(For our Highlights of the weekend’s major competitions, click here)
● Plus: College Sport: NIL threatens to kill everything except football and basketball = Russia: Int’l Paralympic Committee will vote on Russian & Belarusian expulsion = Athletics: Jamaica wants Thompson-Herah’s 10.54 to be the world 100 m record = Ice Hockey: Hungary and Slovenia offer to host 2023 Worlds ●
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 will be one of its best ever, and one of the hardest to pick. Especially among the 15 Olympians on the ballot, only five can be chosen and all 15 are worthy.
OK, one is obvious. That’s Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, with 28 Olympic medals, including 23 golds. Of those 28 medals, he won 16 in individual events, including 13 golds. He’s in.
But after Phelps, it gets harder. There are biographies of the other 14, but let’s break them down much more simply, in alphabetical order:
● Kristen Armstrong (Cycling): Three Olympic golds in the women’s Time Trial, in 2008-12-16, at ages 35, 38 and 42!
● Natalie Coughlin (Swimming): 12 Olympic medals from 2004 (5), 2008 (6) and 2012 (1), including back-to-back 100 m Backstroke golds in 2004-08, 100 m Freestyle bronzes in 2004-08, a 200 m Medley bronze in ‘08 and seven relay medals (1-4-2).
● Shani Davis (Speed Skating): Four Olympic medals, including back-to-back golds in the men’s 1,000 m in 2006-10 and back-to-back silvers in the 1,500 m in 2006-10. He also made the 2014 and 2018 Olympic teams.
● Cammi Granato (Ice Hockey): The captain and one of the star scorers on the women’s teams that won gold in the first Olympic women’s tournament in 1998 and silver in 2002.
● Mia Hamm (Football): One of, if not the greatest scorer in women’s history, she was a key player on the American gold-medal teams in 1996 and 2004, and won silver in 2000. She was also part of two FIFA Women’s World Cup winners in 1991 and 1999.
● Kayla Harrison (Judo): The first American gold medalist in judo – men or women – with back-to-back Olympic titles in 2012-16 at 78 kg. She also won the 2010 World Championship, was the 2011 and 2014 Worlds bronze medalist and twice Pan American Games gold medalist.
● Michelle Kwan (Figure Skating): She won five World Championships golds in 1996-98-2000-01-03 and four other Worlds medals, but won Olympic silver in Nagano in 1998 and bronze in Salt Lake City in 2002.
● Elle Logan (Rowing): Was a key to the American women’s dynasty in the Eights, as a member of the gold-medal-winning teams in 2008-12-16. She was also part of three World Championship teams and even finished fifth in the 2014 Worlds in the Single Sculls!
● Julia Mancuso (Alpine Skiing): Four Olympic medals, including a gold in the Giant Slalom in Turin in 2006, silvers in the Downhill and Combined in 2010 and a 2014 Combined bronze. She won five more Worlds medals (0-2-3) from 2007-13.
● Bode Miller (Alpine Skiing): A five-time Olympian, winning a 2010 gold in the Combined, silvers in the 2002 Giant Slalom and Combined, a silver (Super-G) and bronze (Downhill) in 2010 and a Super-G bronze in 2014. Oh yes, also four Worlds Champs golds in 2003-05!
● John Smith (Wrestling): The definition of domination. From 1987 to 1992, he was the best in the world for all six years, winning four World titles and Olympic golds in 1988 and 1992 at 62 kg. He had a domestic record of 77-3 and an international record of 100-5 and won the Sullivan Award in 1990.
● Dawn Staley (Basketball): Member of gold-medal-winning teams in 1996-2000-2004, an assistant coach for the American gold medalists in 2008 and 2016 and the 2020 Tokyo head coach of yet another gold-medalist team. First-ever Naismith Award winner as a player and coach.
● Brenda Villa (Water Polo): Four-time Olympic medalist, with a gold in 2012, after a silver in 2000, bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008. She was also part of three FINA World Championship teams in 2003-07-09.
