PANORAMA: IOC creates “Road to Paris” qualifiers promotion; Michael Johnson on the future of T&F; Biles and 90 others ask FBI for $1 billion

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Plus: Los Angeles 2028: Sambo on the program? = Winter Games 2030: Gu joins Salt Lake City bid as ambassador = Athletics: Lasitskene bitter over Russia’s ban from competitions; skating star Trusova might try track! = Football: FIFA’s Blatter and UEFA’s Platini on trial in Switzerland = Skating: Russians unimpressed with ISU’s raise in minimum age = Swimming: Russia’s Popov says sanctions won’t last much longer = Volleyball: Arrest made in theft of Poulter’s Tokyo gold = SCOREBOARD => Athletics: Strong marks in Wednesday’s NCAA men’s semis = Cycling: Van Aert leads Criterium du Dauphine halfway through; Wiebes claims second straight win in Women’s Tour = Fencing: U.S. tops PanAm Champs medal table = Wrestling: Stars Burroughs and Maroulis head Final X winners in NYC = COMING: Look for coverage of Thursday’s Rome Diamond League meet after its conclusion at! ●

Key status updates on the urgent stories in Olympic sport:


During the opening reports of Wednesday’s General Assembly of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, Executive Director Andrew Ryan (GBR) noted a concern of the membership:

“There’s been mention made of the Olympic Urban Series and the Olympic Virtual Series and they’re good examples, that they raise concerns amongst the federations about the IOC moving from being the single rights-holder to the Olympic Games to start to become the primary rights-holder for individual qualifying competitions for certain IFs and certain sports. We’re also aware that that has raised concerns amongst, let’s say, the sports that have chosen, or have not been invited, or not been part of that because they see this as a trend.”

This question and the expanding role of the International Olympic Committee was explained and explored during an hour-long presentation by IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell (NZL). He had answers to a lot of questions that the federations wanted to ask.

Is the IOC’s new initiative in creating qualifying events in 2024 for Breaking, BMX Freestyle, Skateboarding and Sport Climbing, step one to an IOC takeover of the qualifying process for the Games? Not exactly.

“[ASOIF President] Francesco [Ricci Bitti (ITA)] and Andrew have also talked about the Olympic Urban Series or the Olympic Qualifier Series as it’s now known. This has been built on the back of this goal of promoting the Olympic qualification towards Paris.

“Again, we’re not looking to take over Olympic qualification processes. Those are your properties, let’s be very clear about that.

“What we have done with the Olympic Urban Series and the Olympic Qualifier Series is seize again an opportunity where we had new disciplines coming into the Olympic program, new sports coming into the Olympic program where the calendars of events were still developing, where the federations did need financial support and so we brought together four sports and disciplines that are on the program for Paris and brought those together and planned three stops – three stops only in terms of series – as a pilot in the first half of 2024.”

What McConnell was selling was a different IOC program designed to raise the profile of the qualification phase of the sports to be contested in Paris in 2024:

“How can we seize the opportunity that the Olympic qualification processes give us? There are thousands of events, there are tens of thousands if not a hundred thousand of your athletes that are participating in a pathway to Paris. Now, only a small number of them ultimately become Olympians, but they’re all on an Olympic journey. And you are delivering those events and we want to find ways of adding benefits and value to that process for you, for the hosts of your events, the athletes themselves and to everyone involved.”

● “What we’re looking to do is … to make a wider promotion with you around the qualifiers themselves, for everyone’s benefit. … We’re looking to build around the theme of the ‘Road to Paris 2024′ in terms of the Olympic qualifiers over a two-year period, starting this month and have two versions of a brand that we can offer you. The two versions, obviously, one with the Rings, which has more value, but on the other hand has more restrictions, and another version without the Rings, which we believe we can adapt into most of the circumstances that you have, including those with commercial associations different to our commercial partners.”

“What this is not is the IOC mandating you to use an Olympic brand around your own events. It’s an opportunity, it’s not compulsory and it’s not mandatory. We want to be very clear on that.”

