The Sports Examiner

HEARD AT HALFTIME: Allman opens 2020 with American discus record; World A-A champ Chellsie Memmel un-retired at 32; Rodchenkov says doping will never be conquered

The first American women to throw the discus past 70 m: Valarie Allman

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News, views and noise from the non-stop, worldwide circus of Olympic sport:

Athletics ● Ex-Stanford star Valarie Allman continued her climb from national to world class with an American Record throw of 70.15 m (230-2) on Saturday at the Iron Wood Throws Center Invite in Rathdrum, Idaho.

She wasted no time, powering an enormous throw in her first meet of the season that measured 70.11 m on the laser-measurer. That’s 230-0 and way past the U.S. standard of 69.17 m (226-4) by Gia Lewis-Smallwood in 2014. Once the steel-tape measurement was done, the final mark was confirmed as 70.15 m (230-2).

Allman fouled her next two throws, then reached 65.86 m (216-1) and 66.03 m (216-7) before a final effort of 62.09 m (203-8). A three-time NCAA scorer for Stanford in 2015-16-18, she is now no. 25 all-time an is the 26th thrower to surpass 70 m. It’s worth noting that Allman is only the third 70 m thrower whose lifetime best came in this century: Sandra Perkovic (CRO) did 71.41 m (234-3) in 2017 and Cuba’s Denia Caballero reached 70.65 m (231-9) in 2015.

That wasn’t all for the Iron Wood meet, with Chase Ealey getting the outdoor world lead in the shot at 19.41 m (63-8 1/4) and Kara Winger taking the American lead in the javelin at 64.44 m (211-5). Winger was the busiest person at the meet, also acting as the recorder for the discus and the lead official for the shot put!

In the men’s javelin, Riley Dolezal scored an American-leading 79.39 m (260-5).

There was quite a bit of action elsewhere during what would have been the 2020 Olympic Games if not for the coronavirus pandemic. At the Big Friendly meet in Newberg, Oregon, World 800 m Champion Donavan Brazier ran a world-leading 1:43.84 in what was little more than a time trial, winning by almost six seconds. Britain’s Josh Kerr ran a world-leading 3:34.53 for the 1,500 m. Shannon Rowbury won the women’s 1,500 m in a speedy 4:03.62.

In yet another Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, the women’s foursome of Colleen Quigley, Elise Cranny, Karissa Schweizer and Shelby Houlihan ran a world-record 16:27.02 for the 4 x 1,500 m, shattering Kenya’s 16:33.58 from 2014. With only two teams in the race, it’s not clear if the mark can be ratified, however.

A men’s foursome of Evan Jager, Grant Fisher, Sean McGorty and Lopez Lomong ran an American Record of 14:34.97, the second-fastest ever; this has a better chance of being approved as an American mark by USA Track & Field.

In the fifth American Track League meet in Marietta, Georgia, Katie Nageotte cleared 4.92 m (16-1 3/4) for the world outdoor lead in the women’s vault.

Did he or didn’t he?

A story in the Italian daily La Gazzetto dello Sport reported that reigning Olympic 400 m champ Wayde van Niekerk tested positive for the coronavirus prior to a meet in Trieste (ITA) last Saturday, but this was denied by his agent and by a teammate.

However, none of the South African squad scheduled to run in the meet showed up. Van Niekerk was reported to have taken a second test, which came back negative. Will we see him soon?

The pandemic has been tough on everyone, including World 200 m Champion Noah Lyles. On Sunday, he tweeted:

“Recently I decided to get on antidepressant medication. That was one of the best decisions I have made in a while. Since then I have been able to think with out the dark undertone in mind of nothing matters. Thank you God for mental Health”

He added later:

“I didn’t realize how bad it was till I started taking the medicine”

The response was overwhelmingly positive, with more than 500 retweets, likes and comments.

The campaign to restore Jim Thorpe as the actual winner of the 1912 Olympic pentathlon and decathlon continues, with a petition being circulated on the sidelines of the production of a feature film about Thorpe.

