HEARD AT HALFTIME: How high can Mondo go? Plus a new heart for Greg Foster & de Coubertin’s speech donated to IOC

IOC President Thomas Bach and FIE chief Alisher Usmanov, donor of the de Coubertin manuscript on Monday (Photo: IOC/Greg Martin).

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

Athletics ● The amazing world-record performance by Mondo Duplantis of Sweden (and Louisiana) in Torun, Poland on Saturday at 20 years old begs for speculation of just how high could he go over the next … 15 years?

He almost cleared 6.17 m (20-2 3/4) four days earlier in Dusseldorf (GER) and had the perfect situation in Torun, having won the event after having only two jumps. He’ll have more competition in the future, but note his changed mind-set from the last two years in his post-meet comments. He noted that the pole he used in Torun was the same as at the 2019 World Championships, where he lost on misses to Sam Kendricks of the U.S. at 5.97 m (19-7):

‘I couldn’t do much with it in Doha, because I was just a big fat college kid at the time, I guess. I’m a lot more in shape now so I can get a lot more out of the pole.

“Before, I was a high school kid, and I was a college kid. On Friday night, Saturday night, I was a college kid. I don’t regret that. But I wanted to take this to 100 percent, and be a professional. And I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”

He’s not resting on his record, either. He plans to be back in action in Glasgow (GBR) on the 15th, Lievin (FRA) on the 19th and Clermont-Ferrand (FRA) on the 23rd.

Although the mark was made indoors, it will be considered an absolute world record; in 2000, the IAAF (now World Athletics) passed a rule allowing world records to be set in any kind of venue, so long as the competition conditions complied with the rules.

In case you’re wondering, the largest improvement in a single career of the vault world record was by – of course – Sergey Bubka (UKR), who claimed 17 outdoor world records and raised the standard from 5.85 m (19-2 1/4) in 1984 to 6.14 m (20-1 1/2) in 1994. He retired at age 37 in 2001.

Could Mondo really jump 6.46 m (21-2 1/4) someday?

Good news for hurdles World Champion and former American Record holder Greg Foster, who underwent successful heart transplant surgery on 19 January at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

The procedure took 6 1/2 hours, as the 918th heart-transplant surgery performed there, and Foster was walking upright the very next day and went home just eight days after the procedure.

His son Bradey reports that “He’s been riding a stationary bike and walking the treadmill. He gets a little sore in the chest from the actual surgery but doing well. He has his appetite back and eating like a horse.”

Foster’s GoFundMe campaign has surpassed $10,000, but there is a long way to go. You can find out more and donate here.

Nike announced that it will make available a “street legal” version of the shoe used by Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge to run his 1:59:41 time-trial marathon. The Air Zoom Alphafly Next% will comply with the new World Athletics rules that shoes (1) cannot have more than one embedded, carbon-fiber plate, (2) must have soles not thicker than 40 mm (1.575 inches) and (3) must be publicly available.

Kipchoge’s prototype shoes for his sub-2 marathon reportedly had three plates and even thicker soles. The new shoe is supposed to be available online in March.

There were more noteworthy – but not record-setting – performances over the weekend, especially at the Millrose Games in New York.

Chief among these was the successful return of sprinter Ronnie Baker. Hampered by injuries all last year, he won the men’s 60 m in 6.54, beating world leader Demek Kemp (USA), second in 6.56. At his best in 2018, Baker ran 9.87 and was the World Indoor Championships silver medalist behind Christian Coleman. If he can stay healthy, he’s a medal threat for Tokyo.

Hurdler Daniel Roberts showed good form in winning the 60 m hurdles in 7.64, his fifth-fastest indoor mark. In the women’s 60 m hurdles, Keni Harrison scored a win over 2019 World Champion Nia Ali, 7.90-7.96.

At the USA Track & Field Multi-Event Indoor Championships in Annapolis, Maryland, Garrett Scantling won the men’s heptathlon with 6,209 points, while Annie Kunz took the women’s pentathlon with 4,610.