● “And hopefully that will add value back to you, again with an Olympic association on top of all of your communications. And it certainly adds value to us, because as you can imagine, we have a huge peak around interest on our own platforms around the Games, but then – naturally – a huge drop-off afterwards, because people are looking for fresh content, and what we have is content that is Olympic, content that is your sports, and it’s about sport, and it’s about athletes, and it’s about fresh content related to events every single week between now and the Games in Paris.”

It’s an interesting program; let’s see how many federations buy in. McConnell was also peppered with questions about the situation with Russia and Belarus as Olympic qualifying begins in earnest this year.

“I think I won’t be able to give you a definitive answer; you won’t be surprised by that. I think it is too early to make a decision regarding Paris 2024 and as I think we’ve all found, setting deadlines now for a final decision becomes quite dangerous, because that becomes the focal point rather then the actual situation. We know as time goes by, it becomes more challenging in terms of the qualification process, but equally, it’s very hard for us to set a timeline when no one is in control of what’s happening on the ground there.”

The qualifying questions extended to multi-sport Games, and on this, ASOIF chief Ricci Bitti was very clear about his view of whose events should be used to qualify for the Olympic Games:

“On the multi-sport Games, I believe we spend too much time for what we can get through this. The idea, and the culture of our counterpart, basically the people organizing continental Games is very far from our mentality. …

“They want the continental Games being valid for [Olympic] qualification, but is not feasible, because as soon as you say, ‘what do you give us in exchange,’ and they never were available in my time [with them] to give even a recognition to the effort that they ask the International Federations in any way. Because they ask to support these Games and they only want the good of the Games, the cream. So it is, to me, very difficult item, I would not be very optimistic and I would limit the time spent on this particular method of return-on-investment.

“I have nothing against [multi-sport Games]; I am also an NOC person, as all of us, but I believe these people, the regional NOC organizations are a little bit dreaming.”

The Olympic Council of Asia (Asian Games), PanAm Sports (Pan American Games), Commonwealth Games Foundation and others will not be happy to hear this, but at least they know where they stand with ASOIF. That’s being transparent, right?


● Games of the XXXIV Olympiad: Los Angeles 2028 ● Russia may be persona non grata in international sport, but the Russian-favored wrestling style of Sambo is working toward being added to the LA28 sports program.

According to International Sambo Federation President Vasily Shestakov (RUS):

As you know, Sambo was recognized by the International Olympic Committee at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Today we are negotiating with the organizing committee of Los Angeles. They are interested in our proposal.

“Perhaps we will consider Combat Sambo there, because such organizations as [Ultimate Fighting Championship], Bellator, are very popular there, and mainly Combat Sambo wrestlers perform there. Combat Sambo is one of those disciplines that can be interesting.”


● XXVI Olympic Winter Games: 2030 ● The Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games announced Wednesday that Beijing 2022 double gold medalist Eileen Gu – who was born in San Francisco but competes for China – will be a “global ambassador” for the Salt Lake City bid.

Gu was one of the stars of the 2022 Winter Games, winning the Freestyle Big Air and Halfpipe and scoring a silver medal in Slopestyle. As to her nationality, she has said, “When I’m in the U.S., I’m American, but when I’m in China, I’m Chinese.”

Said bid chief executive Fraser Bullock, “Our bid for 2030 or 2034 will focus on using our Games as a catalyst to energize winter sport worldwide. Eileen has been effectively aligned and engaged in this same vision. As a global ambassador, she can carry that message to millions worldwide.”

● Athletics ● Atlanta 1996 immortal Michael Johnson (USA) joined the debate on Twitter on track & Field in the U.S., posting on Tuesday:

Track & Field spreads limited resources too thin. Maintains amateurism.

“Wimbledon: $35m prize money. 250 athletes. Tournament does not cover athlete expenses.

“T&F World Champs $8.5m prize money. 1,772 athletes. WA covers athlete accommodations and meals and partial flight.”

