’ cause of death was “chest trauma” from a fireworks mortar blast. The manner of death was ruled accidental, according to the medical examiner.
The investigation is ongoing, according to the police.
The Latvia native signed with the team in May 2017. Kivlenieks made his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19, 2020, stopping 31 of 32 shots in a victory against the New York Rangers.
The Blue Jackets left a couple of hockey sticks outside the Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Monday afternoon as a tribute to Kivlenieks.
His teammates shared their condolences on social media throughout the day.
Blue Jackets center Nathan Gerbe tweeted a photo of his kids playing on the ice with Kivlenieks.
“Words are hard to find right now, but the day we put the same jersey on meant that we would be family forever. When my kids play Kivi ‘the kid’ in goal it will have a greater meaning!!” Gerbe wrote.
John Davidson, the Blue Jackets’ president of hockey operations, gave his condolences to Kivlenieks’ family.
“Kivi was an outstanding young man who greeted every day and everyone with a smile, and the impact he had during his four years with our organization will not be forgotten,” Davidson said in a statement.
(NEW YORK) — Let’s face it, a lot of Americans who love the Olympics don’t sit glued to our seats watching swimming, track and field or cycling in the years between each games. But when the flame is lit in Tokyo on July 23, we still want to sound like we did.
So, if you’re going to watch the Tokyo Summer Games, it’s good to know who you should be paying attention to over the course of the two weeks.
The U.S. has led the overall medal count in six straight summer games, essentially every year since Soviet athletes competed together, but China has put the pressure on recently and even bested them in golds at the 2008 Beijing Games.
So who are the Americans who will be charged with keeping the medal streak alive?
ABC News takes a look at some of the best:
Simone Biles — 24 — Gymnastics
OK, so this is the name you probably do know. Biles, unquestionably the most successful gymnast in history, will likely be a bigger favorite than any athlete at the games. After winning three individual golds, including the all-around, and a team gold in Rio, she may actually be expected to do better in 2021. After all, the bronze she won in beam in 2016 simply won’t cut it for one of the most determined athletes ever.
No woman has won back-to-back individual all-around titles since Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska in 1964 and ’68. But Biles has never lost an all-around competition in the Olympics or World Championships, winning all six times she competed. Presuming she does hang up her leotard after Tokyo, fans should enjoy watching the greatest of all time while they still can.
Trayvon Bromell — 26 — Track
Like Michael Phelps in the pool, Usain Bolt will be missed on the track in 2021. The greatest sprinter of all time swept the 100- and 200-meter sprints in each of the last three Olympics. His exit opens up a spot on the podium for a new fastest man on the planet — just maybe the United States’ Bromell. Coming off a world championship in the 100 meters in 2019, Christian Coleman was expected to be the top sprinter on the American team, and the gold medal favorite. Instead, Coleman missed three drug tests over a 12-month period in 2018 and 2019 and was banned from competition for two years.
Bromell has starred this year in Coleman’s absence. He was a junior sensation, predicted to ascend to the fastest in the world, but injuries waylaid that promise — until now. He blew out his Achilles tendon at the Rio Olympics during the 4×100-meter relay and spent most of the last few years sitting out from the sport. Back to full health, he has the fastest time in the world in 2021 (9.77 seconds) and cruised to victory at the U.S. Olympic trials (9.8 seconds).
Ryan Crouser — 28 — Shot put
Everything about Crouser is big — including, of course, his 6-foot-7, 320-pound frame. But most importantly, his throws in shot put competition are very, very big. He came out firing in 2021 after a largely lost pandemic season. Crouser threw for an indoor world record (22.82 meters) on literally his first competitive throw of 2021. After he moved outdoors, he broke a near-mythic 31-year-old world record at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June by throwing 23.37 meters. In fact, all five of his qualifying throws at the trials would have won the competition.
Crouser won the gold in 2016 and set an Olympic record at the same time. Look for him to be gunning for the gold and another world record in Tokyo. There’s a chance the U.S. could sweep the podium with Joe Kovacs (who edged out Crouser at the 2019 World Championships and took silver in Rio) and Payton Otterdahl finishing second and third at U.S. trials. Kovacs has the second-longest throw in the world this season by someone not named Crouser.
Caeleb Dressel — 24 — Swimming
For the first time since 1996, Phelps will not be competing at the Summer Olympics. Dressel is no Phelps, but he will be the biggest name on the U.S. team in Tokyo. Dressel already owns two gold medals from Rio (he can thank Phelps, in part, as he won two relay golds with the legend). All he’s done since 2016 is keep improving. He won seven golds in an unbelievable performance at the 2017 World Championships and then six more at the 2019 World Championships (along with two silvers).
