HEARD AT HALFTIME: Another new track & field league? Beijing 2022 part of “ideological clash” with the West; U.S.’s Papandrea wants to modernize weightlifting

The Track and Field League logo.

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


/Updated/How about another new U.S. track & field league?

During the pandemic, agent Paul Doyle put together a series of very well-regarded American Track League indoor meets and working with multiple promoters of the “Pro Track Series,” offered seven outdoor meets in 2021, mostly shown on one of the ESPN family of channels.

The 2022 ATL indoor schedule of three meets starts on 22 January in Birmingham, Alabama, all part of the World Athletics Indoor Tour at the bronze level. No word on an outdoor schedule, but now comes a new venture, the Track & Field League, being developed by former Southern Mississippi coach Kevin Stephen.

Twitter followers may have noticed sprint star Jasmine Todd’s recruiting messages of last week:

● “I’m pushing for this to work because Elite Track and Field needs it’s own entity in order to to ‘Professional’ Track and Field, especially in the USA. Worst case scenario it doesn’t work, best case it changes our sport! But we won’t know if we don’t support it!”

● “The Track and Field League is in need of:
“- Middle distance men and women
“- Distance men and women
“- Hurdles men and women
“- Throws women.

Anticipated pay is within 24 hours after each meet via direct deposit and for draft bonuses payout after the contracts are signed.”

● “Track athletes said we need a league. We get one for American athletes (with good pay) and have a lack of support from the very same athletes…why?”

Todd also posted Q&A responses from Stephen, including:

“The TFL did not exist anywhere other than in my head last year. We have not hosted any events to date.”

● “We have a three-tier funding program. In the top tier, we have commitments from three Fortune 500 companies. In the second tier, we continue to engage in talks with several companies in a variety of industries from automotive to insurance to health and wellness. The third tier is local businesses in the cities hosting events.”

The TFL Web site shows an eight-team league, with dual-meet formats among eight regional squads: Texas Fire, Washington Liberty, Arkansas Passion, New Mexico Unity, Virginia Inspiration, Alabama Freedom, Kentucky Dream and Illinois Justice. A “draft” is scheduled for 29 November, with 10 rounds (80 athletes) and draft bonuses promised of “1st round- $10,000, 2nd round- $9,000, 3rd round – $8,000, 4th round – $7,000, 5th round -$6,000, 6th round – $5,000, 7th round – $4,000, 8th round – $3,000, 9th round – $2,000, 10th round – $1,000.”

The schedule shows indoor meets on 2-9-16-17-18 January, all-star meet at the end of January and a indoor championship on 13-14 February. Outdoors are shown as two-day meets starting on 7-14-28 May, an all-star dual on 4 June, then 30 July, 6 August, 20 August and a 3-4 September outdoor championship meet.

The pay scale shows athlete appearance fees – essentially a game-day salary – of $4,000 for regular-season meets, $6,000 for the semis and $10,000 for the final. Prize money is $5,000-3,000-1,000 for the regular-season and semifinal meets, going up to $10,000-8,000-5,000 for the final. There is also a $1,000 bonus for each athlete if their team wins their meet. There is also a coaches’ bonus of $1,000 per athlete appearing in a meeting and $500-300-100 for placers 1-2-3.

No information yet on broadcasting.

It’s a nice idea if it works. Said 2016 U.S. shot put Olympian Darrell Hill on Twitter: “I’m down to pioneer, I just need more information. I’ve been asking very publicly, intentionally.”

This venture should not be confused with the National Track & Field League, also with eight teams, which appears to date from perhaps 2017, but which shows no schedule on its Web site.

(Thanks to reader Brian Springer for catching “bronze medal” instead of “bronze level” in the second paragraph.)


● XXIV Olympic Winter Games: Beijing 2022 ● While there was no breaking news about Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai on Monday, a declaration of the Chinese government’s view of the upcoming Games was made in the state-controlled Global Times:

“The ideological conflicts between China and the West will escalate before the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 as anti-Chinese forces will converge to make trouble for China. This event will not only be a comprehensive stress test for China’s ability to respond to various crises, but also a catalyst for China’s growth in mentality as a major power. …

“China used to care about maintaining a harmonious atmosphere with the West and the way being regarded by the rest of the world, particularly by the West. This needs to be changed. With the rise of China as a major power and the weakened hegemony of the US, Western superiority has been shaken, creating a strong and unprecedented resistance to China.

