The Sports Examiner

HEARD AT HALFTIME: IOC presents “Olympic Agenda 2020+5″; new U.S. athlete leaders; Shiffrin wins Alpine Worlds Combined!

American skiing superstar Mikaela Shiffrin: another World Championships gold!

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

International Olympic Committee ● Since it’s 2021, the IOC’s turning-point reforms known as “Agenda 2020″ are now old news, so it is time for a new set of goals for the future. On Monday (15th), “Agenda 2020+5″ was unveiled and will be presented to the IOC Session for ratification – unanimously, no doubt – in March.

The program includes 15 points:

(1) Strengthen the uniqueness and the universality of the Olympic Games
(2) Foster sustainable Olympic Games
(3) Reinforce athletes’ rights and responsibilities
(4) Continue to attract best athletes
(5) Further strengthen safe sport and the protection of clean athletes
(6) Enhance and promote the Road to the Olympic Games
(7) Coordinate the harmonisation of the sports calendar
(8) Grow digital engagement with people
(9) Encourage the development of virtual sports and further engage with video gaming communities
(10) Strengthen the role of sport as an important enabler for the UN Sustainable Development Goals
(11) Strengthen the support to refugees and populations affected by displacement
(12) Reach out beyond the Olympic community
(13) Continue to lead by example in corporate citizenship
(14) Strengthen the Olympic Movement through good governance
(15) Innovate revenue generation models

All of these are familiar themes espoused by Bach during his term as President, but there is significant detail on each item, in a 37-page prospectus submitted to the membership. We’ll have a closer look at the specifics later this week.

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● The Tokyo 2020 organizers have started the recovery from the resignation of President Yoshiro Mori last week and a first meeting of the Candidate Selection Committee was held on Tuesday (16th). Five “criteria” for the new President were agreed on:

“(1) Profound knowledge of the Olympics, the Paralympics and sport in general.

“(2) Deep understanding of the principles of the Tokyo 2020 Games and the Olympic Charter, including gender equality, diversity and inclusion; ability to actualise them during the Games and as keystones of the Tokyo 2020 legacy.

“(3) Experience on the global stage; international profile and sense of awareness.

“(4) Understanding of the overall background of the Tokyo 2020 Games and their current state of preparation.

“(5) Organisational management skills and ability to bring together diverse stakeholders.”

A woman is widely expected to be named to the post, although Kyodo reported that the government’s Olympics Minister, Seiko Hashimoto – an Olympic cyclist and medal-winning speed skater – is “reluctant” to take up the post. The organizers are under significant pressure to fill the vacancy quickly, but also in a politically-sensitive way with “transparency.”

The magnitude 7.3 earthquake which struck northeastern Japan on Sunday (14th) apparently did no damage to the Olympic venues in the area. At issue were the Azuma Stadium in Fukushima, which will host baseball and softball games; and two football facilities: Miyagi Stadium near Sendai and Kashima Stadium in the Ibaraki Prefecture.

The impact of the coronavirus continues reaching into the qualification process for the Tokyo 2020 Games, with the final qualifying tournament in boxing, scheduled for June, set to be canceled. Kyodo reported on Tuesday:

“The rescheduling of the Olympic qualifiers saw the European qualifier moved from April to June, with some 53 Olympic spots supposed to be secured at the final world qualifier now set to be decided by point-based rankings, which reflect performance at international meets since 2017.”

The Olympic boxing program is being overseen by a specially-arranged IOC working group as the international federation for boxing – AIBA – is suspended.

XXIV Olympic Winter Games: Beijing 2022 ● Republican firebrand Rep. Mike Waltz (Florida: 6th District) – a former Green Beret – introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, asking the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee to “propose the transfer of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games to a site other than within the People’s Republic of China,” and following the certain refusal of the IOC to do so, then the “United States Olympic Committee and the Olympic Committees of other countries should withdraw from the 2022 Olympic Games.”

For Waltz, the first difficulty is that the USOPC has already accepted the invitation to attend the Beijing Games, provided by video during one-year-to-go ceremonies on 4 February.