The freestyle and butterfly, both at short distances, are Dressel’s two specialties. He’s the favorite in the 100-meter butterfly in 2021 as the current world record holder. But he will be tested in several events by Australian star Kyle Chalmers, who won the gold in Rio in the 100-meter freestyle at just 17.
Adeline Gray — 30 — Wrestling
Gray may be the greatest women’s freestyle wrestler of all time. There’s just one problem: In her only Olympic appearance, in Rio, she suffered a shocking upset in the quarterfinals coming off back-to-back world championships at 75kg. Gray didn’t let the disappointment hold her down. The Denver native bounced back with two more world titles in 2018 and 2019. She’s taken the one-year delay in stride and is in good form this year, coming off a gold at the Pan American Championships in late May.
She’ll be the favorite at 76kg in Tokyo against a strong contingent of Japanese women, but you can bet she won’t take that for granted.
Nyjah Huston — 26 — Skateboarding
Biles may be the most well-known athlete in Tokyo, but she will not be the athlete with the most Instagram followers. That designation goes to Huston — with his 4.6 million followers — as skateboarding makes its debut at the Olympics. After all, there’s a reason the sport is making its first appearance — its popularity with young fans. Huston, who will be competing in street skateboarding — one of two skating competitions in Tokyo — has had more competition success than anyone in history. He’s won 12 X Games gold medals and four world championships.
Huston has literally been ripping up the ramps and rails of street competitions since he was a child. He lost his signature dreadlocks some years back, but it was only this year that he was knocked off the world title podium’s top step after three straight wins. In June, he was upset at the world championships by Yuto Horigome, who will have the strength of an entire nation behind him in Tokyo.
Katie Ledecky — 24 — Swimming
Ledecky is quite simply the best freestyle distance swimmer ever. She already holds five gold medals (one from 2012 and four from 2016) and owns the world record in the 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle. It kinda feels like Ledecky has been on swimming’s global stage forever, but that may be because she burst on the scene as a 15-year-old prodigy in 2012 when she won the 800-meter freestyle in London. In Rio, she beat the silver medalist by over 11 seconds in the 800 meters.
She is a big favorite, especially in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters (being contested for the first time by women), but it’s been a while since she swam against top competition globally after an illness forced her to pull out of several events at the 2019 World Championships. She won the 800 meters, but only barely after years of dominating the race. She took silver in the 400 and 4×200, but dropped out of her two other races.
With a performance like 2016, Ledecky could become the record holder for most gold medals by any woman in Olympics history (summer or winter). Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina currently holds the record with nine, so wins in the 200, 400, 800, 1,500 and 4×200 would give her the solo record with 10 golds.
Sydney McLaughlin — 21 — Track
The biggest head-to-head showdown on the track in Tokyo will likely be won by an American — the question is just which one. Dalilah Muhammad stood atop the podium in Rio for the women’s 400-meter hurdles, and she spent most of the last four years ascending to the same spot in competitions around the globe. She won gold in the 2019 world championships in world record time (52.16 seconds) and would’ve been a heavy favorite to win if the Olympics had taken place in 2020. But McLaughlin, the youngest track athlete on the Olympic team in 2016, hit her peak at the perfect time.
Muhammad has struggled in 2021 at the same time McLaughlin has exploded onto the scene. The rivalry came to a head at the U.S. Olympic trials in June when the two faced off in the 400 hurdles final. Not only did McLaughlin dust her, she set a new world record at 51.90 seconds. Stunned, McLaughlin crouched to the track after the win and covered her mouth. Muhammad finished second, more than a half second back, but she’ll be in Tokyo, too. And the rivalry will be back on.
Carissa Moore — 28 — Surfing
Life is pretty good when you’re 28 years old and already in the Hall of Fame. Oh, and you get to spend your life at the beach. For all the success Moore has had in surfing — and it’s a lot — winning a gold medal in the sport’s Olympic debut would be especially sweet. Moore, unsurprisingly, was born and raised in Hawaii and began surfing as a toddler. Now, she’s a four-time world champion, including in 2019.
Moore is currently leading the World Surf League point standings, but she’s being hunted by the same Aussies who will be her main competition in Tokyo: Sally Fitzgibbons and Stephanie Gilmore. Gilmore is the winningest woman in surfing history with seven world championships (in a tie with countrywoman Layne Beachley).
Hannah Roberts — 19 — Freestyle BMX
The teenager from South Bend, Indiana, is the favorite to win gold in freestyle BMX as it debuts at the Tokyo Games. But even if she does, it’ll probably only rank second in biggest moments in 2021. Roberts married her fiancee, Kelsey Miller, in January, writing on Instagram, “With everything going on and everything coming up we decided to have a small ceremony.” Nothing like downplaying a trip to the biggest competition of your life.
