LANE ONE: The top stories coming in 2022? Start with transgenders, U.S. sprinters, the 2030 Winter Games and some problem children

2019 World 100 m Champion Christian Coleman (USA)

(Errata: Our end-of-the-year story on Thursday had Kevin Young’s 1992 world 400 m hurdles mark of 46.78 incorrectly listed at 46.72. Thanks to sharp-eyed reader Brian Russell for first spotting the error.)

The trials and tribulations caused by the coronavirus made 2021 one of the most trying years in Olympic history, but 2022 may be just as turbulent. The first of two parts looking ahead to the top stories forecasted for 2022:

10. Transgender issue in women’s sports may be raised at women’s NCAA swimming champs in March

The NCAA Division I women’s national swimming & diving championships are scheduled for 16-19 March at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic pool at Georgia Tech. Much attention may be focused on an athlete who presents the question of how transgender competitors should be handled.

Will Thomas was a swimmer for three seasons at the University of Pennsylvania, finishing second in the 2019 Ivy League men’s championships in the 500, 1,000 and 1,650-yard Freestyle events. But after more than two years in transition (including hormone suppression), Lia Thomas now competes in the women’s division, and after being a middling male swimmer, goes into 2022 ranked no. 1 in the nation this season in the women’s 200-yard Free and 500-yard Free and no. 6 in the 1,650-yard Free.

Her 2021-22 seasonal times of (so far) 1:41.93 (200 y), 4:34.06 (500 y) and 15:59.71 (1,650 y) are not that close to his career bests in men’s competition of 1:39.31, 4:18.72 and 14:54.76. But her status at or near the top of the national rankings has raised questions.

A long-time USA Swimming competition official resigned over Thomas being able to swim against women, writing in a letter to the federation, “I told my fellow officials that I can no longer participate in a sport which allows biological men to compete against women. Everything fair about swimming is being destroyed. … That’s a male body swimming against females. And that male body can never change. That male body will always be a male body.”

Let’s be clear: Thomas, 22, is not threatening to make the U.S. National Team and USA Swimming has noted that she is not a member of the federation. But the International Olympic Committee issued new guidelines last November concerning transgender and hyperandrogenism issues, with Beijing badminton Olympian and IOC Athletes’ Department director Kaveh Mehrabi (IRI) telling a news conference, “I think it’s a process that we have to go through with each federation on a case-by-case basis and see what is required.”

The other Penn women’s swimmers are reported to have considered a boycott of their final home meet against Dartmouth on 8 January, but will not since it may affect their ability to compete in the Ivy League championship meet.

This issue is not going away and if Thomas competes in Atlanta – she has already qualified in the 200 and 500-yard Freestyles, it will surely be raised again. Some of the International Federations – notably World Athletics – have dealt with this issue concretely, but most have not and with the IOC having retreated from its 2015 guidance – dealing only with testosterone levels – the federations are going to be front and center on this issue, whether they like it or not.

9. Will 2022 be a triumphal return for Christian Coleman and Sha’Carri Richardson?

The 2022 World Athletics Championships will be held in the United States for the first time ever, at the revamped Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. That event could offer a launching pad to superstardom for two of the most enigmatic athletes in Olympic sport in the U.S.: sprinters Christian Coleman and Sha’Carri Richardson.

Coleman was, without doubt, the Tokyo Olympic favorite back in 2019 after winning the World Championships 100 m in a world-leading 9.76, moving him to no. 6 on the all-time world list.

But he was suspended for a doping violation, not because of ingesting any prohibited substances, but for missing three doping tests within a 12-month period ending in December 2019. His appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport was denied and his suspension ran through 14 November 2021. So he’s eligible to compete once again.

Coleman, now 25, was the World Indoor Champion in 2018 and is the world-record holder at 60 m (6.34) from that year. What’s his plan for 2022? The USA Track & Field Indoor Championships are 26-27 February in Spokane, Washington and the World Athletics Indoor Championships are in Belgrade (SRB) from 18-20 March. Will he use the indoor season to announce his return? Will he return to being the world’s fastest man in 2022?

Richardson, still just 21, ran a sensational 10.72 for 100 m to move to no. 6 all-time in April and then famously won the women’s 100 m at the U.S. Olympic Trials last June in 10.86 – after a wind-aided 10.64 in the semis – but was suspended for a month for smoking marijuana after learning of the death of her biological mother. That kept her out of the Tokyo Games, but highlights of her Trials races were seen 11,832,455 times on NBC Sports’ YouTube channel by the end of last June!

She did poorly in two post-Games races, while Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah won both the 100 m and 200 m for the second straight Games, and authored the no. 2, equal-4th and equal-8th performances of all time in 10.54, 10.61 and 10.64 during the season.

