BEIJING 2022/Thursday Review & Preview: Chen brilliant, Kim magical in gold-medal wins on ice and snow; media frenzy over Team Event doping

Chloe Kim celebrates her 2018 Olympic Snowboard Halfpipe win (Photo by Jon Gaede)

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= BEIJING 2022 =
From Lane One

There are lots of events going on in Beijing, but a lot of the reporting energy is focused on the postponement of the Figure Skating Team Event awards ceremony. The event was won by Russia, with continuing questions about a possible doping situation with the winning team.

It has been characterized as a “legal issue” without further details by International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams (GBR), who was asked Thursday morning if the attention being paid to the issue is detracting from the Games:

“I think the vast majority of people at home are following the sport, enjoying the sport, in their different countries … I think, generally speaking, even if you look at coverage in newspapers, it’s generally about the sport, which is what people want to hear about.

“We don’t want to hear about the other stuff, but it arises, it’s life. And so it has to be dealt with, has to be dealt with properly, has to be dealt with in a proper, transparent way, a legal way and we will deal with it and we will deal with it as quickly as possible.”

The speculation has become a media fixation in Beijing; the Russian newspaper RBC reported that 15-year-old women’s star Kamila Valieva – the women’s gold-medal favorite – tested positive in December for Trimetazidine, a drug used to treat angina and banned under the World Anti-Doping Code as a stimulant.

As the process winds on, the swirl continues:

● The International Skating Union: “Referring to the recent media reports, relating to the Figure Skating Team Event, the International Skating Union cannot disclose any information about any possible Anti-Doping rule violation. This is in line with the ISU Anti-Doping Rules and IOC Anti-Doping Rules for Beijing 2022.”

● Russian Figure Skating Federation spokesperson Olga Ermolina told the TASS news agency: “Kamila has not been suspended from participating in the Olympics. We await the official statements by the International Olympic Committee.”

● Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the issue developed “not directly at the Olympics, but within the framework of the Olympic Games by those, who had no actual information, and everyone started howling in all directions, without having the essential knowledge of the situation.

“We are not joining this properly ordered line-up of such ‘howlers.’ The only instance to clear out everything is the International Olympic Committee.”

● The International Testing Agency, the group actually responsible for doping control in Beijing, has said nothing.

Why the reporting delay if there is a doping positive? The World Anti-Doping Code requires disclosure of doping positives, but only after acceptance of a sanction or completion of an appeal. However, §14.3.7 states:

“The mandatory Public Disclosure required in 14.3.2 shall not be required where the Athlete
or other Person who has been found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation is a
Minor, Protected Person or Recreational Athlete. Any optional Public Disclosure in a case involving a Minor, Protected Person or Recreational Athlete shall be proportionate to the facts and circumstances of the case.” (Emphasis added; “minor” is defined as under 18.)

Valieva was reported to have practiced on Thursday; the women’s Short Program is on the 15th. If Russia is disqualified from the Team Event, the U.S., Japan and Canada would be the medal winners.

Olympic Broadcasting Services chief Yiannis Exarchos (GRE) was asked at Thursday’s briefing about whether it is really possible for radio and television announcers and analysts to be effective when they are not inside the actual competition venue:

“It is true that the exact atmosphere in the venue can never be replicated. But also, it is true that the investment from many operators or many broadcasters to bring all their commentators for all the sports in the host city is a very big one. Maybe not everybody has this capability.

“So what we are trying to do as host broadcaster is to provide them with as many possibilities as we can, to do, to simulate this operation remotely, to provide them real, live data to understand what’s going on on the field of play, alternative use, alternative options from the venues to understand it better.

“There’s no doubt that the elements that have to do with physical presence are the ones that need to survive, so having journalists doing interviews in the venues: yes, this is something that needs to remain there. Having commentators: yes, I believe that. I would say that having directors directing needs to stay there, and producers.

“But it’s not the same for other functions of our business, where you do something in an enclosed space for 25 days? You might as well do it in the other part of the world today. So that is a choice that you need to make. Ourselves, we have many people operating remotely in these Games. But they are not our directors, they are not the ones who are producing content. It’s other functions which are supporting.”