The resolution includes:

“[H]osting the 2022 Winter Olympics Games in the [People’s Republic of China], where organized atrocities in the [Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region] are ongoing; where the freedoms of Hong Kong‘s citizens are being trampled; where the fundamental right to worship is brutally persecuted; and in the wake of the ongoing global devastation from COVID-19; would be immoral, unethical and wrong.”

In an interview, Waltz asked, “Social justice applies only in the United States but not in international relations?” and added, “We’re marching toward the Winter Games – it is right around the corner. We’re going to bang this drum louder and louder.”

The chances of any movement concerning Beijing and the 2022 Winter Games are near-zero. But the political pressure from multiple countries, also including Canada, Australia and Great Britain, will create uncertain reactions from the hosts, as well as new scrutiny on the changes to be proposed by the IOC Athletes’ Commission to Rule 50.2 of the Olympic Charter, which bans all forms of protests at a Games.

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee ● The USOPC Athletes’ Advisory Council formally introduced its new officer team on 12 February, including:

Chair: Bree Schaaf (Bobsled and Skeleton)
Vice Chair: Chuck Aoki (Wheelchair Rugby)
Vice Chair: Greta Neimanas (Para-cycling)
At-Large: Tony Ervin (Swimming)
At-Large: Mark Ladwig (Figure Skating)
At-Large: Cody Mattern (Fencing)

Schaaf, 40, was a Skeleton racer from 2002-07, then switched to Bobsleigh and was the driver of the fifth-place U.S. sled at the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010. She retired in 2014 and was part of the NBC announce team at bobsled in Sochi in 2014 and PyeongChang in 2018.

She was destined to be involved in the Movement, having graduated from Olympic High School in Bremerton, Washington in 1998 and then from Portland State University in 2002. She lists her current employment with Global Athlete, which describes itself as “a progressive athlete start-up movement aiming to inspire athletes and drive change across the world of sport.”

The changes hoped for by Congress in the U.S. Olympic Movement have been stalled as the final four appointments to the Commission on the State of U.S. Olympic and Paralympics have still not been announced.

While 12 appointments have been determined, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) has not released her selections as yet, now 20 days after Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) formalized his nominees.

The Commission actually could start without Cantwell’s group, since S. 2330 as passed lists a quorum requirement of 11 members to meet!

The USOPC announced its Coaches of the Year for 2020 on Tuesday, with legendary fencing mentor Greg Massialas selected as the Olympic Coach of the Year and Para-Equestrian Dressage coach Michael Assouline as Paralympic Coach of the Year.

The full list of honorees, which includes several other categories of excellence, is here.

Alpine Skiing ● The FIS World Championships continue in Cortina d’Ampezzo (ITA), with American Mikaela Shiffrin winning her sixth Worlds gold on Monday in the Alpine Combined.

The Super-G came first and Shiffrin was third overall, just 0.06 behind leader Federica Brignone of Italy. But Brignone fell during the Slalom and Shiffrin, one of the world’s best in the Slalom, came on to post the fastest time of the day on the second leg and win with a total of 2:07.22. That was 86/100ths faster than Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova and 0.89 up on Swiss Michelle Gisin.

The conditions were difficult, with 17 skiers failing to finish one of the runs, but Shiffrin was in control. She said afterwards:

“It was quite nice to ski today again. Beautiful weather and really nice in the Super-G and again amazing in the Slalom. It was tough conditions – like a real Slalom – but I felt good and like I was pushing the whole time. It was nice when you feel like you’re skiing well and it works. Cool day.”

Shiffrin has a couple more shots at Worlds medals this week, with the Giant Slalom and Slalom still to come.

The men’s Combined was the third straight win for Austria in men’s racing, with Marco Schwarz winning his fourth Worlds medal, but his first gold. This was again a difficult event, with 20 racers failing to finish or abandoning the event after the Super-G. Schwarz was sixth after the Super-G, but like Shiffrin, had the fastest Slalom run and won with a combined 2:05.86. France’s Alexis Pinturault was second-fastest in the Slalom and second overall for his second medal of the Championships (2:05.90), with Swiss Loic Meillard third (2:06.98).

