The Sports Examiner

HEARD AT HALFTIME: Tokyo 2020’s Mori reports apology from Board member suggesting delay; new filing vs. USA Gymnastics

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

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● The head of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee rejected the comments of Haruyuki Takahashi, one of his Board members, that the Games will likely be delayed.

The Associated Press reported that Yoshiro Mori, president of the organizing committee, told reporters that “I have spoken to Mr. Takahashi and he has apologized. He certainly said an outlandish thing.

“There is no plan now to change our plans.”

Vox Populi ● Reader Greg Cornell, a member of the 1984 Olympic Games organizing committee in Los Angeles, opined on the coronavirus sitation, writing:

“The 2020 Olympics will be canceled because the virus is increasing. They are making a tactical error by making their decision on actual count not on forecasted count. They will have no choice but to close down the Olympics.”

The news on Wednesday came from Geneva, Switzerland, where the World Health Organization confirmed the COVID-19 spread as a pandemic. Multiple International Federations have canceled or postponed events, including Olympic qualifiers, due to the virus, some of which are noted below.

A lengthy list of events cancelled or postponed as of 11 March was compiled by the Associated Press here.

Alpine Skiing ● The Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS) announced the cancellation of the final weekend of the women’s World Cup races in Are (SWE) “after new recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Sweden.”

Because the World Cup Finals scheduled for Cortina d’Ampezzo (ITA) have been cancelled, the races in Are were to have been the last of the season … and so the women’s World Cup season is over. American superstar Mikaela Shiffrin was ready to return to the slopes following the death of her father in early February, but will not be racing now.

This means that Italy’s Federica Brignone is the overall winner of the women’s World Cup for 2019-20, with 1,378 points over just a 30-race schedule – out of 41 expected – with Shiffrin second with 1,225. Slovenia’s Petra Vlhova was third with 1,189.

The discipline titles went to Corinne Suter (SUI) in Downhill and Super-G; Brignone in Giant Slalom (Shiffrin third) and Vlhova in Slalom (Shiffrin second).

In the men’s World Cup, this weekend’s Giant Slalom and Slalom races in Kranjska Gora (SLO) will be held without spectators. With the World Cup Final canceled, the season’s final races are this weekend, with Norway’s Alexsander Aamodt Kilde leading with 1,202 points. France’s Alexis Pinturault is second (1,148) and Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) third with 1,041.

Athletics ● Very good news on Monday for U.S. fans and for sprinter-jumper Jarrion Lawson, as the Court of Arbitration for Sport declared him immediately eligible:

“The CAS Panel has set aside the decision rendered by the IAAF Disciplinary Tribunal in May 2019 (the Challenged Decision) and replaced it with a new decision in which Jarrion Lawson is found to have committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV) for which he bears no fault or negligence and for which no period of ineligibility shall be imposed on him.”

Lawson tested positive for steroids in June 2018, and was banned for four years beginning in May 2019. However, the arbitration panel found that he had ingested contaminated beef on the night before the test and found that no “bore no fault or negligence.”

Lawson, 25, won the 100 m, 200 m and long jump for Arkansas at the 2016 NCAA Championships, a triple only accomplished previously by Jesse Owens of Ohio State in 1936. He was fourth at the Rio Games in a long jump and won a Worlds silver medal in 2017.

Figure Skating ● The International Skating Union cancelled the World Figure Skating Championships scheduled for 16-22 March in Montreal (CAN). The ISU announcement noted in detail:

“Considering the current uncertain developments surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic, a rescheduling and/or relocation of the above-mentioned Championships within the current season, even if the season would be extended by several weeks after its normal end in early April, cannot be reasonably considered. During the coming weeks, the ISU will evaluate in cooperation with all stakeholders whether the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2020 could possibly be held later in the year, but in any case not before October 2020. Before taking a final decision, the ISU will remain in close contact with Skate Canada and ISU Members.”

Football ● The U.S. Women’s National Team wrapped up a SheBelieves Cup tournament victory on Wednesday night with a 3-1 victory over Japan in Frisco, Texas. Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press scored in the first half and although Mana Iwabuchi cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 58th minute, Lindsey Horan scored in the 83rd minute to ice the game and the tournament title.

The Japanese were the only team to score on the U.S. during the three games and had the edge in possession (55%) and shots-on-goal by 11-7. But the American women are now unbeaten in their last 31 games.

Coupled with Spain’s 1-0 win over England, the final standings saw the U.S. with a perfect 3-0 mark, followed by Spain (2-1), England at 1-2 and Japan at 0-3. The U.S. women are next scheduled to face Australia on 10 April in Sandy, Utah and Brazil on 14 April in San Jose, California.

U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro released a statement during the final minutes of the USA-Japan game that was read on the air on ESPN, apologizing for a court filing earlier this week which argued that the men’s and women’s teams have “materially different jobs” that would preclude a discrimination case under U.S. law due to physical differences, abusive fans in men’s games and other items. The filing sparked public outrage, including multiple USSF sponsors, some of whom requested meetings with the federation.

Cordeiro’s statement read in part:

“On behalf of U.S. Soccer, I sincerely apologize for the offense and pain caused by language in this week’s court filing, which did not reflect the values of our federation or our tremendous admiration of our women’s national team.”

He further noted that the highly-respected national firm of Latham & Watkins will be more deeply involved in the federation’s defense of the suit, which is scheduled to begin in Los Angeles on 5 May.

Will this impact the outcome of the suit? Not very likely, as there are many other more important issues in the case, notably that the women are operating under a collective-bargaining agreement that runs through 2021 which created a different compensation structure than the U.S. Men’s National Team. But somebody is going to lose their job over this.

Gymnastics ● There were new developments in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court case between the Nassar abuse survivors and USA Gymnastics (and others), including a new request for damages outside of the liability insurance offer now pending.

On Monday (9th), the request of the Survivors Committee to hire an outside financial advisor to determine how much money could be taken from the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and still allow it to operate was denied by the Court. No further orders were entered.

On Wednesday, a request was made to amend a class-action claim headed by survivor Marcia Frederick Blanchette – the 1978 World Uneven Bars Champion – that might allow some claimants to pursue actions against the Directors & Officers insurance policies held by USA Gymnastics.

These “D&O” policies are described in the request had a limit of $5 million, and none of this amount was factored into the proposed plan being offered to the entire survivors community; in fact, the policy was issued by an as-yet-uninvolved insurer. The filing asks the Court to allow the class-action claim to be restated so that (1) damages would be limited to $150,000 per claimant as provided under statute and that (2) only those who claims which arose after the passage of the federal Safe Sport Act in 2017.

The claim’s chances rest on some technical aspects of the Bankruptcy Code and what the claimants characterize as “easy” logistics. A hearing was requested for late April.

At the BuZZer ● In the midst of a lot of bad news, there was a stunning announcement by the Commonwealth Games Foundation that it has signed Swiss timing company Longines as “Official Partner and Timekeeper” for the 2022-26-30 Commonwealth Games.

This is the first time that a sponsor has signed up for more than one Commonwealth Games, which began back in 1930. Longines was given the designation as “Inaugural Partner of the Commonwealth Sport Movement” and will be the “Presenting Partner” of Athletics, Gymnastics, Rugby Sevens and Table Tennis for each Games.

It’s a significant boost for the Commonwealth Games, which has been one of the most underrated of the “regional” games, but regularly draws some of the world’s top athletes. The next edition is scheduled for Birmingham (ENG) in 2022, with archery and shooting events to take place several months earlier in India.

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