NEW YORK — Billie Jean King will not attend Friday’s opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics in Russia because her mother is ill.
King, who was selected to help lead the U.S. delegation to the Games, has been outspoken in her opposition to Russia’s anti-gay law. She also planned to attend ice hockey and figure skating events and meet U.S. athletes during her three-day visit to the games.
The White House announced Wednesday that former U.S. hockey player Caitlin Cahow, originally scheduled for the closing ceremony, will take King’s place.
King told The Associated Press that because of her mother’s “failing health, I will not be able to join the U.S. Presidential delegation at this week’s opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics.”
Betty Moffitt, her 91-year-old mother, lives in Arizona and has been ill for some time. King will be joined by her brother Randy Moffitt, a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.
“It is important for me to be with my mother and my brother at this difficult time. I want to thank President Obama for including me in this historic mission and I look forward to supporting our athletes as they compete in Sochi.”
The openly gay former tennis star has said she would like sexual orientation added to the list of protections in the charter of the International Olympic Committee. King was chosen in December for the U.S. delegation, along with openly gay former Olympic figure skater Brian Boitano and Cahow.
In June, Russia passed a law banning gay “propaganda” to minors. In an interview with the AP last month, King said: “It should be a non-issue. It’s just like people of color in our country and other places, it has to be a non-issue.”
The 70-year-old King, a social justice trailblazer who won 39 Grand Slam titles in her career, was tapped to enter the fray involving the delicate balance of Olympic sports and politics.
US picks Lodwick as flagbearer
SOCHI, Russia — The United States has chosen six-time Olympian Todd Lodwick to be the team’s flagbearer at Friday’s opening ceremony for the Sochi Games.
Team USA announced the choice on Wednesday. Lodwick is competing in the Nordic combined in Sochi. He is the first American to compete in six Winter Games. Lodwick was part of the team that won silver in Vancouver in 2010.
The 36-year-old Lodwick’s longevity made him the choice despite competing in a relatively low-profile event. The Nordic combined features athletes who compete in both the ski jump and cross-country skiing.
Lodwick was chosen over more famous American athletes, including snowboarder Shaun White and men’s hockey captain Zach Parise.