All of NBC’s play-by-play announcers and analysts are working from the network’s massive Stamford, Connecticut production center thanks to the Covid protocols. Host Mike Tirico has been in Beijing, but is coming back for the Super Bowl – also on NBC – and will not return to China for the second week of the Games.

Exarchos noted that thanks to the availability of the host signal to broadcasters in their home facilities via cloud services, the International Broadcast Center, often one of the largest venues at the Games – even if not for competition – is shrinking, and covers about a third less space than for prior Winter Games. That’s a benefit for host cities, which have often struggled to find enough space for the IBC; that’s going to be less and less of an issue going forward.

The Olympic Covid incidence report for 9 February ticked up a little, with nine total positives: six at the airport (four athletes and team officials) and three others (all athletes and team officials) inside the closed loop.

Each of the last three days has had total positives of less than 10, following the expectations of the organizers, as fewer and fewer people arrive (only 61 on Wednesday).

The totals now show 169 total positives (arrivals and inside the closed loop) among athletes and team officials and 310 among all other stakeholders since the closed loop began operations on 4 January. A rather amazing total of 1,438,147 tests have been carried out inside the closed loop so far.

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee reported Wednesday that there were no new cases among the 562 delegates in Beijing. The number currently isolated is down to one athlete.

NBC’s reported Tuesday primetime audience shrank slightly to 11.0 million, down from 11.5 million on Monday, and lowest since the pre-Games coverage last Thursday.

For the first five days of the Games (not counting the pre-Games telecast), and subject to final confirmation once all of the numbers come in, the average primetime total audience is now 12.5 million. That is down 37% from the nightly average of 19.8 million for the PyeongChang Games in 2018 and down from the 15.1 million nightly primetime average for the Tokyo Games last summer.

Austria took the overall medal lead in Beijing with 13 total awards (4-5-4), followed by Norway (5-3-4) and Canada (1-4-7) with 12. Russia continued with 11 (2-3-6) and after a three-gold-medal day, the U.S. has 10 media (4-5-1).

For a better comparison of team strength, here are our TSX scoring rankings, using the top eight places, via the time-honored U.S. scoring of 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1. So after 45 of 109 events:

1. 157, Austria
2. 149, Norway
3. 137, Russia
4. 136, Canada and the United States
6. 132, Germany
7. 103, Italy
8. 97, Netherlands
9. 92, Japan
10. 88, Sweden

China, the host, has 76 points for 11th place.
~ Rich Perelman


● Alpine Skiing: Men’s Alpine Combined
Norwegian star Aleksander Aamodt Kilde led the Combined with a 1:43.12 Downhill win, just ahead of new Canadian star James Crawford, but once again it was a Slalom skier who came on to take the gold.

Austria’s Johannes Strolz, a World Cup Slalom winner this season, steamed to the fastest run in the field by a huge 0.58 margin to come from fourth to first in the Combined.

His total time of 2:31.43 was 0.59 up on Kilde (2:32.02), who was sixth in the Slalom standings and Crawford (2:32.11). It was also a rare father-son double – the first in Olympic Alpine Skiing – as Hubert Strolz won the Combined in Calgary in 1988 (where he also won a bronze in the Giant Slalom).

It was Kilde’s second medal of these Games, after his bronze in the Super-G. Coming into Beijing, Crawford had never won a medal in the World Cup (best of fifth!), let alone the Olympics. But at the Games, he was sixth in the Super-G and fourth in the Downhill and now an Olympic bronze medalist.

● Cross Country Skiing: Women’s 10 km Classical
Norway’s Therese Johaug was the favorite, but she had to earn her second gold of the Beijing Games, finishing just 0.4 seconds up on Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen.

The two were among the leaders from the start and raced together for most of the last 7 km, but Johaug went into the lead in the final kilometer and held on, 28:06.3-28:06.7.

This was Niskanen’s third Olympic silver, after two relay events in Sochi in 2014. She was joined by teammate Krista Parmakoski in third, repeating her 2018 bronze in the 10 km Freestyle event and earning her fifth career Olympic medal (0-2-3).

Parmakoski faded a bit in the final kilo as well, and barely beat World Cup leader Natalya Nepryaeva of Russia, 28:37.8-28:37.9, to the line.