“The only important thing for China in the future is to stick to its own path. The elites of the US and other Western countries do not matter much whether they are envious, jealous, hateful, fearful or angry. …

“The Beijing Winter Olympics will be held against the backdrop of the severe ideological clash between China and the US-led West.”

The International Olympic Committee announced that its agreement for donated doses of the Pfizer vaccine to cover Tokyo 2020 participants has been extended to cover “athletes, officials and Games stakeholders” for the Olympic Winter and Winter Paralympic Games.

The vaccinations will take place in the home territories of the participants, not in China.

● International Federations ● The Associated Press reported that the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) is planning to dissolve at its forthcoming meeting in Russia in May.

International Bobsled & Skeleton Federation President Ivo Ferriani (ITA) was elected as the head of the group on 12 November for a two-year term, but he sent a letter to the membership that included:

“One topic on the agenda that I would already like to bring to your attention is the dissolution of GAISF as already discussed before my arrival as President of GAISF.”

GAISF was originally formed in 1967 and was a significant counterbalance to the International Olympic Committee during its early years, especially under the stewardship of rowing federation chief Thomas Keller (SUI) from 1969-86.

The organization changed its name to SportAccord from 2009-17, causing confusion with the massive sports conference of the same name, then changed back to GAISF with slightly new wording. The umbrella organization has 95 full members and 20 associate members, and membership in GAISF has been a stepping stone to recognition of a federations by the IOC.

GAISF also owns the World Combat Games, World Urban Games and World Mind Games; the future of these events is unknown.

The organization has not posted any notice of its plan to dissolve, although it has been widely reported.

● Athletics ● A record-breaking year in the distances continued in Portugal on Sunday, as Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo set a new mark in the Half Marathon, running 57:31 to win the EDP Lisbon Half.

His mark was one second faster than Kenyan Kibiwott Kandie’s 57:32 from Valencia (ESP) on 6 December 2020. The 2020 World Half Champion, Kiplimo ran away with the race, winning by 2:08 over Ethiopia’s Esa Huseydin Mohamed (59:39).

Still just 21, Kiplimo won the Olympic bronze in Tokyo at 10,000 m, was fifth at the 5,000 m and is the world leader at 10,000 m at 26:33.93 from his win in Ostrava (CZE) in May.

World Athletics has released the final candidates for its male and female athletes of the year:

Men: Joshua Cheptegei (UGA/distances), Ryan Crouser (USA/shot put), Mondo Duplantis (SWE/vault), Eliud Kipchoge (KEN/marathon), Karsten Warholm (NOR/400 m hurdles).

Women: Sifan Hassan (NED/distances), Faith Kipyegon (KEN/1,500 m), Sydney McLaughlin (USA/400 m hurdles), Yulimar Rojas (VEN/triple jump), Elaine Thompson-Herah (JAM/sprints)

The winners will be announced on 1 December.

Russian high jumper Aleksandr Shustov lost his appeal against World Athletics for his four-year ban from 2020-24 for “Use or Attempted Use by an Athlete of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method.”

Shustov, the 2010 European Champion, with a best of 2.36 m (7-8 3/4) in 2011, was charged with doping infractions following the two 2016 reports by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren about doping in Russia from 2011-15.

Shustov’s results from July 2013 to July 2017 have been annulled, including a sixth in the 2013 Worlds Championships in Moscow.

● Football ● Now the Association of Summer International Federations (ASOIF) has gotten into the act with FIFA’s plans for biennial World Cup tournaments, issuing a statement that includes:

“The harmonisation of the international sports calendar is a challenging and delicate task which deserves more attention and consideration by the stakeholders in a spirit of constructive coordination. These proposals from FIFA could impact the healthy development of sport and also put the sustainability of other international federations’ events at risk.”

Abdullah Ibhais, previously the deputy communications manager for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the primary organizer of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, was detained by Qatari police last week and is reported to be on a hunger strike.