And from last week:

“1/7 I asked what sport represents a successful example of what track & field could be or should be. In the thread below I have listed my response to some of the replies, and end with my opinion what the sport needs to achieve it’s potential.

“2/7 F1. Liberty Media conducted extensive research to develop a long term growth strategy that is still in process. This is critical to long term success in track. Drive to Survive helped an already popular sport. A similar series would only help T&F if part of a larger strategy.

3/7 Cricket. Created new formats departing from the traditional. Not popular with purists, but it has grown the sport tremendously. Many charged with growing T&F are purists, or afraid of purist fans and athletes. Creating a fear of radical change to an antiquated sport.

“4/7 Tennis/Golf. Individual sports, most comparable to track. 4 ‘Majors’ every year serve as the pinnacle. T&F calendar is confusing & crowded. Olympics, World Champs, 14 Diamond League events. All presented as major, but Olympics is ‘The Major’, and not controlled by the sport.

“5/7 Team sports. Make T&F a team sport. Sports fans identify with teams. NFL, NBA, EPL, etc. To successfully transition to a team sport or add a team element requires a well orchestrated approach that won’t create more confusion with athletes sometimes team and sometimes not.

“6/7 @ByTimLayden said ‘I don’t think there’s another sport….with the breath of events and skill sets of T&F. Which is its greatest strength and biggest challenge.’ He’s right. And why the solution isn’t simple quick fixes, or relying on Usain Bolt, or emulating another sport.

“7/7 The solution in my opinion requires:
“1) research what it takes to attract new fans
“2) develop creative solutions based on the findings
“3) commit long term to a strategy for success
“The many replies confirmed the problem is bigger than any one simple solution or quick fix.”

Hard times for Olympic high jump champ Mariya Lasitskene (RUS), who has cleared 1.94 m (6-4 1/4) in domestic meets this season. Previously outspoken on Russia’s continuing suspension by World Athletics, she told the Russian news agency TASS:

“I don’t follow what is happening inside the federation now. I used to pay a lot of attention to the inner life in athletics, but now very little. I try to occupy my head with pleasant thoughts, which is very difficult.

“When will enough be enough? I ask myself this question and tell myself that I have become too embittered.

“You can’t be like that, but it happened over the years. This topic is very difficult for me. I would like it all to be in 2016, 2017, in the fall of 2019, when we were once again condemned, and we were sitting, not understanding what will happen. Now I’m going into the negative, and it’s all difficult for me.”

Remember the tantrum thrown by Beijing Olympic figure skating silver medalist Alexandra Trusova after the end of her competition? That she hated skating?

Turns out the 17-year-old might be considering track & field. She is apparently entered in the Athletics Week meet in Moscow continuing through the 13th, trying the long jump and possibly the 100 m!

Said Russian federation head Irina Privalova: “This is a very good idea to popularize athletics. Maybe this will help Sasha Trusova as well.”

● Football ● The trial of former FIFA President Sepp Blatter (SUI) and former UEFA President and French star Michel Platini is underway in a Swiss court, with both men loudly proclaiming their innocence.

Reuters reported: “Swiss prosecutors accuse the pair, once among the game’s most powerful figures, of unlawfully arranging a payment of two million Swiss francs ($2.08 million) in 2011 from FIFA to Platini.”

The Swiss Office of the Attorney General filed this case as one of 25 involving corruption in football. Blatter, 86, was charged with fraud, misappropriation of funds, criminal mismanagement and forgery. Platini, 66, has also been accused of fraud, misappropriation, being an accomplice to criminal mismanagement and forgery.

The case is scheduled to conclude on 22 June, with verdicts due by 8 July. Jail terms are possible for both.

● Gymnastics ● A massive group or more than 90 former gymnasts made filings against the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for botching the Larry Nassar investigation, allowing his abuse to continue for more than a year.

