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● Plus: Beijing 2022: Chinese government spent $300,000 on social-media influencer campaign, including U.S. Paralympian Long = Olympic Winter Games 2030: Vancouver City Council kills motion for referendum on bid = Athletics: Houlihan replies to Stafford exit from Bowerman TC; Kenyan Chepkirui’s doping ban confirmed = Bobsled: German Olympic champ Jamanka retires at 31 = Modern Pentathlon: Athlete group complains about new format = Sport Climbing: Olympic champ Garnbret to take time off = Weightlifting: IWF Athletes Comm. head Davies suspended by British federation = Wrestling: Two-time Worlds medalist Green to coach U.S. elites = SCOREBOARD/Football: U.S. women shut down Uzbekistan, 9-0 ●
Key status updates on the urgent stories in Olympic sport:
≡ SPOTLIGHT ≡
In a guest editorial on SwimSwam.com, Rick Paine, the Director of Swimming at the American College Connection recruiting service, suggests that “As if getting recruited isn’t tough enough it is about to get a whole lot tougher.”
His prediction is that universities, operating in the aftermath of rule changes occasioned by the 2021 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Alston vs. NCAA (141 S. Ct. 2141), will follow the lead of the University of Texas and begin paying athletes the allowed-amount of “academic-achievement awards” of $5,980 per year in two payments tied to semesters. Wrote Paine:
“A couple of months ago, the University of Texas announced that they were going to provide a $6,000 (approximate) stipend per year to every student-athlete at the school. This affects all student-athletes, including Walk-Ons.
“Since Texas is doing this, the other D-I programs that want to compete with Texas will have to follow suit. Texas has just under 700 student-athletes at the school so we are talking about an extra $4,000,000+ that the school has to come up with each year.”
His prediction is that in order to meet budget constraints, schools will begin reducing roster sizes on all teams, men and women. In Division I, the scholarship limits include:
● FBS Football: 85
● Men/Basketball: 13
● Women/Basketball: 15
● Women/Gymnastics: 12
● Women/Tennis: 8
● Women/Volleyball: 12
These sports can only offer scholarships to the stated number of athletes. Other sports have limited on the total number of scholarships, but these can be split up as much as desired. Swimming and diving scholarships limits are 9.9 for men and 14 for women (track & field has 12.6 for men and 18 for women).
So, athletes who might want to walk-on at a school to benefit from the coaching and facilities there will be turned away, sending them to scholarships at other schools and moving other recruits down the line to smaller schools, and to lower divisions, which have fewer scholarship opportunities.
The result: the big football schools – with the money to spend – will be the first ones in line to pay these bonuses, and reap the rewards. ESPN reported last week that 22 of the 130 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision schools have decided to pay these bonuses; by conference:
● Big East (1): Connecticut (for basketball only)
● ACC (3): Clemson, Miami, North Carolina
● Big 10 (1): Wisconsin
● Big 12 (5): Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech
● Pac-12 (3): Colorado, Oregon, Washington
● SEC (9): Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee
Connecticut, which is limiting its initial payment plan to men’s and women’s basketball only, is the only school not in a major football conference to commit to these bonuses.
Twenty other schools told ESPN they planned to pay these bonuses as soon as the 2022-23 academic year.
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
● Games of the XXXIII Olympiad: Paris 2024 ● Sunday’s French elections for President ended with incumbent Emmanuel Macron (En Marche!; liberal) leading the returns with 27.84% of the vote among 12 candidates. He will face right-wing (and third-time) candidate Marine Le Pen (National Rally; conservative) in a re-match of the 2017 election on 24 April; she received 23.15% of the vote.
Almost 74% of eligible voters turned out. Among the losers was Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo (Socialist), who received 1.75% of the vote.
Macron defeated Le Pen by 66.1-33.9% in 2017, but the re-run is expected to be much closer. Le Pen runs on a nationalist platform, while Macron is pro-European and has been active in diplomacy with Russia, trying to end its invasion of Ukraine.
Should Le Pen win, questions will immediately arise about the government’s enthusiasm for the 2024 Paris Games. A second term for Macron will continue the national government’s support of the Games.
● XXVI Olympic Winter Games: 2030 ● A Vancouver City Council motion to compel a referendum on the area’s bid for the 2030 Games died for lack of a second from any other Council member on Tuesday.
City Council member Colleen Hardwick introduced the motion to include a vote on the bid on the 15 October ballot. Questions had been raised about whether such a vote would counter the agreement with First Nations leaders, who are to lead the bid effort, and Hardwick said she had not conferred with the First Nations leadership concerning her motion.
Hardwick is running for Mayor this fall against incumbent Kennedy Stewart, who has said the proposed vote does not square with the understanding made with the First Nations.
