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The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:
● Athletics ● After the great success of the Wanda Diamond League opener in Monaco last Friday, there is considerable excitement about Sunday’s Bauhaus Galan in Stockholm’s famed 1912 Olympic Stadium. Among the expected highlights:
● Men/800 m: Seven men ran under 1:45 in Monaco, led by a brilliant 1:43.15 from World Champion Donavan Brazier of the U.S. He will again face off with Canada’s Marco Arop (1:44.14 in Monaco), and Peter Bol (AUS: 1:44.96), plus emerging British star Max Burgin (1:44.75 at age 18!).
● Men/1,500 m: The race of the meet on paper, with Kenya’s World Champion and world-leader Tim Cheruiyot (3:28.45) in a rematch with Norway’s 19-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who set a European Record of 3:28.68, older brother Filip Ingebrigtsen (3:30.35), Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha (3:32.69) and others. Reigning U.S. national champ Craig Engels ran a very creditable 3:35.42 in Monaco … and was 11th!
Cheruiyot has won nine races in a row at 1,500 m/mile over the last two seasons and 12 of his last 13 going back to 2018, and he had something in reserve to deal with the Ingebrigtsens down the final straightaway in Monaco.
● Men/400 m Hurdles: Norway’s Karsten Warholm opened with a sensational 47.10 in Monaco – equal-seventh fastest race in history – and here he is again, maybe with the world record in mind? He is certainly capable and is the overwhelming favorite here, ahead of Olympic and Worlds medalist Yasmani Copello (TUR) and American David Kendziera.
● Men/Pole Vault: World-record holder Mondo Duplantis (SWE) will be going for another Diamond League win, but this time World Champion Sam Kendricks of the U.S. is expected to have his poles available and ready to compete. Also in the mix: Poland’s Worlds silver medalist Piotr Lisek, who is up to 5.90 m (19-4 1/4) on the season.
● Men/Discus: Sweden’s Daniel Stahl is the best in the world and a big favorite here. He’s already out to 71.37 m (234-2) this year, but he thinks there is much more to come.
● Women/100 m: Swiss Ajla del Ponte (11.16) shocked American Aleia Hobbs and Marie Josee Ta Lou (CIV) in Monaco. Does lightning strike twice?
● Women/400 m: American Wadeline Jonathas – the 2019 NCAA champ at South Carolina – is getting her feet wet on the European circuit. She was second to Lynna Irby of the U.S. in Monaco (51.40), but is the lone U.S. entry here. She’ll be the favorite, but Czech Lada Vondrova (51.35) has the fastest seasonal best in the field.
● Women/1,500 m: A star-studded field, with Hellen Obiri (twice 5,000 m World Champion) facing off with British stars Laura Muir (3:55.22 personal best), Laura Weightman (4:00.97) and Eilish McColgan (4:00.97), and former American Record holder Shannon Rowbury (3:56.29).
● Women/400 m Hurdles: World leader Femke Bol (NED: 53.79) will have her hands full with two-time World Champion Zuzana Hejnova (CZE) and Swiss Lea Sprunger. No Americans in this race.
The meet is also a testing ground for a novelty format in the men’s and women’s long jump called the “Final Three.” The top three jumpers after five rounds will advance to a sixth-round final – no one else will jump – and the sixth-round marks will determine the order of finish for the top three. Ties will be broken by the next-best jump from the first five rounds.
Triple jump superstar Christian Taylor (USA) echoed the thoughts of many jumpers with this tweet:
“I hope this idea DOES NOT continue after this season. I also wish @WeAreTheSport could speak with the athletes or working group that believed this was a ‘good’ idea. I would like to understand how this could possibly be better than the traditional format.”
The meet will be shown on the NBC Sports Gold subscription channel; check your listings for possible airing on the NBC Olympic Channel as well.
At Thursday’s Irena Szewinska Memorial meeting in Bydgoszcz (POL), Ukraine’s Yulia Levchenko – the 2017 Worlds high jump silver medalist – became the first to clear 2.00 m (6-6 3/4) this season, winning in a tight battle with countrywoman Yaroslava Mahuchikh (1.97 m/6-5 1/2).
American Sam Kendricks – now with his poles – won the vault at 5.80 m (19-0 1/4) over Poland’s Piotr Lisek, who had to retire with an injury while trying 5.90 m (19-4 1/4).
At the Istvan Gyulai Invitational in Szekesfehervar (HUN) on Wednesday, American sprint star Noah Lyles stormed to wins in the 100 m (10.05) and 200 m (20.13), winning by comfortable margins both times.
