HEARD AT HALFTIME: Shiffrin stars in Courchevel, IOC’s Athletes’ Comm. chief brushes off USOPC; boxing federation AIBA is still in trouble

American skiing superstar Mikaela Shiffrin

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

Highlights ● Thanks to bad weather, competition continued on Monday in alpine skiing, golf and in wrestling.

In Courchevel, France, American superstar Mikaela Shiffrin won a World Cup race for the first time in 323 days, slaying the field in the second Giant Slalom. She led everyone by 0.14 after the first run and then skied aggressively on her second run to end up with an impressive 0.82 margin over Italy’s Federica Brignone and 1.09 over France’s Tessa Worley.

It was Shiffrin’s first win since her father passed away suddenly in February, followed by the impact of the coronavirus, injuries and more for the three-time World Cup champion. Said Shiffrin afterwards:

“It was a pretty incredible day, obviously. But I’m pretty sad. I mean, it’s a bit bittersweet. But it’s pretty special.”

“I didn’t really know if I could come back to this level. It’s a lot of energy to focus like that and to put the toughness and strength in your skiing. I’ve done it – I used to do it all the time – but I’m at a different place and didn’t know if I could do it again.”

Shiffrin continues to re-write the record book. Even at just 25, this was her 67th World Cup win (12th in a Giant Slalom), tying her with Austria’s Marcel Hirscher for the third-most all-time, behind Ingemar Stenmark (SWE: 1973-89) with 86 and American Lindsey Vonn (USA: 2001-19) with 82.

At the Women’s U.S. Open in Houston, Texas, Korea’s A Lim Kim came from five shots down going into Monday’s delayed final round, but shot a 67 to claim the title in her first appearance in this tournament.

She closed with three straight birdies to zoom past American Amy Olson and fellow Korean Jin Young Ko at 281 (-3). Third-round leader Hinako Shibuno (JPN) slipped to a 74 on Monday to finish fourth, while Olson shot a one-over 72 to finish at -2, tied with no. 1-ranked Ko, whose 68 moved her up seven spots on Monday.

In Belgrade (SRB), the Greco-Roman competition at the United World Wrestling Individual World Cup concluded, with four more Russian wins in the five remaining weight classes.

Zhambolat Lokyaev (63 kg), Milad Alirzaev (82 kg), Musa Evloev (97 kg) and Sergey Semenov (130 kg) claimed victories in their championship matches, giving Russia seven wins in the 10 Greco weight classes.

Zholaman Sharshenbekov (KGZ), the 2018 Worlds silver medalist at 55 kg, won the 6-0 kg division with a come-from-behind win over Russia’s 2018 World Champion, Stepan Maryanyan.

The women’s Freestyle matches continue on Tuesday and Wednesday. The U.S. is not competing in Belgrade due to the pandemic.

International Olympic Committee ● If there was any serious doubt over how the worldwide debate concerning protests at the Olympic Games – and any changes to Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which bans protests – was going to be resolved, there appears to be none now.

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee released and confirmed its support for the recommendations of its Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice last Thursday (10th), stating “the USOPC will not sanction Team USA athletes for respectfully demonstrating in support of racial and social justice for all human beings.”

The head of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, Kirsty Coventry (ZIM) – her country’s Minister for Youth, Sport, Arts & Recreation – posted a reply on Twitter, including:

“The IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC) has received the statement from the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice which elaborates on racial and social problems in their country. This statement will be taken into consideration among the other feedback it has received and continues to receive from the athletes of the other 205 NOCs. …

“While the consultation is still ongoing, from what we have heard so far through the qualitative process, the majority:

“● emphasise the right of free speech which is respected at the Olympic Games, and

“● express support for preserving the ceremonies, the [awards] podium and the field of play.

“Many have also recognised the practical question of how to choose between the opinions of hundreds of issues from different angles around the world. From the work we have done so far, we can see that it would be very difficult to make such a judgement without diving the athlete community across all 206 NOCs.” (Emphasis added.)

Coventry noted that other outlets for personal views are available, especially in interviews and social media and that the Athletes’ Commission will be looking for creative, additional options.

But protests during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, or during awards presentations, will continue to be banned. What happens if someone does protest, is not yet spelled out. It’s clear that the USOPC will not impose penalties excepting actions which are deemed as “to-be-defined ‘divisive demonstrations’.”

The International Olympic Committee has not been shy about promoting its “Agenda 2020″ program of 40 reform concepts adopted unanimously in December 2014. The latest was an update issued last Friday, in which the IOC stated that 85% of the recommendations had been implemented:

“Identified and collated through a collaborative and consultative process involving Olympic Movement stakeholders and outside experts, they were driven by a recognition that the world was evolving rapidly and that the Olympic Movement had the opportunity to be an agent of change. The motto underpinning the process from identification to adoption to implementation was ‘change or be changed’. A philosophy that remains as compelling today as it was six years ago.”

