(NEW YORK) — The parents of an American Olympian will be watching their son compete from their living room couches, rather than the Olympic stadium in Sochi, after he said he feared for their safety in the southern Russian city.
“He wanted us to stay home so he wouldn’t have to worry about it,” Shawn Fredricks, mother of speed skating star Tucker Fredricks, told ABC News’ Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross Tuesday. “It’s totally tough.”
Tucker’s father, Dan Fredricks, said his son was concerned about the “overall security” of the event or that there could be a terrorist attack.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Dan Fredricks said. “We want to go there to support him, but we understand that he has to concentrate on the race. So we said, ‘OK, we’ll stay home and watch it on TV.'”
Dan said back in October 29-year-old Tucker requested his family, including his wife, stay home for what’s likely his final Olympic outing out of fear for their safety, but not his own. Dan said the U.S. Olympic Committee has been good about advising the team on how to stay safe, and said Tucker has been advised not to venture too far out of the Olympic Village, where security is highest.
Echoing the sentiments of intelligence officials interviewed by ABC News previously, House Homeland Intelligence Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said Tuesday that while the Russian authorities are doing everything they can to ensure a safe Winter Games, he remains concerned that militants in the region – which have fought for decades with Russian forces and are believed to be responsible for at least three suicide bombings in recent months – could breach security to attack the Games or, more likely, strike at soft targets like hotels and restaurants outside the perimeter security. Earlier this month the State Department issued a travel alert for Americans heading to Sochi, urging them to be “vigilant and exercise good judgment” due to the continuing terror threat.
“I think, quite frankly, [the Russians] are playing a bit of a catch-up game, but they caught up…I will tell you from a security standpoint that I do believe that the Olympic Village itself is very secure and fortified,” McCaul said. “Outside of that, I can’t give any guarantees.”
Still, the State Department said Tuesday the threats of suicide bombers have not deterred the U.S. from sending its “high-level delegation” to the Games, and several American travel companies contacted by ABC News said they have not received any cancellations from Olympic fans. Dan Fredricks said he was unaware of any other athletes’ families who have decided to stay home.
“Hopefully our worries are nobody else’s and our athletes will be safe and we’ll come home with some champions,” Shawn Fredricks said.
The U.S. Olympic Committee told ABC News Monday that the security of the American athlete is always its “top priority,” but the American Speed Skating Team could be especially sensitive to the security situation – members of the team were flying into Moscow in 2011 on the same day suicide bombers blew up a different airport in the Russian capital, killing dozens.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
Ivana Kottasova, CNN