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● Plus: Russia: Sports Minister does not see Paris 2024 ban yet = Beijing 2022: Putin says Valieva not a doper = Winter Games 2030: Spanish bid still in disarray = Athletics: Suhr got Masters vault record earlier = Ice Hockey: IIHF removes ‘23 Worlds from Russia = Modern Pentathlon: new 5th discipline to be decided soon = SCOREBOARD => Athletics: Lipari and Ciattei wins USATF Road Mile titles = Football: U.S. women club Costa Rica, 5-0, in CONCACAF U-17s ●
Key status updates on the urgent stories in Olympic sport:
≡ SPOTLIGHT ≡
/As posted Wednesday afternoon/What is turning out to be a torrid Phillips 66 International Team Trials continued in Greensboro, North Carolina, to select the U.S. team for the 2022 FINA World Championships in Budapest … and it appears it could be a great one.
On Wednesday, Caeleb Dressel and Katie Ledecky won their second races in two days, but amid a dazzling series of world-leading marks from old and new American stars.
The qualifying protocol is a little complicated, with only the winner of each event guaranteed a spot on the U.S. team, plus the top four in the 100 m and 200 m Freestyles (for relays). Most likely, the top two in each event will be on the U.S. team in Hungary. On Wednesday:
● Women/200 m Freestyle ● World leader Ledecky led the qualifying at 1:56.20, which only two others in the world have matched so far this season.
In the final, Ledecky took control by the 25 m mark and was 0.82 up at the half, had a full-body length lead at 150 m and came through strongly to finish at 1:55.15, the no. 3 performance in 2022.
Behind her was a furious final 50 m with Alex Walsh, Leah Smith and 15-year-old Claire Weinstein battling and the teenager making the best push in the final 15 m to touch second in a big lifetime best of 1:57.08. Smith, second in Tuesday’s 800 m Free, got third at 1:57.44 and Hali Flickinger, the winner of Tuesday’s 200 m Fly, got fourth (1:57.53). The top four are all slated for relay duty in Budapest.
● Men/200 m Freestyle ● Texas star Carson Foster led the qualifiers with an impressive personal best of 1:45.57, moving to no. 3 in the world for 2022.
And Foster was off strongly in the final, leading after 50 m, but got a challenge from Olympic Trials winner Keiran Smith, who had the lead at 100 m with Drew Kibler – the 200-yard Free winner at the NCAA Championships – right behind.
Smith held on, held on and held on and although challenged throughout by Kibler – one lane below him – and Foster, got to the touch first in 1:45.25, fastest in the world this year. He was just 0.07 better than Kibler, now no. 2 worldwide, with Foster making the relay team in third in 1:45.66 (no. 5). Trenton Julian, runner-up in the 200 m Fly on Tuesday, was fourth in 1:46.69.
● Women/200 m Breaststroke ● Oh, yes, this was a race!
The top three in the qualifying were Olympic silver winner Lilly King, NCAA champion Kate Douglass and Olympic bronze medalist (and world leader in 2022) Annie Lazor and they were the class of the field by the 20 m mark.
King sprinted to the lead right away and had 0.86 on Lazor and 0.95 on Douglass at the first turn, but it kept getting closer. Douglass closed to 0.87 back after 100 m and 0.26 behind at the 150 m mark.
Then it was a fight to the finish and Douglass got closer and closer, and Lazor got into the picture late. But King found a little extra in the final 20 m and held on for a world-leading win in 2:21.19, following by Douglass with the no. 2 time in the world (2:21.43) and Lazor third, with the no. 3 time in the world this season (2:21.91), but not on the U.S. team in this event.
● Men/200 m Breaststroke ● The U.S. had no one in the top 25 in the world coming into the morning prelims, but Jake Foster moved up to seventh at 2:09.79 to lead the qualifiers.
The final started with Foster in front, but Charlie Swanson, the no. 2 qualifier (and 2019 Pan American Games 400 m Medley winner) was only 0.25 behind and pressing. Swanson got the lead by the second turn, just ahead of Foster and with veteran Nic Fink third and moving well.
By the 150 m mark, those three had separated and Fink was making a race of it, coming on strongly as Foster lost ground. Fink kept coming on Swanson and Foster could not keep up, and at the touch, it looked like Fink got there first, but the timer said it was a tie at 2:08.84 for both.
That moves both of them to no. 6 in the world for 2022, and a first-ever Worlds team for Swanson, moving up from ninth at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials. Fink, now 28, won the 200 m Breast gold in the Short-Course Worlds in 2021 after finishing fifth in the 200 m Breast in Tokyo.
Swanson said afterwards he was surprised by the win; “I consider myself more a 400 IMer.” He’ll have a chance in that event later in the week.
● Women/200 m Backstroke ● Olympic fifth-placer Phoebe Bacon zoomed to no. 2 on the world list for 2022 with her 2:06.78 qualifying leader, but she was not going to have an easy final with world-record holder Regan Smith on one side and 2021 U.S. Trials winner Rhyan White on the other.