Americans Kahmari Montgomery (400 m:45.40), Donavan Brazier (600 m: 1:15.07) and David Kendziera (400 m H: 50.00) won their races, while 110 m hurdles world champ Grant Holloway was edged by Spain’s Orlando Ortega, 13.21-13.22.
Lynna Irby of the U.S., having an excellent comeback season so far, won the women’s 200 m at 22.55 and Wadeline Jonathas took the women’s 400 m in 52.09.
No one is surprised any more at world-record performances from Swedish – via Louisiana – vault star Mondo Duplantis, but he was helped with what might have been a world-record performance from mom Helena.
A world-class heptathlete from Sweden, Helena Hedlund married U.S. vaulter Greg Duplantis and, as always, wanted to help her youngest son compete at the Wanda Diamond League opener in Monaco last Friday. When the airlines would not accept his poles as special cargo, Helena strapped the poles to the top of her car and drove the 25 hours – about 1,550 miles – from Sweden to Monaco in time for him to compete and win at 6.00 m (19-8 1/4).
As if that wasn’t enough, she then had to drive back with the poles to Uppsala in Sweden for Sunday’s national championships … which Mondo won at 5.63 m (18-5 1/2).
No worries for Sunday’s meet in Stockholm; it’s much closer!
The only World Athletics Continental Tour meet in the U.S. for 2020 will be at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa at the “Blue Oval Showcase”on 29 August.
It’s a third-tier (Bronze) meet on the Continental Tour, but some quality U.S. athletes are expected, including 2008 Olympic 100 m hurdles gold medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson and twice U.S. 400 m champ Shakima Wimbley. No fans will be allowed, however. The meet will be live-streamed on Runnerspace+.
In yet another demonstration of keeping up with technology, World Athletics published a compilation of approved shoes – yes, shoes – based on the new rules released in July regulating sole thickness.
The ultra-thick 40 mm-soled shoes used in road running and walking are not allowed on the track, where the sole thickness is limited to 20 mm for events from 100-600 m, and then 25 mm for events from 800 m and up, including the Steeplechase. Road-running shoes with soles of 25 mm of thinner are allowed on the track.
Field-event shoes are limited to 20 mm, except for the triple jump (25 mm).
The World Athletics notice included:
“Under Rule 5 of the Technical Rules, athletes (or their representative) have the responsibility to provide World Athletics with specifications of the new shoes the athlete proposes to wear in competition. World Athletics accepts shoe specification and samples submitted by manufacturers for further examination. …
“If the competition referee has a reasonable suspicion that a shoe worn by an athlete might not comply with the rules then at the conclusion of the competition the referee may request the shoe be handed over for further investigation by World Athletics.”
Note to officials: include a caliper in your equipment bag for future meets.
● Badminton ● The delay from 2020 to 2021 for the Tokyo Olympic Games was too much for Japanese star Ayaka Takahashi, the 2016 Olympic women’s Doubles gold medalist.
She announced Wednesday that she will retire as of the end of this month in an online news conference, saying:
“For me it has always been all or nothing. When I train I train, when I rest I rest. The moment I started questioning my ability to win gold [in 2021] I knew it was time. I don’t want to play half-heartedly. It doesn’t feel right.
“I had doubts about my mind and body getting through another year.”
Takahashi, 30, was joined by her playing partner (and co-gold medalist) Misaki Matsutomo, who will continue.
● Football ● FIFA released the agenda, schedule and supporting documents for its 70th Congress, to be held online on 18 September, including a detailed review of its 2019-22 financial plan and budget for 2021.
The finances were especially interesting, showing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020:
● The pandemic is estimated to cost FIFA about $200 million in revenue in 2020, but the targeted surplus for the 2019-2022 period of $100 million is expected to be achieved thanks to significant ongoing savings in operations (as well as events not played). In all, FIFA expects a total deficit for 2020 of $794 million.
● FIFA maintains a minimum reserve of $1.5 billion, and has an additional $1.245 billion in additional funds available from the 2015-18 quadrennial. The financial commitments to women’s football development of $1 billion for 2019-22 were reconfirmed.
● The forecast for the 2019-22 quadrennial shows both revenues and expenses to be down by about $120 million: $6.44 billion in revenue and $6.34 billion in costs. As of the end of May 2020, some 76% of all 2019-22 revenues have been secured by contract (mostly television rights and sponsorships).
It’s worth noting that the expected revenues from the FIFA World Cup in Qatar 2022 are forecast at $1.656 billion, with the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France generating $157 million.