“Bright Path: The Jim Thorpe Story” is being produced by Pictureworks Entertainment. Writer Jeff Benjamin notes that “Native American Kyle Kauwika Harris is one of the writers and Martin Sensmeier will be portraying Jim Thorpe.”

Robert Wheeler, who wrote Jim Thorpe: World’s Greatest Athlete in 1981, is serving as Executive Producer of the film.

Thorpe was heroically portrayed by Burt Lancaster in the 1951 Warner Brothers release, “Jim Thorpe – All-American.” The film was well received, earning $1.55 million in the U.S. alone, and Thorpe had a hand in the scripting of the film, just two years prior to his death in 1953.

Cycling ● After being sidelined since March, the UCI World Tours resumed over the weekend with the Strade Bianche races for both men and women.

Belgium’s Wout van Aert won the men’s 184 km race that started and finished in Siena (ITA) with an extended attack, finishing 30 seconds ahead of Davide Formolo (ITA) and 32 seconds faster than German Maximilian Schachmann.

The women’s Strade Bianche was also a runaway, this time for Dutch star Annemiek van Vleuten, who won by 22 seconds on the 136 km course. Spain’s Mavi Garcia was second and American Leah Thomas was third, 1:53 back of the winner.

The five-stage Tour de Pologne starts on the 5th and the famed Milan-Sanremo is scheduled for this Saturday (8th).

While the World Tour has restarted, the head of the new Cycling Events Task Force issued a report for race directors, calling attention to holding standard-style road races during the pandemic.

Said Task Force chair Steve Brunner, “I don’t see an issue with time trials, and I could even see some sort of mass-start [event], done in small waves of six or fewer. But you don’t want 50 to 100 people riding together for an extended period of time.”

He said that mountain bike races could be held, with staggered starts.

Football ● Further evidence of the implosion of the 2021 world sports schedule came last week as England withdrew from the women’s SheBelieves Cup tournament in the U.S., to be held in the early spring.

“The [Football Association] has taken the decision not to enter next year’s SheBelieves Cup in the USA. England Women have been privileged to play in the tournament since its inception in 2016, challenging some of the best teams in the world. Our withdrawal from the competition in 2021 is based on existing uncertainties around the future trend of the Covid-19 pandemic, together with a detailed review of our technical priorities for England Women.”

The coronavirus has potentially impacted the U.S. Women’s National Team’s upcoming suit vs. the U.S. Soccer Federation in Los Angeles. The remaining issues advanced to trial concern training and game arrangements with the Women’s National Team maintains were discriminatory.

A trial before Judge R. Gary Klausner has been scheduled for 15 September, but a request by the Women’s National Team for a jury trial was made. Klausner told both sides that a jury trial would require postponement to 26 January 2021 due to the difficulty of empaneling a jury during the pandemic.

Klausner said the two sides had to agree to a bench trial by 6 August (Thursday) if they wished to maintain the 15 September date for a bench trial.

Gymnastics ● The 2005 World All-Around Champion, Chellsie Memmel, announced a comeback at age 32 to try to make the U.S. team for the 2020+1 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

She has been posting videos of her in the gym and said in a video made available last Friday that she is looking toward Tokyo.

At her best, Memmel – a mother of two – won six World Championships medals in 2003-05-06, including a gold in the Uneven Bars in 2003 and a silver in 2005.

The U.S. women’s team will be one of the hardest to make in any sport, with superstar Simone Biles a certainty and a host of Worlds medalists – including former World All-Around Champion Morgan Hurd – competing for the remaining spots. There is also te possibility of qualifying for an individual event through the FIG World Cup circuit, but how many of those opportunities will be available before the Tokyo Games in anyone’s guess.

New Zealand became the latest country to voice concerns about the abuse of young gymnasts.