● Athletics ● The decision of Canadian distance star Gabriela DeBues-Stafford to leave the Bowerman Track Club due to the impact of U.S. star Shelby Houlihan’s doping positive in 2021 was responded to by Houlihan on Tuesday. In part:
“I never wanted to have a negative impact on anyone in my decision to continue training and it hurts that I’m finding out that I did. Running and working out have always been a source of joy and happiness for me as well as a coping mechanism. My legal team and I have been very deliberate and intentional in contacting the [Athletics Integrity Unit] and other governing bodies to figure out how I can continue to run and train for my own mental health in a way that is also abiding by and respecting the rules put in place. …
“I do wish Gabriela the best with her transition and moving forward. I hope she found a training environment that’s positive and brings her happiness.”
Houlihan added that she is continuing to pursue a long-shot appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal of her four-year ban confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last August.
Kenya’s 2014 Commonwealth Games women’s 10,000 m gold medalist Joyce Chepkirui has had her doping ban confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The BBC reported that she has been suspended since June 2019 for abnormalities in blood samples in 2016 and 2017 that indicated likely “blood manipulation.” Her results from April 2016 to August 2017 have been annulled – this included a third in the 2016 Boston Marathon – and her four-year ban will continue into June 2023.
● Bobsled & Skeleton ● Germany’s 2018 Olympic women’s bobsled champ, Mariama Jamanka, 31, announced her retirement on her Instagram page on Wednesday, including (computer translation from the original German):
“After a little over a decade, it’s time for me to say goodbye to competitive sports. It was a wonderful time with incredibly great and interesting people, some of whom have also become friends for life.
“Bobsledding has given me a lot to experience and I’ve learned a lot about myself. There were highs I never expected, but also many lows that were probably worse than most can imagine. It wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it. If someone had told me at the beginning of my journey where I would end up, I probably would have laughed at them.”
Originally a discus and hammer thrower, she was a near-instant success when she took to driving in 2015. She won World Championships golds in the two-women sled in 2017 and 2019, a gold in PyeongChang in 2018 and a silver in Beijing in 2022.
● Football ● Sometimes, it’s personal.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino, born in Switzerland of Italian parents, has had plenty of criticism as the head of the federation. But his recent comments during an appearance in Florence (ITA) – “Fiorentina won, Juve lost, it’s the perfect day to be here” – was too much for some Juventus fans.
FootballItalia reported that during last Saturday’s match against Cagliari:
“Juventus fans briefly held up a banner which read ‘Infantino clown’ nine minutes into their Serie A match against Cagliari on Saturday, with insulting chants complimenting the message.”
The club was fined €2,000 (~$2,175) by the league.
● Modern Pentathlon ● The PentUnited athletes group has revved up their online presence from social media to the Web and published an April newsletter, this time slamming the UIPM’s implementation of a new qualifying, semifinal and final format for Paris 2024.
This format continues to include riding, but only for the final. It was introduced in February in a Budapest indoor pentathlon, and then at the first World Cup in Cairo in March. The PentUnited view:
“From a large number of athletes, we heard clear that the new format, with a qualification, semifinal and final, was very difficult. It was a challenge to perform at the same standard throughout all three competitions [over] just 4 days.
“The format was also found to be incredibly challenging for the officials. The judges had to rush from one place to another – putting them under real physical stress. Istvan Gallai, Secretary General of the Hungarian federation, reported that ‘this form of competition is more difficult than the inventors thought, not only for athletes but officials as well.’ The Hungarian pentathlon federation is one of the most experienced and well-resourced pentathlon nations in the world, and they openly said that they struggled to cope with the format.”
As for the Cairo World Cup:
“[T]he competition was well organised, and it was the first chance for athletes to really get a feel for the new format with back to back events in the semis and finals.
“However, while the UIPM promised that the 90-minute format would be shorter, simpler and easier to understand, it turned out to be the opposite. It was complicated enough for the athletes to understand the multiple layers of the new format, let alone new viewers. As one athlete reported, ‘I don’t think it increases the attractiveness of pentathlon. It’s even harder for a person to even understand how everything works.’
“The idea that this format is unnecessarily complicated is not a new suggestion, but it is a worry – especially at a time when the IOC have told the UIPM that they must improve their audience size.”
As for riding only being in the final:
“[I]t was clear to see the problems of the new format, and that the UIPM continues to badly mismanage the riding and ignores both athlete safety and horse welfare. The fact that only athletes who reach the final, the top 18, are given the chance to ride, means that the format qualifies the best tetrathletes for the final and not pentathletes. None of the finalists are tested on their equestrian skills leading up to the final.