Will Richardson shine again in Eugene as she did in early 2021? Will Thompson-Herah break Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 10.49 world mark from 1988 in 2022? Will these sprinters raise the profile of track & field on the road to Los Angeles in 2028?

8. The LA28 sports program will come into better focus in 2022 … maybe

Speaking of the Games of the XXXIV Olympiad in Los Angeles, the program of sports and events for 2028 will continue to shift during 2022 on the way to being settled in 2023 and 2024.

The IOC Executive Board caused a sensation with its 9 December announcement that boxing, weightlifting and modern pentathlon are not included on the “initial sports program” for Los Angeles, but that skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing will be part of the 2028 Games.

The federations for the three “problem children” sports – as IOC chief Thomas Bach (GER) referred to them – have a “pathway” back into the 2028 Games if they reform their governance and other procedures during 2022. The IOC continues to investigate the International Boxing Association on finance, governance and refereeing and judging issues, continues to be upset with the delays in culture and governance changes at the International Weightlifting Federation and is waiting for the UIPM to offer a concrete proposal for the modern pentathlon after its board decided to remove riding after 109 years as an Olympic sport.

Even for the 28 sports on the initial program for 2028, their disciplines and events will be reviewed in detail in 2022 based on evaluation criteria developed with the LA28 organizers that will be posted in March or April. With a hard athlete quota of 10,500, some events or entries may be sacrificed to make way for others.

Further, the IOC has asked the LA28 organizers to develop criteria and milestones by March or April of 2022 for any “added sports” it wishes to see included in the 2028 Games. There are more than a dozen sports asking for inclusion and sorting through them will be a delicate task ahead of approval in mid-2023.

7. A busy and critical year for the U.S. Soccer Federation in 2022

Soccer will be one of the most talked-about sports in the U.S. during 2022, for both on-the-field and off-the-field reasons:

February: Interim President Cindy Parlow Cone, who has been serving out the term of resigned former federation head Carlos Cordeiro, will stand for election on her own in February. She has been credited with lowering the temperature within the USSF, especially with the National Team players – she was a member of two Olympic championship teams – and has been working toward new collective bargaining agreements with both the men’s and women’s teams.

March: The U.S. Men’s National Team, which infamously did not qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, will complete the CONCACAF qualifying round. Heading into 2022, the U.S. men are 4-1-3 in their first eight games (of 14) and well positioned to qualify. But they need to finish the job and place in the top three in the standings to assure playing in the 2022 World Cup.

Much has been made of the increased U.S. talent level, with stars such as Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Miles Robinson, Weston McKennie, keepers Zack Steffen and Matt Turner and many more. But coach Gregg Berhalter needs results, not potential.

March: Arguments are expected at the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for the U.S. Women’s National Team’s appeal of the summary judgement decision against their suit for “equal pay” with the U.S. Men’s Team in March 2020.

April: FIFA is likely to reveal its choices for the venues for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. As many as 16 sites will be used, possibly 10 stadia in the U.S. and three each in Canada and Mexico, but FIFA will decide exactly how it wants to play.

July: The 11th CONCACAF W Championship will be held from 9-24 July, with the top four teams to advance to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The U.S. is an overwhelming favorite to qualify, but the team for 2023 will look different from the 2015 and 2019 World Cup winners, with superstar Carli Lloyd retired and other veterans possibly following.

A busy year indeed, with the FIFA World Cup in Qatar to be held from 21 November-18 December 2022.

6. Salt Lake City poised for selection to host the 2030 Olympic Winter Games

After the success of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, a core team of that organizing committee has been carefully and deliberately working to bring the return of the event to Salt Lake City. That might happen in 2022.

The SLC-Utah Committee for the Games aggressively developed a plan in line with the IOC’s Agenda 2020 – cost-effective, logistically efficient and sustainable – then attracted interest and support at all levels of government in the state, made a detailed outreach to venues and support facilities, and created a budget projected at $2.2 billion.

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee designated Salt Lake City as its bid city for a future Winter Games, and working in coordination with the LA28 organizers to eliminate any issues over having consecutive Games in the U.S., announced on 17 December that it would try for the 2030 Winter Games.

Salt Lake City’s bid is very far advanced, with Sapporo (JPN) also quite detailed, and both well ahead of the planning so far in Spain (Barcelona-Pyrenees), Canada (Vancouver) and in Ukraine, the other publicly-announced candidates.

A three-member delegation from the Salt Lake City team will visit the Beijing Games for a behind-the-scenes look at the current state-of-the-art, but do not be surprised if the IOC announces in the spring that it is entering into a “targeted dialogue” with the Utah folks to have the 2030 Games in Salt Lake City again.

Next: TSX picks for the projected top five stories of 2022.

Rich Perelman

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