A lengthy list of achievements is provided, detailing both financial and social benefits from the reform program. For long-time observers of the Olympic Movement and the IOC, it may be tiring to keep hearing about Agenda 2020, but there is no doubt that it marked – under the leadership of current President Thomas Bach (GER) – a sea change in the way the IOC does business, and requires its affiliated International Federations and National Olympic Committees to do business.

Games of the XXXIII Olympiad: Paris 2024 “We get nothing for Tokyo from the revenue sharing of the Games. But we need to have that discussion now, to have a review. Because we are not a sport of one Games. …

“All indications are that it could be part of LA 2028. L.A. is the epicentre of modern day surfing. With the likelihood of three Games … surfing will be a permanent Olympic sport. We are not a one-night stand.

“There has to be a discussion so that surfing is rated as a permanent sport. Just look at the value we will bring to the Games. We must have that discussion with the IOC.”

The topic is money and the speaker is International Surfing Association chief Fernando Aguerre (ARG) in an interview with Reuters. Aguerre is riding a wave of success as the sport is to debut at the Tokyo Games next year, and now confirmed as part of the Paris 2024 program (to be held in Tahiti).

His problem – and that of 2020 and 2024 program sports Skateboarding and Sport Climbing – is that these events were added at the request of the organizing committees of each Games and not the IOC. The 28 “core” sports in the Olympic program receive shares of the IOC’s television revenue from each Games, but the add-on sports are not included.

Aguerre’s case will be strengthened if the governance and doping-challenged sports of boxing and weightlifting are eventually eliminated from the program in 2024 and/or 2028. But for now, he will continue to be on the outside looking in, especially with a horde of sports now getting ready to lobby the Los Angeles organizers for inclusion in 2028; the newest signals have come from cricket and mixed martial arts.

XXII Olympic Winter Games: Sochi 2014 ● The endless story of doping at the Sochi Winter Games is far from over, as the International Testing Agency announced an “extensive re-analysis program” of doping samples taken at the Games.

Remember, this was the pinnacle of Russia’s state-sponsored doping program, run by – and then exposed by – Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency. Thanks to this program, Russia led the medals table as of the end of the Closing Ceremony, but has had its totals revised downward continuously since then.

“[T]he ITA will now begin an extensive further probing of samples collected during the Sochi 2014 Winter Games. Since the IOC delegated to the ITA the independent management of its entire anti-doping program in 2018, the ITA has also taken on the responsibility for all current and future re-analysis programs. The further analysis of samples collected during Beijing 2008 and London 2012 has so far produced more than 130 Anti-Doping Rule Violations, which clearly highlights the effectiveness of such a program in the detection and deterrence of cheating.

“After serious issues of manipulation of the doping control process came to light following the Sochi Games, the IOC already re-examined hundreds of samples from participating Russian athletes in 2016. The ITA will now extend the re-analysis program to all nationalities and sports that took part in the event and re-test more than half of the total samples collected as a first step. The selection of the samples to be further analysed is based on a comprehensive risk assessment, which among many other factors also considers doping-related intelligence gathered across countries and disciplines since the Sochi Games took place.”

The re-testing program is hoped to be completed prior to the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.

Anti-doping ● The World Anti-Doping Agency released its report of doping violations found in 2018, with a total of 1,640 violations found among a total of 263,519 tested samples (6/10ths of 1%), with 316 cases still unresolved.

The 1,640 violations were spread across 92 sports and 117 nations, with 77% of the violations among male competitors and 23% in women.

In addition, there were 283 violations found from investigations (vs. tests), including 267 athletes and 16 “athlete support personnel.” That brings the total number of violations to 1,923.

The total number of violations was up in 2018, and the most since 2015 (1,929). The violations in 2018 (1,923) was up from 1,776 in 2017. More:

Olympic summer sports: 199,602 total samples and 955 violations: 48/100ths of 1%.

Olympic winter sports: 21,072 total samples and 40 violations: 19/100ths of 1%.

Leading sports: Weightlifting, with 148 violations out of 13,544 samples (1.9%), then Cycling with 178/25,391 (7/10ths of 1%), and Athletics had 152/32,309 (47/100ths of 1%).

Leading countries (across all sports): Russia, 144; Italy, 132; France, 114; India, 107; Ukraine, 78; United States, 73; Belgium, 65; China, 63; Brazil, 54; Kazakhstan, 51. Of the 73 violations from the U.S., 18 were in cycling, 12 in weightlifting and 10 in aquatics.

The report shows once again that the total incidence of doping is fairly low across all athletes and sports. But when the subject is medals, even a small overall number of violations could have a significant impact.

Athletics ● The winner of the women’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials last February, Aliphine Tuliamuk, is expecting a unique double in 2021: birth of her first child and racing in the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Now 31, Tuliamuk announced her pregnancy in a social-media post on 6 December, with the baby girl expected around 6 January 2021. The Olympic women’s marathon is slated for 7 August in Sapporo, Japan.