“Several riders were allowed to compete who, according to riding experts, immediately did not look safe, and should have been prevented from entering the competition arena.”
The next World Cup comes at the end of April, once again in Budapest. The newsletter also noted their view of responsibility for the future of the sport: “Our current UIPM leadership is a failure, but it is the National Federations (NFs) who are to blame. The NFs acquiesce with the UIPM leadership and leave them in place.”
The UIPM announced at the beginning of April:
“The [5th Discipline Working Group] will have a physical meeting during the UIPM 2022 Pentathlon World Cup Budapest in the last week of April to make its final decision of the discipline to be tested, in order to start more detailed competition rules and format study within Q2. It will then report to UIPM Executive Board about the outcomes of its working phases.
“A further announcement which will cover the selection results as well as the next steps, including the new discipline tests will be made on May 3 following the UIPM Executive Board Meeting which will take place on May 2 in the Hungarian capital.”
● Sport Climbing ● Slovenia’s Olympic champ Janja Garnbret was a decisive winner at the IFSC World Cup in Bouldering last week in Meiringen (SUI), taking her 32nd career World Cup medal at age 23.
But, as she said afterwards, she is not taking the win for granted:
“Today’s win was a privilege. It means a lot to me because it’s not obvious that you will win every competition – each competition is a story in itself. Just because you won everything last year doesn’t mean that you can next year, so every win means a lot to me. That’s why I was so emotional.
“I’ve decided to skip the [rest of the] Boulder season this year. The Olympics last year were a pretty hard take on physical and mental preparation, so I feel that I need a little time off from comps and this year is the perfect year to do that. I already have Paris  in mind.”
● Weightlifting ● British lifter Sarah Davies, head of the International Weightlifting Federation’s Athletes Commission and a vocal critic of the IWF’s corruption and doping scandals, was suspended for three months by British Weightlifting.
She was sanctioned for “making comments of a discriminatory nature against a fellow athlete,” in contravention of the federation’s Code of Conduct. She will be out of competition for three months, and wrote in a social-media post:
“Having worked hard for the last 18months to better the international landscape of our sport it deeply saddens me that I have had to step down from my position on the Athletes Commission. In that time I have stood for what is right for our sport and fought to keep our sport in the Olympic movement, built strong relations with the IOC and made significant change within the organisation, including having the athlete voice recognised, stepping down from this position has been the hardest part of the sanction.”
Davies was fifth in the women’s 64 kg class at the Tokyo Games and won a silver medal at 71 kg at the 2021 World Championships.
● Wrestling ● USA Wrestling announced that two-time Worlds medalist James Green will become the federation’s National Freestyle Developmental Coach.
He will immediately put his experience to use with the U.S.’s elite age-group Freestyle wrestlers, and directly manage the Elite Accelerated Program at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
A savvy competitor, Green, 29, won the Worlds bronze medal at 70 kg in 2015 and the silver in 2017, his best finishes in six appearances on the national team. He won two Pan American Championships, two national titles and was a four-time All-American at 157 lbs. for Nebraska from 2012-15. Said Green:
“The opportunity presented itself, and I was looking at college coaching and my career path. It is a great opportunity to be on board with Team USA. I will be working with the next generation, getting them ready to bring home medals for our country. We are at the tip of the iceberg with these young athletes, I believe I have a lot to offer on the coaching side. It is something I feel that I have been called to do.”
≡ SCOREBOARD ≡
● Football ● The storyline of Tuesday’s second U.S. women’s match against Uzbekistan became clear just 25 seconds into the game, as a Rose Lavelle cross from the right side deflected off Uzbek defender Kamila Zaripova for an own goal and a 1-0 U.S. lead.
The American women scored five more times during the first half, with goals from Catarina Macario in the 12th minute and two minutes into stoppage time, Mallory Pugh in the 14th and Lavelle in the 25th (on a rebound) and 27th minutes, before 13,373 at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.
With a 6-0 lead, the second half started slower, with the ball continuously in the Uzbek end, but with the U.S. missing multiple chances. But Tiffany Rodman got her first international goal for the U.S. in the 71st minute on a right-footed strike from the right side that glided past substitute keeper Laylo Tilolova, to get to 7-0.
Midge Purce got her third career goal in the 85th minute on a free kick that ended up flying around in front of the net; it landed at her feet and she didn’t miss, for an 8-0 lead. Ashley Sanchez got the final goal, off a strike from the left side that went over the head of Tilolova for the 9-0 final.
The U.S. had 67% of the possession and out-shot Uzbekistan, 38-0. U.S. keeper Aubrey Bledsoe got the easiest shutout of her career. The U.S. women are off until June, for additional friendlies.
For our updated, 620-event International Sports Calendar for 2022 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!