(Friends: We’re posting daily updates on USA Swimming’s Phillips 66 International Team Trials this week, which will not be sent out as separate e-mails. To be informed of new posts right away, please follow TSX on Twitter or you can check the TSX site.)
● Plus: Asian Games: Australia and New Zealand pass on 2022 = GAISF: Saudi Arabia to host World Combat Games in 2023 = Iran: Karate gold medalists rails against prohibition against fighting Israelis = College Sport: NCAA stats show who is using the transfer portal; Notre Dame’s Swarbrick on the break-up of Division I = Athletics: A world masters record for Jenn Suhr! = Gymnastics: Ex-USA Gymnastics chief Penny not to be prosecuted = Swimming: Political billboards picturing Australian swim stars subject to suit ●
(Errata: Some readers saw a version of Tuesday’s post in which Sarah Shulze’s name was misspelled. Our apologies, and thanks to sharp-eyed reader Brian Russell for being the first to report the error.)
The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:
≡ SPOTLIGHT ≡
/As posted Tuesday afternoon/The year following the Olympic Games is always a little crazy and with Japan handing back the 2022 World Championships, it looked like it might be uneventful. But there will be a 2022 FINA Worlds – in Budapest – and here are the Phillips 66 International Team Trials in Greensboro, North Carolina to pick the American team.
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.
The results? World-leading marks from Olympic superstars Caeleb Dressel and Katie Ledecky and excellent performances everywhere on the first day of the Trials on Tuesday:
● Women/200 m Butterfly ● Veteran Hali Flickinger was all over this event. Last year’s Olympic Trials winner and the Olympic bronze medalist, she took the lead from the start and never let up, winning in the no. 2 time of 2022: 2:06.35.
Regan Smith, who won the Tokyo silver, was a clear second and made a brief run at Flickinger on the third lap, finishing in 2:07.93, no. 4 on the world list.
Charlotte Hook was third in 2:08.80, with Emma Sticklen fourth (2:08.88).
● Men/200 m Butterfly ● Luca Urlando just missed making the team for Tokyo, finishing third by 0.09 in Omaha last year. And he looked to be second this time as Trent Julian of Cal led at 50, 100 and 150 m. But Urlando hauled him in over the last 20 m and touched the wall first in 1:54.10, moving him to no. 3 on the 2022 world list.
Julian, who led the morning qualifying, was second in 1:54.22, no. 4 for 2022, ahead of Tokyo Olympian Zach Harting (1:55.09) and Olympic medley star Chase Kalisz (1:56.03).
● Women/100 m Freestyle ● Lots of experience in the final, with a brilliant field including 2021 Olympic Trials winner Abbey Weitzeil and a host of other Olympians, with Tokyo relay bronze medalist Natalie Hinds (53.77) the qualifying leader.
The final was tight, with Weitzeil leading at the turn, but Hinds just 0.01 behind. But it was 19-year-old Stanford frosh Torri Huske who moved best in the final 10 m to touch first in 53.35. That’s a lifetime best and makes her no. 3 on the 2022 world list.
Huske won a Tokyo silver in the 4×100 m Medley and was fourth in the 100 m Fly final, after winning the U.S. Trials over Claire Curzan. Amazingly, it was Curzan who got second in Greensboro in 53.58 (no. 5 in 2022), beating Tokyo Trials runner-up Erika Brown (53.59), Hinds (53.65) and Kate Douglass (53.99).
● Men/100 m Freestyle ● This was all about Dressel, the defending World Champion and the Tokyo gold medalist. He led the qualifying at 48.12 and was the clear favorite. He took command in the final right away and turned first, up 0.19 over Ryan Held. He stayed in front on the way home, but Brooks Curry mounted a challenge in the final 25 m and Dressel had to stay on the gas right to the finish, touching in a world-leading 47.79.
Curry, fourth at the Tokyo Trials last year and a gold medalist in the 4×100 m Free for swimming in the prelims, won the NCAA titles in the 50-yard and 100-yard Frees and got up for second in 48.04 (no. 6 in 2022).
The top four in this race qualify for Budapest for relay duty; Held was third in 48.18 and Drew Kibler and Hunter Armstrong tied for fourth at 48.25 (how that sorts out will depend on future results).
● Women/800 m Freestyle ● Ledecky was the overwhelming favorite and was in charge from the start, up a half-second over Katie Grimes after just the first 50 m!