Women have long been fighting for a spot in major competitions for freestyle BMX, which features athletes flipping, spinning and tricking their way across a ramp-filled course. The X Games, the largest action sports competition for decades, relegated women’s BMX to a non-medal, demonstration sport in 2019 — the last time the games were held due to COVID — which brought protests and a holdout from athletes. On the global scene, however, world championships have been held in 2017, 2019 and 2021. All Roberts has done is win gold all three times.
Kyle Snyder — 25 — Wrestling
Snyder leads a U.S. freestyle wrestling team that is expected to have plenty of success in Tokyo. The 2016 gold medalist at 97kg — at just 20 years old and fresh off his sophomore season at Ohio State — will be looking to repeat after cruising through the 2021 U.S. Olympic trials in April. After winning in Rio, he defeated legend Abdulrashid Sadulaev to win gold at the 2017 World Championships to break a four-year undefeated streak for the Russian. But he lost the rematch in 2018 and won only bronze in 2019.
Two-time world champion Kyle Dake, Gable Steveson — who just won an NCAA title in March — and David Taylor, the 2018 world champion at 86kg, are all expected to contend for gold in freestyle wrestling in Tokyo.
Jordan Windle — 22 — Diving
Windle is not expected to medal in Tokyo, but he might have the best story of any American athlete. The University of Texas diver was born in Cambodia and his parents died when he was an infant. He was adopted at 2 from an orphanage in Phnom Penh by an American father and grew up in the U.S. Five years ago, he was featured in a TD Ameritrade commercial pegging him as a future Olympian. After a strong performance on the 10-meter platform at the 2021 Olympic trials in early June, it’s come true.
He has an impressive college resume, winning the NCAA 1-meter title this spring as well as the 2019 NCAA title on the platform in 2019. China has largely dominated Olympic diving in recent years, but American David Boudia did break through for a gold on the platform in 2012 and bronze in 2016. And we know Windle has overcome bigger odds before.
(NEW YORK) — The Tokyo Olympics will expand its lineup of competitions with three sports that have long been championed for recognition on the global stage: skateboarding, surfing and indoor climbing.
For decades, these sports were largely represented in the U.S. by white and male superstars — including skater Tony Hawk, surfer Kelly Slater and climber Alex Honnold — but the games have the potential to change that narrative going forward for millions of minority and female fans around the world.
Lou Harris, a longtime surfer from Queens, New York who runs the local chapter of the Black Surfing Association, a surfing school that caters to young minorities, told ABC News that the display of talent from diverse athletes around the world is sure to inspire a new generation.
“They’re going to see everyone cheering them on,” Harris told ABC News. “They’re going to see Black surfers and Asian surfers and women surfers and think, ‘Hey you know, maybe I can do that.'”
The U.S. will be among the 17 nations competing in surfing, 19 nations competing in climbing events and 26 nations competing in skateboarding events for both men’s and women’s divisions. The U.S. surfing and climbing teams are each made up of two men and two women while the U.S. skateboarding team, which is separated into park and street divisions, are made up six men and women.
The skateboarding team has three members who are minorities while the other two sports are made up of all white athletes. The American teams did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mariah Duran, who’s leading the U.S. women’s Olympic street skate team, and Kyra Condie, who is on the U.S. Olympic climbing team, told ABC News they were proud to be poised to make history in Tokyo.
“As long as the sport continues to grow, that’s the ultimate goal,” Duran told ABC News about skateboarding.
Duran, Condie and Harris all reflected on their journeys in their respective sports and how the changes in the community have led to this moment.
“In general it is getting better but we still have a long way to go,” Condie told ABC News.
Catching the bug
Each of the athletes interviewed by ABC News said they got started in their sport almost the minute they saw it in person.
Harris moved to Rockaway Beach in Queens, in 2006 and said his jaw dropped when he encountered the surfers there.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God. There are surfers here? In New York?'” Harris, 49, recollected.
He said his girlfriend at the time saw his excitement and encouraged him to join in. Harris went to a local surf shop, got his first board and taught himself how to ride the waves.
“The day I caught my first wave I was like, wow, I did that myself,” he said.
Condie, 25, also got into climbing through a chance encounter around the same time. The St. Paul, Minnesota native was at a rock climbing gym for a childhood birthday party when a gym coach took notice of how adept she was.
The then 10-year-old accepted the coach’s offer to join the team.
“I pretty much immediately saw there were competition possibilities in climbing and that really suited me,” Condie said.