Americans Jessie Diggins and Rosie Brennan, both better Freestyle skiers than Classical, finished a creditable eighth and 13th, respectively.

● Figure Skating: Men’s Singles
No doubt whatsoever.

American Nathan Chen performed brilliantly, nailing five quad jumps on the way to a sensational victory in the men’s Free Skate and the Olympic gold medal, outdistancing three superb performances from a Japanese trio.

Chen, 22, was the final skater of the evening, having won the Short Program with the biggest score in history – 113.97 – and coming as an overwhelming favorite to win the first U.S. gold in the event since Evan Lysacek in Vancouver in 2010.

Skating to Elton’s John’s “Rocketman,” Chen showed his technical wizardry with big scores on a quad Flip, quad Flip, quad Salchow, quad Lutz and a quad Toe Loop, then transitioned to a dance sequence, scoring 218.63, almost 17 points more than anyone else.

His total of 332.60 is the second-best score of all time, behind only his 335.30 from 2019, and his Free Skate score is no. 3 ever, behind Chen performances at the 2021 Worlds (222.03) and 224.92 in 2019.

Behind him was a stirring competition among three Japanese stars. Two-time defending Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu had a rough Short Program and ranked only eighth. But he was all-in on his Free Skate, with four quadruple jumps, and even with two falls scored an impressive 188.06 to total 283.31. He was in first place until the last three skaters.

PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno was third after the Short Program and included five quadruple jumps in his program – and had one fall – scoring 187.10 to take the lead with a 293.00 total. But second-place Yuma Kagiyama – who has the same birthday as Chen: 5 May – was alternately dramatic and technical, with four quads and enchanted the small crowd, earning a big 201.93 points to score a lifetime best 310.05. That’s the seventh-best total in history and only Chen and Hanyu have ever scored more.

Thus, the top three after the Short Program maintained their positions, but Hanyu impressed with his move from eighth to fourth with the third-highest score in the Free Skate.

American Jason Brown was sixth after the Short Program and was sixth in the Free Skate as well to finish sixth with 281.24 points, his best international score ever.

What now for Chen? He’s completed two years at Yale and with his Olympic gold to complement three World Championships and six U.S. titles, does he continue? Uno, 24, and the teenager Kagiyama (18) will certainly want to know … after the celebrations are completed.

● Freestyle Skiing: Mixed Team Aerials
The U.S. pulled off a mild upset to win the first-ever Olympic Mixed Team Aerials event, 338.34-324.22, with Canada third at 290.98.

The key to victory was a sensational run by Chris Lillis, a two-time World Championships medal winner, who had the biggest score of the day by more than a dozen points with a back-double full-full-double full twist that was easily the most difficult run of the event.

He scored 135.00 points, and combined with Ashley Caldwell (88.86, second-highest women’s score) and Justin Schoenefeld (114.48, fifth-best men’s score) to win decisively. China got the top women’s score – 106.03 – from 2013 World Aerials Champion Mengtao Xu and the no. 2 men’s score from Guangpu Qi (122.7), but it was not enough.

● Luge: Mixed Team Relay
Germany had to be the overwhelming favorite in this race, but barely edged Austria, 3:03.406-3:03.486 for its third straight gold in the event.

The Austrians actually won both the men’s and women’s run, with Wolfgang Kindl and Madeleine Egle faster than gold medalists Johannes Ludwig and Natalie Geisenberger, but the Doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt were 18/100ths faster than Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller and that made the difference.

Latvia scored the bronze (3:04.354) – as in Sochi – with Eliza Tiruma on both teams.

The U.S. team of Ashley Farquharson, Chris Mazdzer and Zachary Di Gregorio and Sean Hollander finished seventh.

The German win gives Geisenberger an amazing triple-double, winning individual and team golds in 2014-18-22.

● Snowboard: Men’s Snowcross ~ Women’s Halfpipe
To advance through the rounds in Snowboard Cross, you have to be first or second. Austria’s Alessandro Hammerle – second in the 2021 World Championships – was second, first, second and then first in the final to win the 2022 gold medal.