Ledecky swam alone, of course, and was near world-record pace through about 500 m and finished well with a world-leading 8:09.27, the no. 6 performance of all-time and her first sub-8:10 since 2018. She now owns the top 26 marks in history.
Leah Smith, the 2017 Worlds bronze medalist in this event, was a clear second in 8:17.52, less than a second off her lifetime best and no. 2 in the world for 2022. Twice a 2016 Rio medal winner, she didn’t make the team for Tokyo.
Bella Sims, fifth at the 2021 Olympic Trials, got up for third in 8:22.36 and Katie Grimes was fourth in 8:22.73.
● Men/1,500 m Freestyle ● Olympic gold medalist Bobby Finke, who dominated the Tokyo distance races, was right back in charge, charging away from the field after the first two laps. Currently swimming at Florida and the 2022 NCAA 1,650-yard Freestyle champ, Finke won in style in 14:45.72, no. 3 on the world list for 2022.
Charlie Clark of Ohio State, eighth at the NCAA 1,650, swam strongly to get an impressive second at 14:51.78, no. 6 for 2022. David Johnston was third in 15:08.90.
Wednesday’s program includes the 200 m Freestyles, 200 m Breaststrokes, 200 m Backstrokes and the 50 m Fly finals; the finals will be shown on NBC’s Olympic Channel live at 6 p.m. Eastern.
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
● Games of the XXVIth Olympiad: Atlanta 1996 ● Tragedy in Copperhill, Tennessee, as the Ocoee Whitewater Center, site of the Canoe Slalom events for the 1996 Games, caught on fire Tuesday and burned to the ground.
The facility continued to be active after the Games and hosted a reported 300,000 people annually, as the entry point to the Ocoee River Gorge and the Cherokee National Forest.
Capt. Mark Senterfitt of the East Polk County Fire Department, said “There was fire literally coming out of every inch of the building. It was fully involved when we got here so you know there wasn’t a lot we could do.”
Investigators are working on the site to determine the cause of the fire; a decision on whether to rebuild the facility will be made later.
● XIX Asian Games: Hangzhou 2022 ● Australian and New Zealand athletes regularly dominate the other countries in Oceanic-area competitions, so the 2019 invitation for a limited number of athletes from those countries to compete in the Asian Games was much welcomed.
But not now. The Australian Olympic Committee confirmed that it will not be sending athletes to the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in view of the continuing Covid issues in China. New Zealand also confirmed it will not be sending athletes.
About 300 competitors and 150 support staff had been planned to take part. While the Chinese authorities continue to confirm the Games will take place as scheduled from 10-25 September, doubts continue.
● Global Association of International Sports Federations ● There is a recurrent discussion of the GAISF dissolving itself. But last weekend, officials from Saudi Arabia formally agreed to host the GAISF-owned 2023 World Combat Games in Riyadh.
The event covers nine days and includes 15 combat and martial-arts sports, held in 2010 in Beijing and 2013 in St. Petersburg. Editions planned for 2019 and 2022 were canceled.
And GAISF? The General Assembly was slated to be held in May during the SportAccord Conference in Ekaterinburg (RUS), but in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was canceled. So who knows?
● National Olympic Committees ● Iran’s Olympic +75 kg Karate gold medalist Sajjad Ganjzadeh said in an Instagram post last week that the country’s political ban against competing with Israeli athletes is hurting its athletes.
He wrote, “We cannot tolerate this anymore. Not competing is more difficult than competing” and explained that the avoidance of Israeli competitors forces Iranian athletes to limit their appearances to Asian regional events (Israel competes as a European nation).
Iranian officials have continuously pressured athletes not to compete against Israelis, despite promises from its National Olympic Committee and some national federations not to.
● Collegiate sport ● The NCAA published statistics showing that men’s and women’s basketball were the biggest sports for athletes using the transfer portal in 2021. The leaders:
1. 31%: Men – Basketball (1,692 athletes)
2. 22%: Women – Basketball (1,134)
3. 18%: Men – Baseball (2,126)
4. 16%: Men – Football (FBS: 2,538)
5. 15%: Women – Beach Volleyball (167)
6. 13%: Men – Soccer (755)
6. 13%: Men – Tennis (325)
8. 12%: Men – Football (FCS: 1,546)
8. 12%: Women – Volleyball (650)
8. 12%: Women – Tennis (340)
8. 12%: Men – Ice Hockey (205)
12. 11%: Women – Softball (764)
Among the other large-scale sports, men’s track & field had 8% transfers (but a big number: 905); women’s track & field had 6% (864); men’s swimming & diving had 5% (198); women’s swimming & diving had 5% (266) and men’s wrestling had 8% (207).
