HEARD AT HALFTIME: AP updated Gwen Berry protest story; Tokyo virus controls tightened further; NHL unsure about ‘22; more Tour de France crashes

World 400 m hurdles leader Rai Benjamin (USA) (Photo: Paul Merca for Tracktown USA)

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

Lane One update ● Monday’s Lane One column on press coverage of protests over performance noted that The Associated Press story titled “Message sent: Berry turns away from flag during anthem” sent Saturday afternoon (26th) could have been updated later to feature more of the competition results.

It was. Eagle-eyed reader Alan Mazursky noted that the link to the original AP story went inactive, and the story was updated later in the day. Where the original story included “[Gwen] Berry’s reaction to the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ was as notable as anything on the track on a blazing-hot Saturday,” the updated version read, “Berry’s reaction to the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ took its fair share of the spotlight on a blazing-hot second-to-last day at trials that also featured some blazing-fast times.”

This was followed by four paragraphs of competition highlights – up from two in the original – which did expand on Gabby Thomas’s 21.61 win in the women’s 200 m, and added Grant Holloway’s 12.81 semifinal win, just 0.01 off the world record, and Erriyon Knighton’s win over Noah Lyles in the men’s 200 m semis, in a World U-20 Record of 19.88.

The updated story was 25 paragraphs instead of 24, with the same 18 paragraphs about Berry’s protest, the circumstances and reaction, two about hammer winner DeAnna Price and five about the other seven events in the afternoon and evening session.

Rewrites and updates of this kind are normal for wire services, but the story’s overall emphasis on Berry confirmed the interest in protests over performances.

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● The presence of two Ugandan team members who arrived in Japan with the coronavirus is causing even tighter controls on teams who will come to the Games over the next month.

Tokyo 2020 “Games Delivery Officer” Hidemasa Nakamura said during an interview that everyone traveling with an infected person – for example, on an airplane – will be isolated and tested before being allowed to enter the country.

In addition, Japanese authorities said Monday that delegations from countries hit with the Delta variant will be required to have Covid-19 tests every day for a week prior to coming to Japan and will be quarantined in the country for three days upon arrival. This is a significant tightening of the rules and adds to the burden of coming to compete in Tokyo.

The Japanese government and the Japan Post mail service, inspired by the 110 mail boxes painted gold in 2012 to honor British Olympic and Paralympic champions, announced that it will do the same for Japanese winners from this summer’s events. Kyodo News reported:

“Every time a Japanese athlete wins a gold medal at the Olympics or Paralympics, a mailbox will be replaced by a golden one in a location linked to them such as their hometown or training base.”

A report in Japan noted that bonuses of ¥5,000,000-2,000,000-1,000,000 (~ $45,227-18,091-9,045 U.S.) will be paid for gold, silver and bronze medals at the Olympic Games and that the Japanese baseball team will receive twice as much for gold, with the additional prize coming from a “business unit of the national baseball team.”

Kyodo News reported that the Japanese Olympic Committee announced that it is creating “a special team tasked with patrolling social media accounts of athletes to shield them from any potential hateful comments during the Tokyo Games …

“If realized, it will be the first time that the JOC has created such a unit for Japanese Olympians. The envisioned team is expected to consult with investigative authorities if it finds online comments are especially malicious, according to the official, who declined to be named as a formal announcement has not yet been made.

Observed: If this concept is implemented successfully, look for it to be another legacy of the Tokyo Games in our digital times that will spread not only to National Olympic Committees, but also national federations and could be a new – and popular – sponsorship category for companies specializing in social-media “editing” in the future.

The Brazilian Olympic Committee announced its bonuses for Olympic medal winners in Tokyo (5 Brazilian Reals = $1 U.S.):

“Olympic champions in individual modalities will be awarded R$ 250,000. The reward for the silver medal will be R$150,000 and the bronze R$100,000. Teams with up to six athletes will have the following amounts to be divided: R$500,000 (gold), R$300,000 (silver), and R$200,000 (bronze). The athletes in team sports will receive R$750,000 (gold), R$450,000 (silver), and R$300,000 (bronze), also to be divided.”

Brazil expects to take not less than 272 athletes to the Games, and the total might increase slightly with entries to be finalized in the next week.

XXIV Olympic Winter Games: Beijing 2022 ● National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman (USA) said during a Monday news conference that “We have real concerns about whether or not its sensible to have our players participating and us shutting down for an Olympic break.”

The NHL skipped the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games after participating from 1998-2014. Issued with the coronavirus are at the top of the list of concerns, after the league and its players agreed to allow participation as part of an extension of their collective bargaining agreement.

Said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly: “We agreed that if the conditions were right and we could reach an agreement on all the material issues that we would commit and support going to the Olympics. That remains our position.”

Athletics ● It took 58 years, but American Phil Shinnick finally had his 1963 California Relays long jump mark of 8.33 m (27-4) recognized as a world record by World Athletics.