Climbing, for her, was more exhilarating than other sports, because she sees every competition as its own unique experience.
“I’m figuring something out and doing some fun moves that feel really interesting and jumping around and swinging out,” she said.
Duran, 24, said skateboarding similarly called to her.
The Albuquerque, New Mexico native said she followed her brother into any sport or game that he took part in, but it was skateboarding that really excited her.
There was no structured training, like when she would have to spend hours practicing for baseball. Instead, it was all up to her. Every perfect ollie, every stumble and every grind made her a stronger skater, she said.
“The individual satisfaction you get from pushing yourself and getting up after slamming, that’s just the part that I love about skating,” Duran said.
Progress, but still long roads ahead
Each of the three new Olympic sports have grown their women and minority communities by varying degrees.
A survey released in February 2020 by the University of Southern California found that 46% of skaters were non-white and a quarter were women. The study, which was funded by the Tony Hawk Foundation, revealed that skaters of color felt a degree of “safety from judgment” within the skateboarding community.
“Our research shows that through skateboarding, skaters develop the ability to communicate and build relationships with people from diverse backgrounds,” Neftalie Williams, a co-author of the report, said in a news release.
Women and minority pioneers from the 80s and 90s like Elissa Steamer, Eric Koton and Kareem Campbell paved the way for this year’s Olympic skateboarding teams. Among the six male skaters on Team USA are Nyjah Huston and Heimana Reynolds, who are both of Asian, Pacific Islander descent, and Zion Wright, who is Black.
Duran said she feels honored being part of the sport’s evolution and sharing the field with the five other women skaters. She said she never felt awkward taking part in events even when there were so few women competing at smaller, local events early in her career.
“I was always that person. I was the only girl on the baseball team or the only girl who wanted to play football on the field,” she said.
The climbing world, on the other hand, has had to deal with some growing pains. The sport has more barriers to entry since climbing gyms are scarce in parts of the country, according to Condie.
She added that climbing isn’t an NCAA sport, so athletes have fewer opportunities for scholarships while competing.
A 2016 survey by Flash Foxy, an online community for women climbers, suggested that women have the additional barrier to scale, misogyny. The survey found that women climbers were two and a half times more likely to experience microaggressions in the gym than men climbers.
Condie said she experienced this when she was a teen climber when she was turned down by her local gym to be part of its setting team, which places the grips on the climbing wall, in favor of its male members.
“Looking back, that probably wouldn’t have happened if I was a guy,” Condie said. In the end, she said, instances like that pushed her to train harder.
While Black and Latino surfers may be common in places like the Caribbean and Latin America, diversity has been more of a struggle in America. In fact, the U.S. Olympic surf team is all white.
Harris said when he started out surfing, he got bewildered stares from beachgoers who had never seen a Black man with a board. Even though he’s now a popular member of the Rockaway Beach scene, he says he still faces some struggles from people not used to the changing demographics.
He recalled one instance where a white woman from Manhattan contacted him for lessons. When she arrived, Harris introduced himself, but got an unexpected reaction.
“She looked at me and was like, ‘You’re not Louis,'” Harris recalled.
After other surfers told her that Harris was the instructor, she ran back and apologized. Harris said he forgave her.
“Now we’re good friends,” Harris said.
One of the ways the athletes said they are working to change these barriers is by promoting their sports to younger minorities and women.
Harris was teaching surfing for years but in 2016 he says he decided to offer free lessons to children in the neighborhood, creating the Rockaway branch of the Black Surfing Association after reading a story about a deadly fire that was started by a minor who told investigators he was bored.
Harris said that he’s heard from dozens of Black, Latino and other minority families over the years who expressed interest in getting their kids into surfing after years of hesitation.
“They’re like, ‘My son or my daughter wants to surf, but we don’t know how to do it,'” Harris said. “They don’t want to be embarrassed in front of all of the white kids.”
Harris said he’s helped to ease those apprehensions by promoting his program and his diverse group of surfers with presentations on the beach, pep talks at local schools, and most importantly on social media.
Duran said she’s seen more women hit the half pipes and skate parks and add to their unique personalities and styles to the sport.
Many are inspired by seeing the videos of women competing in professional competitions, amateur acts and other tricks online, according to Duran.
“I’ve kind of described it as a tree,” Duran said of the skateboarding community. “The root and the culture are always going to be the same, but you can branch as far as you want out of it. There is no right or wrong way.”
Condie has also been using her social media platforms to promote climbing among underrepresented athletes, and show that not every day is a walk in the park.
Condie said for every Instagram story showing a successful, quick climb there’s one where she stumbles or takes longer than her usual best.