The CONCACAF federation confirmed the schedule for the new format of the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers, to begin June 2020 and continue through March 2022. Eight teams will play in a double round-robin, with the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras and Jamaica already qualified and the 30 remaining teams in the confederation playing for the three remaining spots.
The U.S. Men’s National Team will open with four games in June 2021, on the road against a qualifier, home to a qualifier and then an away match vs. Honduras and a home match vs. Jamaica. The American team will have four home matches in the first round and three in the second.
● Gymnastics ● Within a Wednesday filing objecting to the applications for two gymnasts to join the survivors list, both USA Gymnastics and the Survivors Committee included this:
“Mediation was last conducted on August 11, 2020. After that session, the mediators informed the parties that the mediation is at an impasse.”
This is not what was hoped for by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robin Moberly, who asked the two sides to come with their best offers for settlement in July. A hearing on the USA Gymnastics Disclosure Statement – its offer for settlement, now being revised – is currently set for 19 October.
Both USA Gymnastics and the Survivors Committee filed objections to the requests for late inclusion in the survivors group from 2004 Olympic silver medalist Terin Humphrey and an unnamed gymnast. The objections began with:
“At this stage of this chapter 11 case, it would be irresponsible to allow additional claims to be asserted against the USA Gymnastics (the “Debtor”). This case has been widely reported in the general media, as well as sports and gymnastics focused media. The bar date was widely noticed and publicized. As such, there is no basis for a finding of excusable neglect to allow claims to be filed sixteen months after the bar date.”
The deadline for filing was set by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana on 25 February 2019 and declared to be 29 April 2019. A hearing on the motion for inclusion by Humphrey and the unnamed gymnast will be heard on 26 August.
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee won a round in court on Wednesday, as a federal judge in Colorado dismissed a suit by the Philadelphia indemnity Insurance Company, asking to deny coverage in the Nassar abuse scandal because the court has no jurisdiction over the USOPC. This is the second try for the insurer, which has leave to appeal further if it desires.
● Luge ● It’s a program that’s almost 35 years old, but still one of the “coolest” sponsorships in sports is the White Castle USA Luge Slider Search, introducing the sport to children from 9-13. White Castle … sliders … get it?!
With extra precautions in place and strictly limited to 10 kids at a time, the first session this season comes on Sunday, 23 August in Lake Placid, New York. The sleds are on wheels; the program includes:
“Once the participants master the ability to maneuver the sled in both directions, they will then slide from the White Castle USA Luge ramp onto the road surface to negotiate a shallow, gentle cone course.
“Under the guidance of national team coaches, the event will give these youth an opportunity to learn luge and qualify to join the USA Luge Junior Development team. This is the first rung on the ladder to national and Olympic team status. Children selected from the White Castle USA Luge Slider Search will be invited to learn the sport on ice next winter in Lake Placid on the same track where national team athletes train and compete each season.”
No, it’s not being televised. Yet.
● Skiing ● The Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS) announced the cancellation of the North American leg of the Alpine Skiing World Cup in November. Races were scheduled at Lake Louise in Canada (Downhill/Super-G for men and women) and Beaver Creek, Colorado (men: Downhill/Super-G/Giant Slalom) and Killington, Vermont (women: Giant Slalom/Slalom).
Per FIS Chief Race Director Markus Waldner: “The training set-up and races in USA and Canada are very much appreciated by the teams. But ultimately, the unique logistics and situation for the early season alpine races has current travel restrictions and corresponding quarantine regulations in both directions, which led to this joint decision.”
The World Cup tour will stay in Europe and try to make up the races at later stops.
● The Last Word ● The organizers of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England announced last week that due to the time crunch created by the coronavirus pandemic, the building of an athlete’s village has been scrapped.
Instead, three existing sites will be used: The University of Birmingham (for 2,800 athletes), The University of Warwick (1,900) and The NEC Hotel Campus (1,600). Some $653 million in public construction costs will be saved in Perry Barr area of Birmingham, but there is an ongoing need for added housing stock in the area, an issue which does not now concern the Commonwealth Games.
This is important because cities were repeatedly told – for decades – that campus housing was insufficient for major Games and that new facilities were de rigeur, even after the success of the 1984 Olympic Games, for which villages were created at UCLA, the University of Southern California and U.C. Santa Barbara (for rowing). The much-expanded UCLA housing complex will be the sole site for the 2028 Olympic Village in Los Angeles, and a new student-housing project will be the main athlete site for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games in Milan (ITA).
Hopefully, these developments have sealed the issue that student housing – if available – is more than sufficient for two weeks of Olympic, Paralympic or Commonwealth (or other) Games.