The mark was never ratified as there were no wind readings taken of Shinnick’s jumps; the official responsible had been told only to measure jumps taken by Olympic champion Ralph Boston (USA). But Shinnick stunned everyone that day and felt the wind was slight. USA Track & Field recognized his jump as an American Record in 2003 and Shinnick won his case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in May to become an official world-record holder. He later represented the U.S. at the 1964 Tokyo Games.

World Athletics has decided to “relocate” the 23-24 April 2022 World Race Walking Team Championships awarded to Minsk, Belarus, in view of the continuing political protests there:

“The Council decision comes as a result of a report prepared by the World Athletics Risk Committee, which concluded that uncertainties around diplomatic relations and international travel restrictions with regard to Belarus would impact significantly on the staging of the championships in Minsk next year.”

A new venue is expected to be agreed to and approved by the end of July.

On Saturday, World Athletics announced that 61 additional Russian athletes have been approved as neutral competitors in international competitions. This brings the total to 121 Russians approved in all, with five rejections.

The cap on the Olympic Games of 10 athletes from Russia remains in place.

Now that the U.S. Olympic Trials have been completed, it’s worthwhile to take a snapshot of the world leaders for 2021 in Olympic events. After a stunning eight days of competition, the U.S. now has the leading marks in 14 individual events:

Men (7): 100 m, 200 m, 400 m, 800 m, 110 m hurdles, 400 m hurdles and shot put.

Women: (7): 200 m, 800 m, 400 m hurdles, high jump, pole vault, hammer and heptathlon.

In addition, the U.S. will be favored in the men’s 4×100 m and 4×400 m, the women’s 4×400 m and the Mixed 4×400 m in Tokyo. Amazing.

More from the Jamaican Nationals, where superstar sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce followed up on her 10.71 100 m win with a 21.79 lifetime best to take the 200 m, followed by a lifetime best 21.82 from Shericka Jackson and 22.02 from reigning Olympic champ Elaine Thompson-Herah. They are now nos. 2-3-7 on the world list for 2021, intermingled with four Americans.

Stephenie Ann McPherson won the 400 m in a PR 49.61, ahead of Candice McLeod (49.91 PR) and Roneisha McGregor (50.02 PR), nos. 5-7-10 on the 2021 list, and ex-LSU star Natoya Goule won the women’s 800 m in 1:57.84 a season’s best and no. 6 on the world list.

Tragedy from Qatar, where Sudan-born sprinter Abdalelah Haroun passed away at age 24. He was the 2017 World Championships bronze medalist, but the Qatar Olympic Committee announced on Saturday (26th) that he had died, reportedly in an auto accident.

Basketball ● USA Basketball announced the 12-member U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team, which includes all-NBA players: Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns), Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets), Jerami Grant (Detroit Pistons), Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors), Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks) and Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics).

The U.S. coaching staff is led by head coach Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs) with assistant coaches Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors), Lloyd Pierce (formerly Atlanta Hawks) and Jay Wright (Villanova).

The U.S. men are overwhelming favorites to capture a fourth straight Olympic gold, with Durant coming back for his third Olympic team. Green and Love were also previous Olympic team members in 2016 and 2012, respectively.

Controversy erupted immediately, with former 13-season NBA player Jalen Rose, now an ESPN commentator, stating on a podcast that Love was selected “because of tokenism” and:

“Don’t be scared to make an all-black team representing the United States of America. I’m disappointed by that. Anybody that watched the league this year knows Kevin Love did not have a stellar season, was not the best player on his team, and did not necessarily deserve to be on this squad.”

Rose apologized on Monday, saying “you know why I’m apologizing right now? To the game. Because I’m what the game made me … like Katt Williams said, ‘Sometimes, playas mess up,’ so I apologize to the game. That’s who I apologize to.

Boxing ● As the Tokyo Games get closer, so does the decision day for the International Boxing Association (AIBA), which has been on suspension from the International Olympic Committee since 2019.

AIBA President Umar Kremlev (RUS) held an online news conference on Monday, announcing that an in-depth financial audit by a “major accounting firm” is to be conducted and that Professor Ulrich Haas (GER) – already leading the governance reform of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) – will chair an independent Governance Reform Group including legal and governance experts.

A study by McLaren Global Sports Solutions into the refereeing and judging problems which have plagued the sport is underway.

Kremlev struck a major partnership agreement with the Russian energy giant Gazprom which he says has eliminated the federation’s $16-plus million debt. Now he is working to show the IOC that AIBA can be a reliable partner going forward.

Cycling ● The crashes continued in the 2021 Tour de France on Monday, leading to a mild protest at the start of Tuesday’s stage.

Monday’s 182.9 km race from Lorient to Pontivy should have been a typical final sprint, but ended up more like the demolition derby, with three major crashes. Race contender Geraint Thomas (GBR) was involved in a mix-up just 37 km into the race and suffered a dislocated shoulder, but was able to continue and finished 26th. Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic, one of the race favorites, went down hard on his left side in the final 10 km, but finished despite considerable bleeding from his left shoulder. He finished 92nd. Defending champion Tadej Pogacar fell too, with about 3.9 km remaining and slipped to 35th. Even on the final sprint, Slovakian star Peter Sagan and Caleb Ewen (AUS) touched wheels and went down, with Sagan getting up to finish 80th. Ewan, however, had a broken collarbone and finished last, later withdrawing.