White got out to a small lead with Smith and Bacon both close after 50 m and the three were separated from the field by the 100 m mark. Bacon was in front, but not by much: just 0.18 up on White and 0.34 over Smith.
It was Bacon and White fighting for the win on the final lap and Bacon barely touched first, 2:05.08 to 2:05.13. Smith was game, but her 2:05.65 only got third. Those are now the nos. 2-3-4 performers of 2022 and the first Worlds team for Bacon, looking for a medal after being “only” a finalist in Tokyo.
● Men/200 m Backstroke ● World Short-Course 100 m Back gold medalist Shaine Casas blew up the qualifying, posting the fastest time in the world at 1:55.57, with Rio 2016 gold medalist Ryan Murphy third in qualifying.
Casas took control from the start and had a 0.21 lead on Murphy at the turn, with Jack Aikins third. Those three were going to be the medalists, with Casas leading at 100 m, but Murphy in front after 150 m by 0.33 and then extending his lead with a brilliant turn and underwater push.
Clearly in front, Murphy lost a little ground to Casas in the last half-lap, but was a clear winner in 1:55.01, fastest in the world in 2022, with Casas at 1:55.46 (no. 2), Aikins third in 1:56.29 (no. 3 and does not get to go to Budapest).
Murphy owns nine Worlds medals, including 200 m Back silvers in 2017 and 2019, but no golds yet.
● Women/50 m Butterfly ● The American Record of 25.48 by Kelsi Dahlia from 2017 and 2018 was clearly under threat, with Claire Curzan – second in the 100 m Free on Tuesday – leading the qualifying at 25.60.
Dahlia qualified second and she got the best start in the final, but it was the 100 m Free winner Torri Huske who was moving strongly by midway. But Curzan kept coming and finally got even with 5 m left and got her hand on the touchplate to finish in 25.49 – 0.01 off the American Record – with Huske at 25.68 and Dahlia third (25.71).
Those marks stand nos. 3-5-6 in the world for 2022.
● Men/50 m Butterfly ● Sprint star Michael Andrew led the qualifying at 23.09, equal-third on the 2022 world list, with reigning World Champion Dressel at 23.16.
Those two were off the blocks well and had control of the race right away. Andrew might have been just slightly in front by the halfway mark, but Dressel came on – as always – in the final 15 m and got to the touch in 22.84, the fastest time ever swum in a U.S. pool. Andrew was close, at 22.87. Maxime Rooney was third in 23.25.
Those are the top three marks in the world for 2022 and Dressel’s 22.84 breaks the ancient (2009) U.S. Open mark of 22.91 by Ryan Lundquist.
That’s two days and world-leading marks in six events so far! Thursday’s program includes the 50 m Breaststroke finals, 50 m Backstrokes, 100 m Butterflys and the 400 m Medleys; the finals will be shown on NBC’s Olympic Channel live at 6 p.m. Eastern.
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
● Russia ● Asked about a possible ban on Russian athletes competing at the 2024 Paris Games, Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said Tuesday:
“I don’t see reasons yet for discussions of the possible lack of chances.
“Decisions, made by the International Federations, will be in force, as a rule, until the end of the year and this is why I hope that there will be no problems.
“However, we are ready for any developments of the situation. Our prime aim is for athletes to preserve their motivation and social guarantees as well as to provide a competitive level, here in Russia, with the use of the tournaments’ schedule, training camps and tournaments with athletes from friendly countries, which have recently assumed a principal stance.
“I am positive that International Sports Federations are willing to find a way out from this temporary crisis situation.”
Matytsin noted that, as with the replacement event for Russian Paralympians who were not allowed to compete in the Beijing Winter Paralympics, the Russian skating federation is exploring a replacement event of its own for the just-removed ISU Grand Prix stop in Russia, known recently as the Rostelecom Cup.
“We are working on this proposal jointly with the [Russian] Figure Skating Federation in order to provide athletes with the schedule of competitions and training camps.”
● XXIV Olympic Winter Games: Beijing 2022 ● Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed off any suggestions that figure skater Kamila Valieva was guilty of doping while competing at the Beijing Games. During a ceremony for Russian medalists at the Games – including Valieva as a member of the still-contested Team Event – Putin said:
“She managed to accumulate her talent, all of the most complicated figure skating elements, her plastique, beauty, the power and tenderness, as well as her hard work to bring this sport to the level of the true art.”
“It is utterly impossible to achieve such perfection using unfair methods, with the help of additional substances and manipulations. There is no place for such additional methods in the sport of figure skating and we all know it well and understand.”
News of a positive test from Valieva arrived only after the Team Event had been concluded in Beijing, but the International Olympic Committee would not allow a victory ceremony to take place as Valieva’s positive had not been confirmed. And still has not been confirmed, with the World Anti-Doping Agency leading the inquiry into her testing results from the Stockholm testing lab.
● XXVI Olympic Winter Games: 2030 ● A small delegation from the International Olympic Committee is in Salt Lake City to review the bid program for the Winter Games from Wednesday to Friday, but had to cancel a planned visit to Spain.
This is part of the work of the IOC’s Future Hosts Commission protocol, with cities or regions that want to host a future Games, but a more serious look at real facilities with the possibility of a selection of a single site for a “targeted dialogue” that leads to the award of a Games.