● Lindsey Vonn (Alpine Skiing): The 2010 Downhill gold medalist, she also won a bronze in the 2010 Super-G and 2018 Downhill. A four-time Olympian, she won eight World Championships medals, including two golds in 2009 and 82 World Cup victories.
How the @#$% can you make a selection among all these stars?
First of all, the USOPC selectors have to put all of the nominees who don’t make it onto future ballots. Next, let’s try and narrow down the field; beyond Phelps, we have four votes.
Of the 14 beyond Phelps, Armstrong, Coughlin, Logan and Staley won three golds; Logan and Staley were members of large teams and Coughlin won one on a relay. Armstrong was solo and won her last gold at age 42.
She’s got to be in.
In terms of individual golds, Coughlin won two, as did Davis, Harrison and Smith. Those three won back-to-back golds in individual events in speed skating, judo and wrestling. All three won additional individual World Championships to back up their Olympic golds.
Smith was almost unbeatable over six years, winning four World titles and two Olympic golds. He has to be in, especially as there only two other wrestlers.
Two more. There are 17 swimmers and while Coughlin is irresistible, there are no judokas in the Hall to date. Let’s get Harrison in there.
So we have Phelps, Armstrong, Smith and Harrison. Who else?
Granato, Hamm, Mancuso, Miller, Villa and Vonn won one Olympic gold each, and Kwan topped out at silver, so let’s save them for the next class. Who to pick from Coughlin, Davis, Logan and Staley?
This is almost impossible. Staley won three golds in basketball and coached on three more gold winners. Logan was a member of a totally dominant U.S. women’s Eights across three Games. Davis became the only man to ever win back-to-back Olympic titles at 1,000 m, a distinction he still holds. He also set seven world records: two at 1,000 m and five at 1,500 m.
Davis deserves to be in, but it’s hard to argue with six golds, so let’s vote for Staley this time … and Davis the next time.
That’s my vote for the five individual Olympic Hall of Famers: Phelps, Armstrong, Smith, Harrison and Staley.
There are also three choices for a Hall of Fame team – one to be selected – from the 1996 Olympic women’s basketball champs (with Staley), the 1976 women’s 4×100 m Free relay in swimming and the 2010 U.S. Four-Man bobsled gold medalists.
The 1996 women’s team was sensational, but part of a long tradition of American women’s dominance. Steve Holcomb’s sledders won the 2009 World Championship and their 2010 triumph was the first in the event for the U.S. since 1948. But it was the women’s relay win in Montreal which has to be inducted.
At the 1976 Games, the U.S. men won 12 of 13 events in swimming and set world records in 11 of them. But the American women were competing against the chemically-enhanced East Germans, who won 11 events (seven world records) to one for the Soviets and the American 4×100 m Free Relay.
The swimmers were aware of what was going on, with Shirley Babashoff winning silvers in the 200-400-800 m Frees and the 4×100 m Medley. Only in the Free Relay did they finally break through in what has been deemed one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history. Kim Peyton, Wendy Boglioli, Jill Sterkel and Babashoff swam a world-record 3:44.82 to win over silver winner Petra Priemer, three-time gold medalist Kornelia Ender, Claudia Hempel and two-time gold medalist Andrea Pollack. The shame is that, with the East German Stasi files now available to show who was doping at the time, that medals won by the most intense state-sponsored doping program of all have not been reallocated.
Babashoff was inducted in 1987, but her teammates must join her.
Those are my choices; you are free to make your own, but please vote before 16 May here.
There are also selections to be made for three Paralympians (out of nine) and one Paralympic team (out of two); please refer to their biographical sketches for more information.
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
● Covid 5, China 0 ● Bad week for China and sports, as the continuing Covid turmoil caused the postponement of four high-profile events last week.
● The massive XIX Asian Games, scheduled to be held in Hangzhou from 10-25 September, was postponed for the first time ever on Friday. The Olympic Council of Asia statement noted the “decision was taken by all the stakeholders after carefully considering the pandemic situation and the size of the Games” and will be held on dates to be announced in 2023. In addition:
“[T]he OCA [Executive Board] also studied the situation of the 3rd Asian Youth Games, which was scheduled on 20-28 December this year in Shantou, China. After discussion with the [Chinese Olympic Committee] and the Organising Committee, the OCA EB decided that as the Asian Youth Games had already been postponed once, the Asian Youth Games Shantou 2021 will be cancelled. The next Asian Youth Games will therefore be held in 2025 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.”