CNN reported that “Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, claimants are required to give notice to the federal agency before a lawsuit is filed in federal court. The agency then has six months to either reach a settlement or deny the claim before the lawsuit can be brought.”

The total prayers for damages totaled more than $1 billion, with Olympic and World Championships stars Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols asking for $50 million each; gymnasts Kaylee Lorincz and Hannah Morrow each asked for $42.5 million and most of the claimants asking for $10 million each.

But it will be months before anything happens.

● Skating ● TASS reports that the Russian view of the International Skating Union’s raising of the minimum age for elite-level competitions is unimpressive at most.

Sochi 2014 Olympic Pairs champion Maxim Trankov told the news service:

“I wouldn’t raise anything at all. I’m not interested in looking at those women who are being promoted by everyone, at their performances. They were never interesting to watch, and it became interesting only after our girls began to jump quads. Women have always been the most uninteresting before that. It’s a fact. Watching people for 20 years collect five triple jumps, I’m tired. Watching how they struggle with triples.”

Dmitry Svishchev, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports said:

“The decision of the ISU is aimed primarily at Russian athletes. Our school is the strongest in the world, and it is clear that many do not like it. But I am sure that our athletes and coaches, those with the highest qualifications will adapt to the new rules. I have no doubt that Russian figure skating will remain in the same high positions.”

And coach Tatyana Tarasova told TASS that figure skating without Russia is nothing:

“Our athletes are protected by their country, we show our honor, our professional qualities at competitions, collecting all the medals. The best protection for athletes is the opportunity to participate in competitions. ISU is not their grandparents, although they themselves are aged. So it is necessary to protect figure skating as such, because without our country it will not exist.”

Russian skaters remain banned under an emergency ISU Council decision.

● Swimming ● Russian Alexander Popov won Olympic golds in the 50 m and 100 m Freestyles in Barcelona ‘92 and Atlanta ‘96, and nine total medals. He thinks it won’t be long before Russians compete again on the international stage. TASS reported:

“Popov is sure that such bans will be short-lived, since the organizers of competitions in various sports suffer material losses due to the absence of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the tournaments. ‘Unfortunately, the postulate that sport is out of politics has lost its force,’ he said. ‘We are waiting for common sense to prevail. I am more than sure that this is short-lived. Have you watched the men’s World Ice Hockey Championship? Instantly.”

● Volleyball ● Anaheim Police made an arrest in the theft of U.S. Olympic volleyball setter Jordyn Poulter, but her Tokyo 2020 gold medal was not recovered.

The Los Angeles Times reportedJordan Fernandez, a 31-year-old Anaheim resident, was arrested Friday, jail records show. He was charged Tuesday with first-degree residential burglary, second-degree vehicle burglary, felony identity theft and felony possession of narcotics, according to the Anaheim Police Department.”

The theft was apparently made on 25 May and Poulter is offering a $1,000 reward for its safe return.


● Athletics ● /Updated/The NCAA Track & Field Championships started Wednesday at Hayward Field in Eugene, with the men’s semifinals of most of the track races and a few finals.

In the sprints, Oregon’s Micah Williams had the fastest semifinal time at 10.03 and Javonte Harding of North Carolina A&T smoked the 200 m in 19.96, moving to no. 8 on the 2022 world list. Defending champ Joseph Fahnbulleh (Florida/LBR) won semi three at 20.10. (Update: Harding was later disqualified; thanks to ATFS Treasurer Tom Casacky for the follow-up.)

Three men went under 45 in the 400 m, led by a lifetime best for Champion Allison of Florida in 44.29, no. 6 for 2022. He finished just ahead of defending champion Randolph Ross of North Carolina A&T (44.43) and Jonathan Jones (Texas/BAR: 44.97).

World leader Moad Zahafi (Texas Tech/MAR) qualified for the 800 m final with a breezy 1:46.66 to win semi two. Florida State’s Trey Cunningham, the world leader in the 110 m hurdles, won his semi and led all qualifiers at 13.21.