The Parallel races were held on Tuesday, with French star Mathieu Faivre defeating Croatia’s Filip Zubcic in the gold-medal final, 2-0, while Meillard won another bronze, this time over Alexander Schmid (GER), 2-0, in the bronze-medal final.

The women’s Parallel gold was a tie, for home favorite Marta Bassino and Katharina Liensberger (AUT); Tessa Worley (FRA) took the bronze over Paula Moltzan of the U.S., the latter’s best-ever finish in the World Championships.

Athletics ● More great results from last weekend, with reigning men’s World Shot Champion Joe Kovacs of the U.S. reaching 22.05 m (72-4 1/4) at the B1G Invitational in Geneva, Ohio on Saturday (13th).

Arizona State junior Turner Washington set a men’s collegiate indoor shot mark of 21.85 m (71-8 1/4) at the Texas Tech Shootout in Lubbock, Texas, also on Saturday. Baylor junior K.C. Lightfoot claimed the men’s collegiate indoor mark in the vault, clearing the magical 6.00 m mark (18-8 1/4) on his second try. That equals the highest collegiate vault ever, done outdoors by Mondo Dupantis of LSU back in 2019.

Also, New Zealander Sam Tanner’s brilliant 3:34.72 third-place finish in the 1,500 m at the New Balance Grand Prix earned him the men’s collegiate indoor record as well. The Washington sophomore’s time bettered the 3:35.46 en route time by Oregon’s Cooper Teare (USA) the night before from the Tyson Invitational!

World women’s high jump leader Yaroslava Mahuchikh showed her 2.06 m (6-9) clearance was no fluke, winning the Ukrainian nationals at 2.00 m (6-6 3/4), with three close missed at 2.05 m (6-8 3/4).

The USA Track & Field Foundation awarded its first Maternity Grant to U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials winner Aliphine Tuliamuk, who gave birth to daughter Zoe in January. According to the announcement:

“The USATF Foundation Maternity Fund will assist elite women in Track & Field and running during their pregnancy and while recovering postpartum. This fund will allow elite females athletes confidence that there is financial assistance available, if needed.” The amount of the award was not disclosed.

Said Tuliamuk: “I am so grateful that the USATF Foundation chose me as their first recipient of the maternity grant; being a new mom is challenging enough, let alone being a new mom who’s representing her country in the summer Olympics 6.5 months postpartum. This grant will go a long way as it will cover our babysitting needs so that I can rest and get back to training soon.”

Russia says it is working hard toward reinstatement with World Athletics. The All-Russia Athletics Federation (RusAF) lost its President, Piotr Ivanov, to the World Anti-Doping Agency sanctions which prohibit any government officials from being involved in Olympic sport, but quickly installed 2000 Olympic 400 m hurdles winner Irina Privalova as interim head. She told reporters on Tuesday:

“We have sent to World Athletics on Saturday a strategic plan and all accompanying documents.

“RusAF has also asked the international federation to give Russian athletes as soon as possible an opportunity of participating in the European Athletics Indoor Championship under the neutral flag. This is because the deadline for submitting applications is February 24.”

The deadline for submission of a reinstatement plan is 1 March.

Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt told Zip 103 FM Jamaica that he is working diligently on his music career and wants to “not only dominate the Jamaican market but also to get into the international market.

“Music-wise we are working on some new rhythms to drop soon. Knowing the whole pandemic, we’re not trying to rush anything we’re taking our time to make sure the music comes out at the right time. We also have an EP that we are working on so that should be something interesting.

“We’re just trying to get a foothold, trying to make people understand that we’re not just here joking around. We’re serious about the music so we’re just going to take our time. Just like in track and field, it’s all about work and dedicating and just taking our time.

“We will get there. We believe in ourselves, and we believe in the product that we’re putting out there.”