● The World University Games in Chengdu, originally scheduled for 2021, was postponed for second time to 2023. This event was ready to be held from 26 June to 7 July, but was also derailed on Friday. Said FISU President Leonz Eder (AUT):
“The decision to reschedule Chengdu 2021 is not one that was made easily, but it is the right decision for university athletes. Their welfare is always our number one priority. Continued uncertainty over conditions has made rescheduling the sensible choice [as] a number of National University Sports Federations had already changed their plans.”
● The Wanda Diamond League in track & field was scheduled to host two meets in China following the World Championships in Eugene: in Shanghai on 30 July and Shenzhen on 6 August.
Both are cancelled, and the Kamila Skolimowska Memorial in Chorzow (POL) will be elevated from Continental Tour Gold status to replace the Shenzhen meet on 6 August (moved up from 4 September) and will soak up most of the events from both meets.
These will likely not be the last events in China to be rearranged or cancelled as the country continues its struggle with the virus amid its zero-tolerance policy.
● Collegiate Sport ● University of Arizona athletics director Dave Heeke told the Arizona Daily Star what everyone else has said privately.
If the flood of cash to players for name, image and likeness at major university football and men’s basketball programs continues unchecked as it is now:
“It would really erode our overall Olympic programs or we’d have to be completely restructured.
“If that train really goes down, if you really take NILs and everything to the extreme, there is not room for all these other programs beyond football and basketball. There just isn’t.”
Just so we’re clear, this is where we’re heading unless something changes soon.
● Russia ● The head of the International Paralympic Committee, Andrew Parsons (BRA) told the Inside The Games site:
“We are going to call an Extraordinary General Assembly which will probably take place around November together with our membership gathering where we will put forward two questions for the membership to decide. …
“First of all, is [whether] we should include that respecting the Olympic Trust is a membership obligation because at the moment it is not. This is why we as a Board could not suspend Russia and Belarus as our first decision. If the membership says ‘Yes’ to that then in a similar situation in the future we can suspend them.
“The second decision is [whether] the membership wants to suspend or terminate the membership of the National Paralympic Committees of Russia and Belarus. The General Assembly can suspend them and terminate their membership for these reasons whereas we, as a Board, can only spend suspend them if they breach a membership obligation.”
● Athletics ● Jamaica’s double-double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Herah stunned the world with not only her Tokyo heroics, but her sensational 10.54 victory at the 2021 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene last August.
Now, Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association President Garth Gayle is lobbying for that mark to be recognized as the world record and have the fabled 10.49 by American Florence Griffith-Joyner from the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials invalidated.
Many observers who were in Indianapolis swear that the 10.49 quarterfinal was wind-aided, but the reading was 0.0 m/s, essentially meaning a crosswind was blowing during the race.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe (GBR) was asked about this:
“We may all have our own views about the era in which some of these records were set but I think legally, and with structures like the Court of Arbitration for Sport where things get challenged, this is not easy territory. But, let us just celebrate those extraordinary performances that are beginning to get quite close to some of these records that we’re talking about.”
In other words, forget it. And with the 2022 World Championships at the same stadium where Thompson-Herah ran 10.54, maybe she’ll take care of it on her own.
● Ice Hockey ● The International Ice Hockey Federation announced that a joint bid by Hungary and Slovenia have offer a joint bid to replace St. Petersburg (RUS) as host of the 2023 men’s World Championship.
The proposed sites would be the new MVM Dome in Budapest (19,182 capacity) for most of the games, including the semis and the medal matches. Some of the group-stage and quarterfinal games would be at the Arena Stozice (10,500) in Ljubljana. The dates would remain at 5-21 May 2023.
Both potential hosts have just been promoted to the World Championship level, and wanted to take the opportunity to host now.
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