By RANDY KREIDER and SAMMY LINEBAUGH
Stars from America’s ski jumping team directly address their concerns with security at the Sochi Olympics today, saying that it’s on their mind, but it certainly isn’t going to keep them from tackling the international competition.
“I’m watching the news, I’m reading about it. And it’s unfortunate, just something that you have to deal with and keep plugging along. And it hasn’t deterred me, hasn’t deterred anyone in my family,” 26-year-old Jessica Jerome said at a press conference in Park City, Utah, shortly after being nominated for this year’s Olympic team. “I trust that every entity involved is taking tremendous measures to ensure the safety of the athletes and the rest of the world that is coming to the Olympics as spectators.”
Jerome said her family is joining her in Sochi, and she only told them not to wear a jacket that “screams America.”
“Despite [the fact that] I love how patriotic Americans are, my family’s safety is a huge concern for me,” she said. “So I said… ‘At appropriate times we can scream Go America, and other than that, just be safe and be smart.’”
For her part, Jerome said her fellow jumpers are “big fans of the buddy system.”
“Other than that we’re going to be sheltered staying in the [Olympic] Village where we are,” she said.
Fellow jumper Lindsey Van, 29, said her family will not be attending the Olympics this year, but she said security is not her top concern.
“I’m hoping everyone goes there for the right reasons and puts all the political stuff aside and focuses on the sport,” Van said. “I’m going there for those reasons to represent myself and my country and I hope everybody goes for the same reasons.”
Tuesday the parents Team USA speed skater Tucker Fredricks told ABC News that he requested they stay home so he could concentrate on racing and not on their safety.
A prominent Islamist leader in the region, Doku Umarov, last summer called on his followers to violently disrupt the Games, and southern Russia has already suffered three deadly suicide bombings in recent months, attributed to the Islamic insurgency there. Two weeks ago the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for Americans going to Sochi for the Games, calling on them to be “vigilant and exercise good judgment” due to the terrorism threat.
It’s a threat Team USA ski jumping head coach Alan Alborn said is an “unfortunate” distraction for his athletes.
“My reaction is it’s very unfortunate. It’s sad that we’re still dealing with things like this but when it comes to the Olympics, it’s all about equality and sport and fairness,” he said. “I’m very, very confident that between the International Olympic Committee, the Russian people, and every security person involved, we’ll have a very good Games and it will come off very well.”
Sammy Linebaugh is a freelance reporter based in Salt Lake City, Utah. ABC News’ Lee Ferran contributed to this report.