Reacting to reports noting “club and elite gymnasts had complained of being verbally abused, body-shamed or forced to train while injured, with complaints going back to the 1990s,” the country’s sports minister, Grant Robertson, said these were “deeply concerning” revelations and asked anyone who had been abused, or their parents, to come forward with more information.

Other countries including Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Switzerland and the U.S. have all reacted to allegations of abuse and asked for more information.

Swimming ● OK, this is corny and it’s an obvious promotion for her sponsor Chocolate Milk.

But when coaches talk about the perfect stroke, you might think about a video posted on Monday showing distance superstar Katie Ledecky in the pool, using a snorkel and placing a glass of chocolate milk on her head and swims the length of a 50 m pool … with the glass remaining in position.

Has to be a world record for longest swim with a glass of any kind of milk perched on top of your head, right?

Weightlifting ● USA Weightlifting’s August update to its membership reflected the strain of not being in Tokyo for the 2020 Games, but reflected on the progress the organization has made over time.

Chief executive Phil Andrews noted:

“USA Weightlifting in collaboration with the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee, hosted our strategic planning meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Some attended in person, while others attended via videoconference in a somewhat unique hybrid. This time provided us an opportunity to look back over the significant and exciting changes that have been made in USA Weightlifting in the last four years on and off of the field of play including our stipend system moving from $1000 in total athlete stipends in 2010 to just a shade short of $1,000,000 now, the implementation of athlete mental health programs, the almost doubling of the revenue and the significant growth in our sport, as well as of course our sporting achievements.”

He added:

“We’ve also engaged in a significant amount of fundraising activity in the last month, which continues into early August. We are raising money on behalf of our member clubs in partnership with Snap Raise, so far over $32,000 is headed directly to our member clubs and we hope that will grow in the coming week or so left of the campaign. We are also participating in the Giving Games, which is a 24-NGB effort to raise money for each Team USA to help fund next year.”

Andrews acknowledged the financial crunch that the pandemic has caused, but also promised to continue the NGB’s quarterly financial updates “so members can see how we are doing.”

Every NGB should be doing this.

DopingThe Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Russia’s Secret Doping Program”has been published by Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the infamous Moscow Laboratory that was at the center of the Russian doping scandal from 2011-15.

The promotion for the book promises a 320-page “breathtakingly candid journey [that] reveals a rigged system of flawed individuals, brazen deceit and impossible moral choices.”

Rodchenkov, now 61, is living in the U.S. in an undisclosed location under government protection. In an interview with The Financial Times last week, he noted:

“‘We reach limits in political corruption, because the groups around Putin are absolutely criminal,’ he says. ‘We have the most huge and worst tradition: not fighting against doping, but promoting doping. We have the best researchers in my laboratory. No other country could even reach halfway what we did. There may be corruption and collusion … but not so widespread.’”

Rodchenkov says that he found Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson doping at the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow, but the positive test was covered up … two years in advance of his infamous positive at the Seoul Olympic Games.

He further explained that the Russian doping program for the Sochi Winter Games in 2014 was made possible by the FSB security service, which found a way to tamper with doping specimens provided by Russian athletes … and swap them for clean samples.

Rodchenkov wrote in the introduction:

“You have heard about the fox and the henhouse?
“Well I was the fox, I built the henhouse.
“Then I ate the chickens”

Separated from his wife and family, who remain in Russia, he has a gloomy outlook for the future, saying “Sport won’t be clean. Never.”

At the BuZZer ● Reader and longtime Olympic writer Karen Rosen sent over a strange story about a 1996 Olympic torch that was presented by Formula 1 chair emeritus Bernie Ecclestone to the International Olympic Committee, supposedly the one used by Muhammad Ali to light the cauldron during the 1996 Opening Ceremony.

As it turns out, the torch used by Ali is actually housed at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

The torch purchased by Ecclestone and donated to the IOC was signed by Ali and was won at an auction last year, but was not used at the Atlanta opening. Still a nice additional piece to the collection at the IOC Museum in Lausanne, especially with Ali’s signature.

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