The lowest transfer rate was in women’s rowing, at 2% (105).
Not all transfers were successful. The report – across all three divisions – showed that 50% enrolled at a new school, with 8% withdrawing their transfer and 43% remaining in the portal at the end of 2021.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, a keen observer of the current chaos in collegiate athletics, told Sports Illustrated that he sees a break-up of Division I coming in the next 10-15 years and the changes could be dramatic.
“On one end of the spectrum, you license the school name and run an independent business that’s engaged in sports. The other end of the spectrum, you’re integrated into the university in terms of decision making and requirements, and some follow that.”
The likely breaking point would come when the television contracts for the SEC and Big 10 are concluded sometime in the mid-2030s. He also suggested that as the current frenzy over name, image and likeness licensing continues to concentrate on men’s basketball and football, the Olympic-focused sports could be in even more trouble than now:
“I hate to see that. It’s going to be interesting to see how the federal government approaches it. If all of this revenue is disproportionately coming to men, even if you didn’t set it up, how does Title IX analyze that?”
But he also does not see Congress as willing to get involved at this point.
● Athletics ● The irrepressible PoleVaultPower Twitter page posted that 2012 Olympic pole vault champion Jenn Suhr – now 40 – cleared 4.60 m (15-1) to win the Michael Johnson Invitational at Natchitoches, Louisiana on Saturday, a women’s world age-40 record!
Masters track & field expert Ken Stone noted the prior listed world best was 4.10 m (13-5 1/2) by Austria’s Doris Ayer, way back in 2011.
Suhr is amazing. Her seasonal outdoor best ranked in the world’s top-10 from 2006 through 2020 (!), before slipping to 22nd in an injury-shortened 2021. And this year? She’s seventh right now.
● Gymnastics ● Former USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny will not be prosecuted for evidence tampering in the Nassar abuse scandal, according to the Walker County (Texas) prosecutor on Tuesday.
Penny was indicted by a Texas grand jury in October 2018 for felony evidence-tampering and could have faced a prison sentence of 2-10 years if convicted. Walker County District Attorney Will Durham told the Houston Chronicle:
“A large number of documents (and possibly all of them previously removed) were later returned to Walker County upon request.
“Without sufficient proof of these documents being changed or modified and being permanently kept from discovery or observation, pursuant to the appellate ruling interpreting the Texas tampering statute, our office decided that the case … should not be further pursued.”
Penny instructed USA Gymnastics staff members to remove documents from the Karolyi Ranch training site in November of 2016 as the Nassar scandal was exploding, and later invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in Congressional hearings in June 2018.
● Swimming ● Don’t use the Olympic Rings without permission!
The Guardian reported that the Australian Olympic Committee and Swimming Australia have threatened legal action against political messaging which pictures star Olympic swimmers Emma McKeon and Emily Seebohm in uniforms which visibly include the rings mark.
Billboards created by the lobbying group Advance for the upcoming Australian national elections use the slogan “Women’s sport is not for men” – against transgender men competing against women – and picture Australia swimming legend Dawn Fraser, Seebohm and McKeon, who have been publicly critical of allowing such competitions. Fraser and Seebohm have complained that their images were being used without consent and Swimming Australia said that if asked, it would not have consented to the use of any of its marks.
Australia’s federal elections are coming up on 21 May 2022, so this is likely headed to court.
● Snowboard ● Two-time Olympic Halfpipe champion Chloe Kim will take the 2022-23 competition season off, but has the 2026 Olympic Winter Games in sight. She told Cheddar News:
“Yes, I am definitely planning on competing at the 2026 Olympics. I will be taking a full season off of competition though, just for you know, my mental health.
“Just want to kind of reset, don’t want to get right back into it after such a fun, but draining year at the same time, knowing that it was an Olympic year. So, I just want to enjoy this moment, take it all in and then get back to it when I’m feeling ready, but as of now the plan is most definitely to go after a third medal.”
She noted that the pressure of her first Games in 2018 was difficult and that her experience attending Princeton and making friends outside of action sports has been a positive for her.
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