Condie said she’s most proud of the feedback that she gets online, anytime she promotes women and minority climbers who typically don’t get the spotlight.
She said she’s most looking forward to having her sport boosted by the Olympics.
Making a mark in Tokyo
When the International Olympic Committee announced in 2016 that climbing would be an Olympic sport at Tokyo, Condie said she did not hesitate to try out for the team.
After years three years of practice, competitions and qualifying, she said she’s anxious to make history with other top climbers, such as Nathaniel Coleman, Colin Duffy and Brooke Raboutou.
“I think everybody is like-minded and great role models for the sport, and that’s something I’m proud of,” she said.
Duran said she still can’t believe that skateboarding and the Olympics will be said in the same sentence, and that she qualified for the team. She added that she would be honored if one or two more girls picked up a board just from seeing the women’s team.
“I quit all of my other sports that could potentially be in the Olympics to skate,” Duran said. “It was more of a confirmation that I was meant to be here.”
While the U.S. Olympic surfing team doesn’t have any minorities, Harris predicted the sport’s worldwide coverage will excite and inspire fans from all over the world.
Harris likened it to when he saw “The Karate Kid” as a teenager and immediately began practicing martial arts. He recommended that surfing schools and other organizations should start planning for that rise in demand.
“I’m telling you everyone is going to get a commemorative surfing board when this is done,” he said.
(NEW YORK) — USWNT player Alex Morgan says she’s “still not sure” about whether the new Tokyo Olympics policy for nursing mothers will allow her to bring her 1-year-old daughter to the games.
The soccer superstar took to Twitter to verbalize her confusion on Thursday.
“Still not sure what ‘when necessary’ even means. Is that determined by the mother or the IOC?” she tweeted. “We are Olympic mothers telling you, it is NECESSARY. I have not been contacted about being able to bring my daughter with me to Japan and we leave in 7 days.”
Several athletes have complained about the initial restrictions, which banned them from bringing their families along. On Wednesday, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee issued a statement that the restrictions have now been eased to allow nursing mothers to bring their children with them to the Games.
“It is inspiring that so many athletes with young children are able to continue competing at the highest levels, including at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and we are committed to doing everything possible to enable them to perform at the Tokyo 2020 Games,” the committee said in a statement obtained by “ABC News.” “After careful consideration of the unique situation facing athletes with nursing children, we are pleased to confirm that, when necessary, nursing children will be able to accompany athletes to Japan.”
The committee stated that the residential zone of the Olympic and Paralympic Village is restricted to athletes and team officials only so nursing children “must stay in private accommodation approved by Tokyo 2020, e.g. hotels.”
“It is great to see so many mothers compete at the highest level, including at the Olympic Games,” the International Olympic Committee said in a statement. “We are very pleased to hear that the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has found a special solution regarding the entry to Japan for mothers who are breastfeeding and their young children.”
The wording of the policy, however, is now drawing criticism, with Morgan’s teammate Megan Rapinoe also showing support for Olympic parents.
Earlier this year, officials announced their decision to bar all foreign spectators from attending the games, which includes any of the visiting athletes’ families. Officials also recently stated that all venues would be at 50% capacity, with a maximum of 10,000 people, to adhere to the Japanese government’s limits on public events.
Prior to the rule update, athletes were saying they felt forced to decide between being an Olympic athlete and a mom.
Marathon runner Aliphine Tuliamuk posted a photo Monday on Instagram saying she “feels torn” and has “cried a lot” thinking about not being able to bring her 5-month-old daughter, Zoe, with her to the Olympics.
Tuliamuk qualified by placing first at the Women’s 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials back in February 2020 and has been training since giving birth to be ready for the event.
“I have been working my butt off since having my daughter, I want to produce the best result possible, my long runs & workouts are coming together nicely, body is holding together well,” she wrote.
In her post, Tuliamuk stressed the difficulty in being apart from her daughter for even half a day, let alone the 10 days she’ll be away at the Olympics.
“I know that I will be leaving her for only 10 days, and she will be just fine, and that so many other moms have done the same, but I can’t even imagine being away from her for half a day,” she said.
“Motherhood is a beautiful thing, I love being Zoe’s mom more than life itself, I have never felt such immense, immeasurable love for someone before,” Tuliamuk continued. “Motherhood is also scary, I go down this rabbit hole sometimes, sometimes I think, what if something horrible happens and I never come home, like what if I never make it back from Tokyo? I am sure all moms understand this exact feeling. Motherhood has made me so vulnerable, I feel like my heart is hanging outside of my body.”
The 2021 Tokyo Olympics will begin July 23 and end Aug. 8.