Boxing ● If you have experience in international sport and are “Robust and comfortable with operating in a challenging environment,” you may be interested in the newly-announced opening for the position of Secretary-General of the International Boxing Association (AIBA).

The federation desires to provide its Board with at least two candidates by 22 March. However, the federation is also deeply in debt, is currently suspended by the IOC and has no immediate prospects for revenue other than the promise of new President Umar Kremlev (RUS) that it will raise $50 million within six months.

The federation has listed openings for Secretary-General, Public Relations and Communications Director and Sport Director. The office, at least for now, is located in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Figure Skating ● The WADA sanctions against Russia require that its national anthem cannot be played at world championships. But should a Russian national federation – for example, the Figure Skating Federation of Russia – be able to select its own music in place of the anthem?

It’s happening for the ISU World Figure Skating Championships, to take place in March in Stockholm (SWE), where the Russian federation has announced that a one-minute selection from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no. 1 will be used if a Russian wins gold at the event.

This was apparently already used last weekend at the ISU World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen (NED), and is also scheduled for use at the ISU World Short Track Skating Championships in The Netherlands in March.

Skiing ● The coronavirus has hammered Norway and new restrictions have eliminated all of the remaining FIS World Cup events in the country:

Alpine Skiing: 4-7 March: Men’s World Cup in Kvitfjell
Cross Country: 12-14 March: World Cup Finals in Oslo
Nordic Combined: 11-14 March: World Cup in Oslo
Ski Jumping: 12-21 March: Raw Air Tournament in Lillehammer-Trondheim-Vikersund

FIS is scrambling to replace these events, but at this late date, it will be tough.

The third replacement venue for the FIS Freestyle and Snowboard World Championships for Big Air, Halfpipe and Slopestyle was confirmed this last week for Aspen, Colorado, with World Cup events to follow shortly thereafter.

This was the last group of events to be re-assigned after the cancellation of the Freestyle and Snowboard Worlds in China.

Swimming ● More trouble for five-time Olympic medalist Klete Keller, who was charged with three crimes for being in the U.S. Capitol during the 6 January riots.

Last Wednesday (10th), Keller was indicted by a grand jury, with seven charges, including civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, entering a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a restricted building, and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building.

He was easy to pick out on video of the incident, as he stands 6-6 and was wearing a U.S. Olympic Team jacket!

Former Australian star Scott Miller, a two-time Olympic medalist in 1996 in Atlanta, was reported arrested in Rozelle, New South Wales, on charges of “supplying a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug, dealing with the proceeds of crime and directing a criminal group.”

Miller, 45, and one other man of smuggling about 4 kg (~8.8 pounds) of methylamphetamine, hidden in candles, into the country with intent to distribute it for sale.

Wrestling ● USA Wrestling quickly found a new site for its Olympic Trials, announcing that the Dickies Arena in Ft. Worth, Texas will host the event on 2-3 April. The event was moved from Penn State due to the coronavirus.

The U.S. team for men’s and women’s Freestyle and men’s Greco-Roman will be decided at the Trials.

At the BuZZer ● A long-standing fissure within the Kuwaiti ruling family that spilled over into the Olympic world will take another step forward on 22 February when a forgery case against Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah comes to a criminal court in Geneva, Switzerland.

According to The Associated Press, “The criminal complaint alleges that Sheikh Ahmad and lawyers acting for him later took part in a false arbitration case in Geneva, staged to try to prove a video that circulated on social media was authentic and implicated Sheikh Nasser al-Sabah, the former prime minister, in financial and political wrongdoing.” Sheikh Ahmad’s camp has insisted that the claims against him and four others are based on Kuwaiti in-fighting that has gone on since 2012.

Sheikh Ahmad was elected to IOC membership and 1992 and became the head of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) in 2012, but suspended his activities in both when this action was filed in 2018. He has continued as the head of the Olympic Council of Asia (elected 1991). He was deeply involved in FIFA Council for several years, but withdrew after accusations by the U.S. Department of Justice of vote-buying.

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