The most noteworthy field-event final was the men’s shot, where Texas’ Adrian Piperi won his second career NCAA outdoor title at 21.52 m (70-7 1/4).

The women’s semis are Thursday.

● Cycling ● The fourth stage of the 74th Criterium du Dauphine in France was an Individual Time Trial on a flat, 31.9 km course. No surprise then that 2020 and 2021 World Time Trial Champion Filippo Ganna (ITA) was the winner, in 35:32.

More important for the overall race standings was Belgian Wout van Aert, who finished second in the Time Trial (35:34), ahead of Britain’s Ethan Hayter (35:49). With four stages remaining, van Aert leads by 53 seconds over Matteo Cattaneo (ITA) and Slovenian superstar Primoz Roglic (+0:56).

At the Women’s Tour in Great Britain, Dutch star Lorena Wiebes won the third stage, a hilly, 107.9 km course with a flat run-in to the finish, in 2:51:57 at the end of a mass sprint. It was the second stage win in succession for Wiebes, who now leads the race by 13 seconds over Sofia Bertizzolo (ITA) and Alexandra Manly (AUS). American Coryn Lebecki is 16 seconds back in sixth, with three stages left.

Manly and Labecki went 2-3 on Wednesday’s stage as the top 47 received the same time.

● Fencing ● The Pan American Championships concluded in Asuncion (PAR), with another gold for the U.S. women, this time in the Team Epee.

Margherita Guzzi Vincenti, Kat Holmes, Hadley Husisian and Anna van Brummen took the Epee gold, with a 35-23 win over Venezuela in the final. Holmes won the silver in the individual women’s Epee, with Isabel Di Tella (ARG) taking the gold, 15-9, in the final.

Venezuelan star Ruben Limardo Gascon, the London 2012 Olympic Champion, took the men’s Epee title, 10-9, in the final against countryman Grabiel Lugo. The Venezuelans, of course, won the Team Epee gold, 32-31. over Colombia.

The final medal table showed the U.S. the leader with 15 total medals (7-4-4) to finish ahead of Canada (11: 2-5-4) and Venezuela (6: 2-2-2).

● Wrestling ● The second session of the “Final X” selection matches for the 2022 World Championships was held in New York on Wednesday as part of a fund-raiser for the Beat the Streets program, with the results assuring the U.S. of a powerful squad in Belgrade (SRB) in September.

In the men’s Freestyle finals, 2012 Olympic champ and five-time World Champion Jordan Burroughs was a popular winner at 79 kg, but had to go to three matches to defeat Chance Marsteller, 4-0, 2-2 (loss), 5-0.

Three-time World Champion Kyle Dake swept Jason Nolf at 74 kg, 4-2 and 2-1, and Tokyo Olympic champ David Taylor won 4-2 and 10-0 at 86 kg over Zahid Valencia. Yianni Diakomihalis will return to the Worlds for the U.S. at 65 kg by defeating Evan Henderson, and Hayden Zillmer will make his first Worlds appearance with an upset win over two-time Worlds bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski, 0-5, 4-3 and 5-5 on criteria.

Four women’s Freestyle bouts were held, with Rio 2016 gold medalist and three-time World Champion Helen Maroulis defeating Alexandra Hedrick at 57 kg, by 10-0, 10-0. Same for 2020 Olympic bronze medalist Sarah Hildebrandt, who made the team at 50 kg via 10-0, 10-0 wins over Alyssa Lampe. Teen star Amit Elor, 18, also scored 10-0, 10-0 wins to take the 72 kg title over Skylar Grote. Dominique Parrish (53 kg) made her first Worlds team by beating Felicity Taylor, 7-2, 8-2.

The Greco-Roman matches resulted in four World Championship veterans making the 2022 team: Ildar Hafizov (60 kg), Kamal Bey (77 kg), Alan Vera (87 kg) and G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg). Tokyo Olympian Alejandro Sancho will make his Worlds debut in 2022 at 67 kg.

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