He won his quarterfinal over Spain’s 2021 World Champion Lucas Eguibar while German favorite Martin Noerl and American Mick Dierdorff did not finish, then was second in his semi to Canadian Eliot Grondin, who had cruised through the first three rounds.

In the final, Grondin had the early lead, but he and Hammerle fought together to the finish, with the Austrian barely getting to the line first. It’s Austria’s first medal in the event in the Winter Games; Grondin won Canada’s second silver.

Italian vet Omar Visintin was third, ahead of semifinal winner Julian Lueftner of Austria.

American star Chloe Kim wasted no time putting the hammer down on the women’s Halfpipe, soaring to a stylish and sensational 94.00 score to end the first round, eight points better than Japan’s second-place Sena Tomita.

Game over.

That’s a near duplicate of her 93.75 score in the first round in PyeongChang 2018 that ended up four points better than anyone else did, but was surpassed by Kim herself with a 98.25 on her final run.

Kim didn’t improve after her first round run in Beijing, but it didn’t matter, because no one else came close.

Spain’s Queralt Castellet completed a brilliant second run to score 90.25 that was good for silver and Tomita improved to 88.25 for the bronze. Chinese star Xuetong Cai finished fourth with her first-round effort of 81.25.

Kim is the first repeat winner in this event and gives the U.S. five wins in the seven times it has been contested in the Winter Games. She is now the 2018 Olympic champ, 2019 and 2021 World Champion and 2022 Olympic gold medalist, the standard in her event.

All at age 21. A three-peat coming in Milano?

● Speed Skating: Women’s 5,000 m
Dutch superstar Irene Schouten won her second Beijing gold with another Olympic Record performance, flying away from Italy’s Francesca Lollobrigida in the final pairing in 6:43.51.

That shattered German Claudia Pechstein’s 6:46.91 time from Salt Lake City in 2002 and made the Dutch 3-for-3 in women’s events in Beijing.

Twice Olympic champ Martina Sabilkova took the lead in the fourth pairing in 6:50.09, but was passed by Canada’s Isabelle Weidemann in the next race in 6:48.18. That left Schouten and Lollobrigida and the Dutch skater was a winner by more than eight seconds, with the Italian finishing in 6:51.76, missing the bronze medal by 1.67 seconds.

Schouten and Irene Wust have swept the women’s skates so far, with the 500 m, 1,000 m, Mass Start and Team Pursuit still ahead.

Weidemann won her second medal of the Games after a bronze in the 3,000 m and Sabilkova, 34, won a medal in this race for the fourth consecutive Games, going gold-gold-silver-bronze.


● Curling: The U.S. was busy on Thursday, with John Shuster’s men’s rink losing to five-time World Champion Niklas Edin and Sweden, 7-4, to level their record at 1-1.

The women’s team, skipped by Tabitha Peterson, defeated Russia, 9-3, and Denmark, 7-5, to start 2-0.

● Ice Hockey: The U.S. men opened their schedule with an 8-0 win over China, scoring four times in the third period.

Brendan Brisson opened the scoring on a power-play goal at 10:38 of the first period and Sean Farrell scored in the second period and twice in the third period for a hat trick. Drew Commesso handled 29 shots on goal for the shutout for the U.S.

Canada stomped Germany, 5-1, in its opener.

The U.S. women will open their playoff drive against the Czech Republic on Friday.

(7 events across 7 disciplines)

● Alpine Skiing: Women’s Super-G
Does lightning strike twice? Does lightning strike three times?

At PyeongChang in 2018, Austria’s Anna Veith was giving interviews after her run, assuming that she would be the gold medalist, with only the lesser-known skiers still on the hill. Then starter no. 26, Czech snowboard star Ester Ledecka zipped down the mountain and won the event, 1:21.11 to 1:21.12!

Ledecka has already won the Snowboard Parallel Giant Slalom in Beijing and is going for a cross-sport double-double in the Super-G.

American star Mikaela Shiffrin, one of the most gifted technical skiers in history, skied out of both the Giant Slalom and Slalom in stunning fashion and her confidence has been shaken. Now she’s in a speed event and one where she has excelled. She was the 2019 World Champion in this race, won the bronze medal at the 2021 Worlds and has two World Cup bronzes this season, both in mid-December.