She told Runner’s World in an e-mail exchange that “All through my pregnancy, I’ve felt great. I’m not running as fast or as much as I normally do right now, but aside from some occasional discomfort, I don’t feel any different. Getting out to run has been something I look forward to all through my pregnancy.”

Bobsled & Skeleton ● USA Bobsled & Skeleton announced its men’s national team for 2020-21, with Codie Bascue driving USA-1 after winning three of the four selection races. Geoff Gadbois will drive USA-2.

The brakemen pool includes 2018 Olympians Hakeem Abdul-Saboor and former UCLA javelin thrower Carlo Valdes, and national team returnees Adrian Adams, Kris Horn, Blaine McConnell, Kyle Wilcox and Josh Williamson. Boone Niederhofer and Charlie Volker are first-time national team members.

Absent thus far from the IBSF World Cup, the U.S. expects to compete in the second half of the season.

Boxing ● The election of Russian Umar Kremlev as the new AIBA President and adoption of a new constitution for the federation is only the start of what will be critical months ahead for the IOC-suspended organization.

With an online Congress held over the weekend came the release of multiple documents, including a report on activities from Interim President Mohamed Moustahsane (MAR) and a financial report through 30 June 2020.

● The activities report noted “in order to keep AIBA alive,” cuts of CHF 4.9 million were realized by cutting staff, travel and meeting expenses. New and independent commissions were created to handle disciplinary and ethics issues and American Ray Silvas was appointed the new chair of the much-troubled Refereeing and Judging Commission.

It also emphasized the potential of the new Global Boxing Cup, a national team competition to be held in Russia in 2021 with up to 48 teams and five weight classes. The 2021 men’s World Championships were awarded to Belgrade (SRB). Sadly, the World Series of Boxing may yet return in 2021.

● The financial report was dismal, as expected. The auditors noted:

“Based on our review, we have to assume that lnternational Boxing Association developed liquidity problems and is in an over-indebtedness situation. The ability of lnternational Boxing Association to continue as a going concern and to repay its debts will depend upon the proper execution of two agreements signed for 2021 competitions. As of today, the payment schedule for the first competition has not been respected and the payment for the second competition is expected in December 2020. lf the required amounts are not received before January 2021, lnternational Boxing Association will not be able to repay its debt when they fall due. As a result of these matters, we were unable to assess the going concern assumption.”

The two agreements cited were for the hosting rights to the 2021 Global Boxing Cup and the 2021 Worlds in Belgrade. According to the financial statements, AIBA is claiming rights fees from:

(1) “Global Boxing Cup for an amount of CHF 5’000’000 with CHF 933’427.298 collected in September 2020 and remaining balance to be collected in December 2020

(2)World Men Championship for an amount of CHF 5’000’000 to be collected entirely in 2021″

With the Global Boxing Cup slated to be held in Russia and with Kremlev elected as AIBA President, the Russian Boxing Federation – of which he was Secretary General prior to Saturday’s election – is essentially contributing CHF 5 million to AIBA. This is unlikely to impress the IOC oversight committee.

The income statement showed a surplus of CHF 7.74 million at 30 June 2020, thanks primarily to CHF 5.5 million in event revenues and fees and the last CHF 2.2 million from AIBA’s Olympic television revenue from Rio 2016. However, the federation’s total debt stood at CHF 9.86 million as of 30 June 2020, but much better than the CHF 17.61 million a year earlier.

Figure Skating ● More sad news in the continuing drama of French World Championships bronze medal winner Morgan Cipres, who was charged last week with felony “transmission of material harmful to a minor by electronic device” in Florida.

Cipres retired from competitive skating – he had been a Pairs star for years with Vanessa James – last September and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. He is alleged to have sent explicit images of himself to s 13-year-old female skater who trained at the same rink in 2017.

Gymnastics ● USA Gymnastics is continuing to brawl with Liberty Insurance Underwriters, which has filed a suit in the State of New York to prevent Epiq eDiscovery Solutions from ending its services to the federation while asking for LIU to pay its invoices of about $1.8 million.

The USA Gymnastics filings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana ask for that court to require LIU’s suit to be dismissed and that the issues as to LIU’s responsibilities be maintained in the Bankruptcy Court. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

At the BuZZerLori “Lolo” Jones almost won an Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games in the 100 m hurdles, but hit the final barrier and ended up seven. She just made a fifth U.S. national Bobsled team and aims to return to Beijing, but for the 2022 Winter Games.

Now 41, she tweeted last week:

“People told me to quit years ago. They’ve called me washed up and a loser.

“When you are going for a dream you gotta ignore the nightmares.”

She is not only not a loser – she won two World Indoor 60 m hurdles titles in 2008 and 2010 – but also posted the Olympic-sports tweet of the year after the Tokyo Games were postponed, here.

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