According to the authorities, Ibhais was arrested for fraud concerning a 2019 social-media services contract, charges he denies. A Jordanian citizen, he claims that he was arrested for his support of migrant-worker rights in Qatar.

FIFA said it was following the matter with interest; although not involved in the case itself, FIFA has been extraordinarily sensitive to charges of abuse of workers in Qatar who are building the massive stadium projects nearing completion for the World Cup finals.

● Modern Pentathlon ● The newest salvo in the heated debate about replacing riding comes from 1987 World Champion Joel Bouzou (FRA), whose open letter was posted on the UIPM Web site today, and included:

“When Baron Pierre de Coubertin invented the Modern Pentathlon, horses were not only used in military warfare but they were still a part of everyday life in many echelons of society. Today, horses are an expensive luxury inaccessible to the vast majority of people in the world. What can be ‘modern’ about a pentathlon discipline that excludes the vast majority of people in the world? …

“A new Modern Pentathlon without Riding will create a more level playing field. I ask all athletes who are distressed or angry about the consultation process to consider this. Also, I urge you to look back over your journey and imagine you had been training in a country where high-quality horses were rarely (if ever) available.”

Of course, the same review can be applied to all of the Modern Pentathlon disciplines, bringing into question the place of fencing and shooting!

The UIPM Congress, where all of this will be discussed in detail. will be held from 26-28 November.

● Swimming ● More trouble for the International Swimming League, which saw a Covid-related spectator ban implemented in the Netherlands on 12 November, impacting its playoff matches in Eindhoven last weekend, and this week.

Ticket buyers were offered a choice of a refund, a subscription to ISL’s streaming platform, or to donate the purchase money to the league. Wow.

On a positive note for the ISL’s swimmers, FINA declared that marks made in ISL competitions – all in short-course pools – are eligible for qualification into the 2021 World 25 m Champs to take place in Abu Dhabi in December.

FINA announced that the 2022 World 25 m (short course) World Championships will be held in Kazan (RUS) from 17-22 December. Kazan was host to the 2015 FINA World Championships and has been a favored location for FINA events ever since.

● Weightlifting ● On Sunday, the International Weightlifting Federation posted yet another notice that it has not done what it said it would do:

“The Eligibility Determination Panel (EDP) through Sport Resolutions was entrusted to conduct an independent eligibility control, however, the EDP did not deliver the final list of eligible and ineligible candidates by 19 November 2021 to the IWF President and Electoral Commission as required by the IWF Constitution and the Terms of Reference of the Eligibility Determination Panel.”

Sport Resolutions is a third-party contractor in this instance, and its statement in response included:

“The EDP, operated independently by Sport Resolutions, has considered the candidacies of individuals put forward for election to the IWF posts in accordance with its Terms of Reference, and its determinations were communicated to the candidates and the IWF on Friday 19th November 2021 in accordance with its Terms of Reference.

“Further to its issuance, the IWF sought clarification and/or further information on a small number of administrative matters, which were promptly provided to it.

“Should any further questions be put to it by the IWF, the EDP will address them.”

The question of whether and how the IWF elections, slated for 20 December in Tashkent (UZB), will take place, is once again up in the air. Have no doubt that the IOC has noticed.

Regardless of the electoral situation, American Ursula Papandrea is campaigning, releasing her plan for the federation, centered on (1) Integrity and Clean Sport, (2) Good Governance and Transparency, (3) Membership Empowerment, (4) Sport Development and (5) Financial Growth. Said the candidate:

“If I become IWF President, it’s fundamental that we conduct a strategic review and learn from what other sports have done to reinvent themselves for the modern age without losing touch with our core values.

“At present, we are not using fan data in any meaningful way, we are relying on tried and trusted methods that are long since out of date and after the challenges of the past 18 months, we need to refresh our brand and our approach to the sport.

“Let’s bring in global competitions, with new formats that create more drama and interest. Let’s stage international team events that excite audiences beyond just the lifting of the bar.”

The IOC has made public its appreciation for Papandrea’s actions during her short term in interim head of the IWF, before an internal ouster from within the federation’s board of directors.

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