If she can hold her nerve, she could turn her Beijing story completely around.

However, she is not the favorite. That would be Italians Federica Brignone – with three World Cup wins this season and already the Giant Slalom silver winner – and PyeongChang Downhill gold medalist Sofia Goggia (two Super-G wins this season) and Elena Curtoni, with a win, a second and a third.

There are clear contenders in the Swiss contingent, starting with Lara Gut-Behrami, the Giant Slalom bronze winner and the 2021 World Super-G Champion. She has been the seasonal winner of the World Cup Super-G discipline three times and has gaudy career totals of 17 wins and 28 medals in this discipline. Teammate Michelle Gisin was the 2018 Olympic Combined winner and has two career World Cup Super-G medals.

Austrian racers have won this race in three of the last four Games and have Cornelia Huetter, Tamara Tippler, Mirjam Puchner and Ariane Raedler with World Cup medals this season. Wild card: Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel, who has not been at her best this season, but has three career Super-G medals in World Cup races.

If Shiffrin believes in herself, she could make a believer – again – out of others.

● Biathlon: Women’s 7.5 km Sprint
It’s hard to think of a 7.5 km race as a “sprint,” but that’s what it is in biathlon. It’s a popular event on the IBU World Cup circuit, held six times already this season, with a half-dozen potential winners.

At the top of the list is Norway’s 2018 silver medalist and 2020 World Champion Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, with two wins, a silver and two bronzes in the six races, followed by the Oeberg sisters from Sweden. Hanna won one Sprint in November, then Elvira took over, with a gold, silver and bronze later in the season.

France’s Anais Bescond (two), Justine Braisasz-Bouchet and Julia Simon all have World Cup medals this season, as does Italy’s Dorothea Weirer, a three-time World Champion in the longer distances. This cannot be a happy time for the Belarusian athletes, with political trouble continuing at home, but Hanna Sola, the 2021 Worlds bronze medalist, has won gold, silver and bronze on tour this season as well.

Norway also has Tiril Eckhoff, the 2016 and 2021 World Champion as another contender, and the U.S. won a Worlds silver in this event in 2020 with Susan Dunklee.

Chevalier-Bouchet and Roeiseland went 2-3 in the 15 km Individual race and are clearly in good form. More motivation: neither Norway or Sweden has ever won this event in the Winter Games.

● Cross Country Skiing: Men’s 15 km Classical
Russian star Alexander Bolshunov dominated the brutal 30 km Skiathlon and finished eighth and fourth in the last two World Championships. He’s going to be hard to beat.

Teammate Denis Spitsov was second in the Skiathlon and won the 2021 Worlds bronze in this event and will be a contender again. Same for Finn Iivo Niskanen, who won the Skiathlon bronze and won both 15 km Classical races on this year’s World Cup circuit, beating Bolshunov both times.

Of course, Norway has contenders like Sprint winner (and overall World Cup leader) Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, Sjur Roethe, 2021 World Champion Hans Christer Holund and Pal Golberg.

Three-time defending Olympic champ Dario Cologna (SUI) announced his retirement as of the end of the season. At 35, he has raced only lightly this season, with a best of 15th in a 15 km Freestyle Mass Start race at the end of last year. Any more magic left?

● Short Track: Women’s 1,000 m
This shapes up as another Netherlands vs. Korea battle, but with a possible U.S. interloper.

Dutch star Suzanne Schulting won the silver to Arianna Fontana (ITA) in the 500 m already, but is the reigning Olympic Champion and two-time defending World Champion at 1,000 m, and placed 1-2-1-3 in the four World Cups held this season.

Korea’s Min-jeong Choi got going late in the World Cup season, finishing silver-gold in the last two 1,000 m races and was the World Champion in this event in 2015 and 2016 and won the silver in 2019. And she won the 2018 PyeongChang 1,500 m gold.

Who could break them up? Maybe American Kristen Santos, who won a late October World Cup shocker over Schulting and teammate Xandra Velzeboer, a week after a World Cup bronze at the pre-Olympic races in Beijing behind Schulting and Ji-yoo Kim (KOR). She has a shot at a medal, which would be the first for the U.S. in this event.