Sapporo (JPN) is also a front-running bidder and Vancouver (CAN) has a bid in formation after local politics needed to be aligned to allow the effort to go forward.
GamesBids.com noted that the Future Hosts Commission visit to examine the Pyrenees-Barcelona bid in May has been postponed as the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) tries to iron out disputes between the Aragon and Catalonia regions over who gets what sports.
Said COE President Alejandro Blanco, “There has been no agreement, but we have been summoned to continue having conversations. I hope, I wish and I am sure that we will reach an agreement.
“We do not consider the Games lost. Aragon has made a proposal, there was an initial agreement, but the Government and the COE do not want to miss the opportunity and lose the Games.
“We are close to the limit and in May everything has to be absolutely clear, otherwise we would have to make another approach.”
● Athletics ● More on the world-age 40 bests for 2012 Olympic women’s vault champ Jenn Suhr, as super-statistician Phil Minshull (ESP) writes that Suhr actually claimed the world Masters bests earlier this year with jumps of 4.50 m (14-9).
She cleared 4.50 m at the Baylor Invitational in Waco, Texas on 2 April to grab the record, and then equaled it on 15 April in Nacogdoches before her 4.60 m (15-1) last weekend at the NSU Invitational in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
Before then, the listed world best was 4.10 m (13-5 1/2) by Doris Ayer (AUT) from 2011.
How special is Suhr? Minshull notes “she has now cleared 4.60 m or better for no less than 17 consecutive years (including 2020 when she only competed indoors)”!
● Ice Hockey ● The International Ice Hockey Federation formally removed the 2023 men’s World Championship from Russia on Tuesday, citing “concern for the safety and well-being of all participating players, officials, media, and fans.”
The tournament had been set for 5-21 May of 2023 in St. Petersburg (RUS); a new host site is expected to be confirmed in late May.
The Russian Hockey Federation said it will appeal the IIHF’s decision.
● Modern Pentathlon ● The Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) Executive Board will hear recommendations from the federation’s working group on a new fifth discipline on 2 May (next Monday), following this week’s World Cup stop in Budapest.
On Tuesday, the PentUnited athlete group tweeted a working-group-member comment that “40% favour obstacles .. 20% XC cycling .. 12% sports climbing” but – referring to obstacle course racing – that “IOC won’t accept new sports being brought in through the back door.”
PentUnited also noted, as it always does, that “75% of athletes want to keep riding”.
● Weightlifting ● The International Testing Agency dropped another hammer on the sport, announcing two doping violations from testing in 2021 and four more from lifters who failed to provide samples during an out-of-competition test last November.
At the 2021 World Championships in Tashkent last December, Talha Talib won the men’s 67 kg bronze medal in the Snatch segment, but failed all three of his lifts in the Clean & Jerk; he tested positive for steroids both at the event and in a pre-competition test in November.
Abubakar Ghani finished 13th in the men’s 61 kg final and was also found to be using a prohibited hormone and metabolic modulator from his post-competition test.
Four others refused to provide samples to the ITA during an out-of-competition test on 10 November and have been provisionally suspended. The ITA has been contracted by the International Weightlifting Federation to handle its anti-doping program, and continued positives are not a good sign for the future of the sport on the Olympic program beyond Paris 2024.
≡ SCOREBOARD ≡
● Athletics ● The 2022 USATF Road Mile Championships were held in Des Moines on Tuesday, in conjunction with the Drake Relays’ Grand Blue Mile, and once again, Emily Lipari was the women’s winner.
She claimed her third national road-mile title and defended her 2020 title, racing to a tight win over the onrushing Jen Randall in the final strides, 4:32.30 to 4:32.68 (both officially 4:33), with Alexina Teubel third in 4:34.28 (4:35). Lipari’s wins have come in 2018, 2020 and 2022
The men’s race was the first national title for former Virginia Tech star Vincent Ciattei, the fifth-placer at the 2022 USATF Indoor 1,500 m, who stormed to the lead in the final quarter of the race and won in 4:03.20 to 4:03.74 for Paul Ryan (officially, 4:04 for both). Shane Streich was third (4:04.12/4:05) and Clayton Murphy was fourth (4:04.53/4:05).
● Football ● The CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship is coming to the close of the group stage, with the United States closing out Group G play with a 5-0 win over Costa Rica in Santo Domingo (DOM).
This was not the complete rout that the first two games were, and the U.S. had only a 1-0 lead close to halftime on an Amalia Villareal goal in the fourth minute. But a stoppage-time goal from Charlotte Kohler at 45+1 made it 2-0 and a much more comfortable lead. Goals in the 58th minute from Riley Jackson (penalty shot) and the 61st from Onyeka Gamero made it 4-0 and Claire Hutton scored in the 90th minute for the 5-0 final.
The U.S. dominated possession and out-shot Costa Rica by 25-3, finishing group play with a goals-against total of 38-0.
The 16-team playoffs will begin on 30 April, with the U.S. facing Curacao and then possibly Canada; the championship match is on 8 May.
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