Belgian Tim Merlier won the stage over countryman Jasper Philipsen and France’s Nacer Bouhanni, but that was hardly the story of the day.

On Tuesday, a minor protest was organized by German Andre Greipel, who “weaved through to force the protest after a kilometre of racing.

“After a minute’s pause, and no clear message from those on the road, the race resumed with Alaphilippe quickly appearing on his own at the front in the green jersey.”

The Tuesday stage of 150.4 km from Redon to Fougeres was fairly flat and a sprinter’s special, with a historic finish as Britain’s Marc Cavendish – now 36 – got to the line first for his 31st career Tour de France stage win, three behind all-time leader Eddy Merckx (BEL). Cavendish won the final sprint from Bouhanni and Philipsen. The race’s overall leader remains Mathieu van der Poel, now eight seconds ahead of Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), then 31 seconds up on Richard Carapaz (ECU: +0:31) and Wout van Aert (BEL: +0:31).

Meanwhile, the fan who moved onto the course to get seen on television during the first stage and caused a massive pile-up is being looked for, but has not yet been found.

The race organizers announced plans to sue the fan, but without identification, nothing can be done.

Football ● The Copa America tournament in Brazil and UEFA’s Euro 2020 are now into elimination matches. The Copa America finally completed its group stage, with Argentina and Brazil both winning their groups with 3-0-1 records. The playoffs will see Argentina vs. Ecuador and Uruguay vs. Colombia in the top half of the bracket and Brazil and Chile and Peru and Paraguay in the lower half. The title game will be on 10 July.

The Euro quarterfinals are now set, with Belgium and Italy to meet in Munich on 2 July and Switzerland vs. Spain on 2 July in St. Petersburg in the top half of the bracket. Ukraine and England will face off on 3 July in Rome and Denmark vs. the Czech Republic in Baku on 3 July.

The final will be on London on 11 July.

Gymnastics ● While the U.S. Olympic Trials in Artistic Gymnastics dominated coverage over the weekend, USA Gymnastics also held the U.S. National Championships in St. Louis for Rhythmic and Trampoline and Tumbling.

In Rhythmic, established stars Laura Zeng and Evita Griskenas went 1-2 in Clubs and Ribbon, and Griskenas won in Ball with Zeng second. Zeng won a third title in Hoop, with Lennox Hopkins-Wilkins second. In the All-Around, Zeng won at 95.900 and earned a trip to Tokyo, along with Griskenas, second at 95.650.

In Trampoline, Nicole Ahsinger won the qualifying round with a 102.18 total and that earned her a second Olympic berth in Tokyo on a quota place from the 2019-20 World Cup series. She also won the Trampoline final at 155.830, ahead of Charlotte Drury (155.245). Jeffrey Gluckstein won the men’s trampoline with a 170.365, topping Cody Gesuelli’s 162.895, but Aliaksei Shostak had already been selected based on his performance at the 2019 World Championships on a re-allocation of available places.

Swimming ● FINA issued new rules on harassment designed to make all of its sports safer and more equitable. The “harassment and abuse” regulations cover 14 pages and specifically define harassment to include “Any acts of hazing, neglect, psychological abuse, physical abuse, and sexual harassment.” The regulations also prohibit sexual abuse, which is separately defined.

Sanctions can include a warning, probation, ineligibility and “other loss of privileges, no contact directives, requirement to complete educational or other programs, return of FINA awards, or any other restrictions or conditions as deemed necessary or appropriate.”

On doping, FINA reported that “it expects to surpass a total number of 2’000 out-of-competition anti-doping tests [in 2021] prior to the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.”

Water Polo ● In the FINA World League Super Final in Tbilisi (GEO), the U.S. has advanced to the semifinals, along with Italy, Greece and Montenegro.

The U.S. finished second to Montenegro (3-0) in Group B with a 2-1 record while Italy won its three games in Group A, with Greece (2-1) second. In the quarterfinals, Greece eliminated Georgia by 20-8, and Montenegro outscored Kazakhstan, 18-6.

The U.S. scratched by France, 12-11, overcoming a 5-2 first quarter deficit with five unanswered scores in the second period. Italy edged Japan, 15-12, piling up a 12-7 lead after three quarters.

The semis will be held on Wednesday, with Greece challenging Montenegro (4-0) and the U.S. against undefeated Italy (4-0).

Weightlifting ● The International Weightlifting Federation issued a statement on Tuesday that after allegations of anti-doping violations by the International Testing Agency, both Nico Vlad (ROU) and Hassan Akkus (TUR) have “stepped aside” from their positions on the IWF Executive Board, and will not attend the Tokyo Games.

The IWF will meet in a Constitutional Congress on Wednesday, looking to approve a new governing document that will lead the federation out of its issues on doping, discipline, finances, athlete and female representation and more. If a new Constitution is approved, elections will follow, possibly in October.

The IOC has warned the IWF repeatedly that its place in the 2024 Paris Games and beyond is at stake depending on its actions on governance and all other matters.

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