The 500 m bronze medalist in Beijing, Canada’s Kim Boutin, also cannot be discounted; she won a World Cup silver this season. The most motivated skater of all might be Pole Natalia Maliszewska, whose Covid odyssey kept her out of her best event, the 500 m, but she also won a World Cup medal at this distance in December.

● Skeleton: Men
The favorites coming into Beijing were the Latvian brothers Martins and Thomass Dukurs, reigning World Champion Christopher Grotheer (GER) and teammate Axel Jungk, and Russia’s 2021 Worlds silver medalist (and 2010 Olympic bronze medalist) Alexander Tretiakov.

None were consistently dominant during the season. Tretiakov won two of the first four races and Martins Dukurs – the six-time World Champion – won three of the last four, with his brother winning the other. Grotheer was involved in the oddest race of all: a three-way in November with Britain’s Matt Weston and China’s Wenqiang Geng, neither of whom won another medal the rest of the season. But Grotheer won a medal in six of the eight World Cup races and has won the last two world titles. Jungk won four medals, including a gold.

Consistency counts, and Grotheer leads after two runs, winning both, with a total time of 2:00.33 and enjoying a huge – for luge – edge of 0.70 seconds over Jungk (2:01.03), 0.75 up on Geng (2:01.08) and 0.87 ahead of both Tretiakov and teammate Evgeniy Rukosuev. The Dukurs brothers were disappointed: Martins was sixth at 2:01.24 and Tomass is in eighth (2:01.24), with two runs remaining.

The event is Grotheer’s to lose; if Tretiakov can move up to get the silver, he will own a complete set of medals, with a gold in 2014 and bronze in 2010.

● Snowboard: Men’s Halfpipe
American fans are expected to tune in in big numbers to see if Shaun White, now 35, can win a fourth Olympic gold in his fifth Winter Games. He triumphed in 2006 and 2010, was out of the medals in 2014 and came back with an enchanting performance to win in PyeongChang in 2018.

This time, he is not the favorite. Japan offers a sensational trio of two-time Olympic silver medalist Ayumu Hirano, reigning World Champion Yuto Totsuka, Ayumu’s younger brother Kaishu Hirano and the unrelated Ruka Hirano. Ruka (one win) and Ayumu (two wins) swept the three World Cup events this season, with Swiss star Jan Scherrer – the 2021 Worlds bronze medalist – grabbing two silvers.

In the qualifying, Ayumu (93.25), Ruka (87.00), Totsuka (84.50) and Kaishu (77.25) placed 1-3-6-9. But this is not a team sport and White qualified on his second run at 86.25, with teammates Taylor Gold seventh (83.50) and Chase Josey the final qualifier in 12th (69.50).

Almost forgotten is Australian star Scotty James, the no. 2 qualifier at 91.25, the 2018 Olympic bronze medalist and the 2015-17-19 World Champion. He is just as likely as any of the Japanese or American riders to win and won the 2017-19-20-22 Winter X Games Superpipe event, taking on all comers.

It’s a three-round event, with the single best score counting for places. White took the early lead in 2018 at 94.25, but was passed by Ayumu (95.25) in the second round and came back with a stupendous run to win with 97.75. He also won in 2010 with his second run and in 2006 on his first trial. This time?

● Speed Skating: Men’s 10,000 m
The rarely-contested 10,000 m has only 17 entrants, but a star-studded field with 2014 Olympic champ Jorrit Bergsma (NED), the 2018 gold medalist, Ted-Jan Bloemen (CAN) and the entire 2020 and 2021 World Championships podiums, including world-record setter Nils van der Poel (SWE), Bergsma and Russia’s Aleksandr Rumyantsev (2021) and then-world-record setter Graeme Fish (CAN), Bloemen and Patrick Beckert (GER) from 2020.

Van der Poel has to be the favorite, not only as World Champion and the current world-record holder, but after his sensational win in the men’s 5,000 m with an Olympic Record of 6:08.84 ahead of Dutch star Patrick Roest (6:09.31), who is also entered and has won a 10,000 m silver at the 2019 Worlds.

