It’s Hard to Snowboard on Gravel

Australian snowboarder and Olympic gold-medalist Torah Bright talks to WSJ’s Rachel Bachman about the dangers of winter sports, the favorites for the 2014 Sochi Games in Russia, and potentially challenging weather conditions. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Australia’s Torah Bright

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are exactly one year away and Australian snowboarder Torah Bright is ready to defend her halfpipe gold medal. But will the slopes in the resort city on the Black Sea be ready for her?

Bright was planning to compete this Sunday at a test event at the Sochi snowboard venue in slopestyle, a new Olympic contest that features a variety of tricks. But the event was canceled due to warm temperatures and a lack of snow. Bright said she was waiting to hear whether the halfpipe and snowboard cross events would go on as planned.

The forecast for Sochi this weekend is for highs in the low 60s. The city has a humid, subtropical climate, with an average February high of 49 degrees. Vancouver’s average February high is 48 degrees, and Olympics organizers there scrambled to cover rocky slopes with man-made snow. “Next year’s another winter, so we’ll just have to see what it brings,” Bright said.

—Rachel Bachman
[image]Studio Neat

App Looks to Simplify March Madness Pools

Two designers with a history of making successful tech products unveiled a new project this week: an NCAA tournament bracket customized for the iPhone.

Dan Provost and Tom Gerhardt began raising money Tuesday for an iPhone app called Simple Bracket through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. They had already received over $4,000 of their $10,000 goal in pledges from more than 500 backers Wednesday. What makes Simple Bracket different from other March Madness pools, Provost said, is that they focused on redesigning the bracket for an iPhone screen and chose an advanced scoring system that rewards users for picking upsets. They plan to release it the week before the March 17 NCAA tournament selection show.

This isn’t their first brush with Kickstarter success. They raised $137,417 in 2010 for the Glif, an iPhone stand, and followed up in 2011 with $134,236 in funding for the Cosmonaut, a stylus for writing on touch screens. They also released an iPhone app for stop-motion videos last year. In other words, a sports invention wasn’t exactly in their wheelhouse. “We knew this was more of a niche thing,” Provost said.

—Ben Cohen

A Lakers vs. Celtics Game That Lacks Luster

Since the NBA’s inaugural season of 1949-50, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have both failed to make the playoffs in the same season just once, in 1993-94. But when the clubs meet Thursday in Boston, both teams will be looking to continue hot streaks, during an otherwise mediocre season. After point guard Rajon Rondo suffered a season-ending knee injury, the Celtics have won four straight heading into Wednesday’s game in Toronto. They currently cling to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Lakers are on a three-game winning streak without injured center Dwight Howard, but remain on the outside of the playoffs in the West.

—Michael Salfino

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