The USATF Indoor Championships will be held this weekend – at altitude – in Albuquerque, New Mexico, so expect some fast sprint marks.

The Athletics Integrity Unit reported two more positives in the re-testing from the 2012 Olympic Games in London, with Gulcan Mingir (TUR/women’s steeple) and Klodiana Shala (ALB/women’s 400 m) both provisionally suspended. Both have retired; Mingir was 10th in her heat in London, and while Shala was tested in London, did not compete in any event (maybe she knew something ahead of time?).

The two new positives run the London positives to 82, the most of any Games in history, and there are still two more years to go before the re-testing process will be closed.

The outstanding Athletics International newsletter noted that Niger’s Amina Seyni (23), who burst onto the world scene with a 49.19 best in the 400 m last year, has decided not to take medications to lower her testosterone levels. Because of her naturally-elevated scores, she cannot compete in events from 400 m to the mile, so she will compete in the 100 m and 200 m and try to qualify for Tokyo in those events. She ran the 200 m at the 2019 Worlds and ha a best of 22.58, almost making it to the final.

Basketball ● USA Basketball announced a roster of 44 finalists for the 12-man Olympic team roster for this summer’s Olympic Games. The list includes all of the members of the 2019 FIBA World Cup, nine gold medalists from the 2016 Olympic Team and seven members of the winning 2012 Olympic Team.

After most of the top NBA stars skipped the 2019 World Cup, this roster was full of them and includes LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, Mike Conley, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Draymond Green, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and many more.

Needless to say, the U.S. will be an overwhelming favorite to win again; American teams have won the last three Olympic titles and six of the last seven since NBA players were eligible to compete.

Swimming ● South African swimmer Roland Schoeman received a one-year ban for doping from FINA for a trace amount of the banned substance Cardarine.

Schoeman issued a lengthy public statement last Saturday, noting that he had been tested multiple times without incident and believes the trace elements were from contaminated supplements. He wrote that he explained to FINA officials at length his vitamin regimen and was given a one-year ban that will end on 17 May 2020.

Because of the relatively short suspension period, Schoeman – now 39 – could qualify to swim in Tokyo this summer. It would be his fifth Olympics; he won three medals in 2004, including a gold on the 4×100 Freestyle Relay, silver in the 100 m Free and bronze in the 50 m Free.

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● The Hellenic Olympic Committee made some history by naming Rio Olympic gold medalist shooter Anna Korakaki as the first woman to be the inaugural torch bearer in the quadrennial Olympic Torch Relay.

The traditional lighting ceremony will take place on 12 March in ancient Olympia and the torch will be run for a week in Greece before heading toward Japan, where the torch will begin moving around the country on 26 March.

International Olympic Committee ● The 14-page manuscript of Pierre de Coubertin’s 1892 speech that called for the revival of the Olympic Games was sold to a mystery buyer for $8.8 million on 19 December, the largest price ever realized for an item of sports memorabilia.

The buyer was unmasked on Monday, as Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov – president of the International Fencing Federation (FIE) – who bought the document and presented it as a gift to The Olympic Museum in Lausanne (SUI). Said Usmanov:

“This manuscript is the manifesto for the modern Olympic Games. Pierre de Coubertin had a vision of a world united by athletic pursuits and not divided by confrontations and wars. I believe that The Olympic Museum is the most appropriate place to keep this priceless manuscript.”

Some of the pages will be displayed shortly at the Museum and the entire document will eventually be on public display.

At the BuZZer ● An interesting follow-up to Monday’s Lane One column on athlete protests and the potential consequences came from British star Ricky Gervais, the five-time host of the Golden Globe Awards, who commented on Twitter about cultural and/or political commentaries delivered by celebrities at Sunday’s Academy Awards show:

“I have nothing against the most famous people in the world using their privileged, global platform to tell the world what they believe. I even agree with most of it. I just tried to warn them that when they lecture everyday, hard working people, it has the opposite effect.”

Wonder if anyone will keep that in mind in Tokyo this summer?