Bergsma, Rumyantsev, Belgian Bart Swings, Davide Ghiotto (ITA), Dutch legend Sven Kramer (not entered), Bloemen and Beckert finished 5-6-7-8-9-10-11 in the men’s 5,000 m, from 4.34 to 10.74 seconds behind van der Poel. As usual, the indicators favor the Dutch duo of Bergsma and Roest to give van der Poel the most trouble, as the Swede attempts the first 5-10 Olympic double since Jochem Uytdehagge (NED) in 2002.


● Games of the XXXIV Olympiad: Los Angeles 2028 ● A poll commissioned by the Los Angeles Times shows that the 2028 Games is more popular among local residents than this Sunday’s Super Bowl, featuring the hometown Rams.

The 1-7 February poll showed 63% of respondents in the Southern California region excited about the Super Bowl and 76% happy about hosting the 2028 Games. The Times, which pays close attention to race issues, also noted:

“The survey found that 51% of white Angelenos and 71% of people of color are looking forward to the city hosting the Super Bowl this weekend. Support for L.A. hosting the Olympics stood at 79% among residents of color, compared with 71% among white residents.”

Specific to the 2028 Games, the survey showed 49% strongly in favor of 2028, 27% somewhat in favor, 7% somewhat opposed and 9% strongly opposed (7% had no answer).

The results confirm Los Angeles’s long love affair with the Olympic Games and are bad news for the community’s small naysayer group, which has unsuccessfully tried to use the Games as a tool for reforms in unrelated areas of local politics and policing.

(Other stories concerning this poll indicate that the Olympic results were drawn from 743 respondents in the greater Los Angeles area.)

● Athletics ● Sweden’s Olympic champ and world-record holder in the pole vault, Mondo Duplantis, 22, upped his world-leading mark in the event to 6.04 m (19-9 3/4) in Uppsala, Finland on Wednesday.

He has now cleared the magical 6.00 m (19-8 1/4) level some 35 times. He missed three times at 6.19 m (20-3 3/4) for another world record, the 15th meet at which he has attempted the height.

Americans Chris Nilsen and K.C. Lightfoot went 2-3, both at 5.92 m (19-5). Sam Kendricks of the U.S. tied for eighth at 5.70 (18-8 1/4).

● Football ● A Tuesday report in the Washington Post chronicled allegations of sexual and emotional abuse by former NWSL Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames (USA), dating back to 1998.

U.S. Soccer Federation President Cindy Parlow Cone, a member of the iconic 1999 Women’s World Cup team, posted an open letter on Thursday, including:

“I am incredibly angered and saddened by the multiple reports that have come out about these horrific situations too many girls and women have had to endure within our sport. …

“[W]e hired former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Attorney General of the United States Sally Yates to lead an independent investigation into these allegations. I want to reiterate that she and her team have been given full autonomy and access to all the necessary resources they need to follow the facts and evidence wherever they lead. Once again, we are committed to full transparency and will make the findings public.”

● Swimming ● The NCAA adopted the recommendation of its Administrative Subcommittee of the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports not to follow the new USA Swimming guidelines on eligibility for transgender women, despite the organization’s 19 January declaration that it would follow U.S. National Governing Body regulations.

The NCAA statement included:

“The subcommittee decided implementing additional changes at this time could have unfair and potentially detrimental impacts on schools and student-athletes intending to compete in 2022 NCAA women’s swimming championships.”

The statement also noted that “The Administrative Subcommittee discussed the previously approved NCAA testosterone threshold (10 nmol/L) on Monday after USA Swimming updated its policy last week.”

That is the standard that transgender competitors, such as Penn’s Lia Thomas, will be required to meet to compete in the NCAA Division I women’s Swimming & Diving Championships in March.

● Wrestling ● The 12 February Bout at the Ballpark suffered another set of withdrawals as Mongolia backed out from the women’s Freestyle competitions and will be replaced by mostly Canadian opponents.

The USA Wrestling report stated “The Mongolian women’s freestyle delegation was not able to complete the visa process in time to travel to the United States for the competition.”

This is not the fault of USA Wrestling, which is trying to promote the sport; even when you do everything right, sometimes it turns out (sort of) wrong.

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