THE TICKER: Duplantis clears outdoor-best 6.15 m (20-2) in Rome; Diack gets two years in prison; Roglic set to take Tour de France

Three world records in 2022 for Sweden's Mondo Duplantis ( Photo: World Athletics)

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Athletics ● It’s must-watch TV anytime that Norway’s Karsten Warholm and Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis are competing, as at Thursday’s Golden Gala Pietro Mennea at the iconic Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy.

Both were chasing record performances in the 400 m hurdles and the pole vault, respectively, and both authored historic performances.

Duplantis won the competition at 5.85 m (19-2 1/4) as Ben Broeders (BEL) and Ernest Obiena (PHI) managed 5.80 m (19-0 1/4) for second and third. Duplantis then cleared 6.00 m (19-8 1.4) easily and put the bar at 6.15 m (20-2) to try for Ukrainian Sergey Bubka’s all-time outdoor best of 6.14 m (20-1 3/4) from 1994.

It was Duplantis’s 15th win this season – with no defeats – and he cleared 6.15 m on his first attempt, but touched the bar with his right elbow on the way down for a miss. The second attempt was his 15th outdoor try at the height this year, and in his fifth straight meet trying the height, he snaked over cleanly with room to spare and exploded with joy in the pit.

Duplantis now owns the world record at 6.18 m (20-3 1/4), set indoors in February and the world’s best outdoor jump … at age 20.

Warholm shouted “Watch this!” to the television camera before getting in the blocks and started in lane seven, with American David Kendziera in lane nine, giving him someone to pull toward in the early going.

The Norwegian had the lead by the fourth hurdle and tore around the turn, well in front with 100 m left. He was flawless over the hurdles and sprinted to the finish, timed in 47.07. It’s the ninth-fastest performance of all time, and Warholm now owns four of the top 10 times ever.

Ludvy Vaillant (FRA) finished second with a seasonal best of 48.69; Kendziera finished fourth in a seasonal best of 49.35.

At the pre-meet news conference, Warholm said he and Duplantis had been talking about their unique situation in which fans are expecting record performances:

“I spoke to Mondo in Berlin (at the ISTAF meeting last Sunday) and we are in a situation where we are going really fast and jumping very high and people are disappointed. I am three-tenths from the world record, he jumps a few centimeters off the world record and people are asking if we are disappointed.

“We are in a situation where we can talk about these records and it’s great, but for us, at least for me, I have to keep my focus on doing the best I can and getting my potential out. That’s what it’s all about. I am considering less and less about the record because I know that if I chase it, I probably won’t get it.”

Said Duplantis, “Everybody expects these things out of us and pressure is put on us at each meet, but I have been competing against a lot of great guys, the best in the world at pretty much all the meets that I’ve been at, so going into each one I try not to underestimate them.

“The first goal, and pretty much the only goal, is to go out there and try to win. Of course, I’m going to try to do the best that I can do and I’m going to try to jump as high as I can jump. The shape is coming along nicely and those high bars are getting easier and easier so it should be good tomorrow.”

The men’s 3,000 m was another tug-of-war between Norway’s Jakob Ingrebrigtsen and Ugandan Jacob Kiplimo. Australia’s Stewart McSweyn set a fast pace in the middle of the race, passing 2,000 m in 4:59.47, but Ingebrigtsen had the lead over Kiplimo with a lap to go. But Kiplimo had the best finish on the final straight, passing Ingebrigtsen with 50 m left and finishing in a world-leading 7:26.64, a national record. Ingebrigtsen and McSweyn also got national marks at 7:27.05 and 7:28.02. Kiplimo’s mark moves him to no. 8 all-time and Ingrebrigtsen is now no. 9.

South Africa’s Akane Simbine won the men’s 100 m in 9.96, with Arthur Cisse (CIV) second in 10.04. Britain’s Andrew Pozzi won the men’s 110 m hurdles, out-lasting Americans Aaron Mallet and Freddie Crittenden, 13.15-13.23-13.31. Pozzi’s mark is the equal-third fastest of the season. Americans Nick Ponzio and Payton Otterdahl went 1-2 in the men’s shot at 21.09 m (69-2 1/2) and 20.85 m (68-5).

Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah showed that she may well defend her Rio 100 m title with a brilliant women’s 100 m win in a world-leading 10.85 (wind +0.2 m/s). She took the lead almost immediately and ran steadily, winning easily over American Aleia Hobbs, who got a season’s best of 11.12 in second.

Britain’s Jemma Reekie scored an impressive win in the women’s 800 m in 1:59.76, just ahead of world leader Hedda Hynne (NOR: 2:00.24) and Reekie’s training partner, Laura Muir (2:00.49).

In the women’s 100 m hurdles, world leader Nadine Visser (NED) won with the no. 4 time of the season in 12.72. In the 400 m hurdles, Femke Bol (NED) has been the best in the world in 2020 and posted the second-fastest time of the year with a victory in 53.90, over Anna Ryzhykova (UKR: 54.54). Bol now has the top four marks of the season.

Ukraine’s Yuliya Levchenko scored another win over countrywoman Yaroslava Mahuchikh in the women’s high jump, as the only one to clear 1.98 m (6-6). Mahuchickh got second at 1.95 m (6-4 3/4).

A pretty amazing competition – three outdoor world leaders – for another meet without spectators. There’s one more Diamond League meet this season, in Doha (QAT) on 25 September.

At the Gala dei Castelli in Bellinzona (SUI) on Tuesday, Rio Olympic 400 m champ and world-record holder Wayde van Niekerk (RSA) returned to competition after nine months with a win in 45.58. Simbine won the men’s 100 m in 10.02 and Norway’s Hynne won the women’s 800 m in a world-leading 1:58.10.

While the story isn’t over, a French court finally rendered a verdict in the long-running IAAF corruption trial, with former IAAF President and IOC member Lamine Diack (SEN) found guilty of corruption, for covering up Russian doping positives and then using extorted funds for other purposes, including financial support for the campaign of current Senegal President Macky Sall.

French judges determined that Diack, now 87, had solicited bribes totaling $4.1 million between 2011-13 and covered his tracks by paying off other federation officials. He was sentenced to four years in prison, with two years suspended, a fine of €500,000 (~$592,000 U.S.) and ordered to pay €5 million (~$5.92 million) in damages to World Athletics. Diack will remain under house arrest in Paris during his appeal, and given his age, is unlikely to actually serve any prison time.

His son, Papa Massata Diack, who has remained in Senegal, was also found guilty (having received $15 million for various schemes), sentenced (in absentia) to five years in prison and fined €1 million (~$1.18 million). The other four defendants were also found guilty, including:

Habib Cisse (SEN), former IAAF counsel, sentenced to three years in prison (two years suspended);

Gabriel Dolle (FRA), former IAAF anti-doping chief, sentenced to two years in prison (sentence suspended) and fined €140,000 (~$165,837);

Valentin Balakhnichev (RUS), the former head of the Russian federation and IAAF treasurer, sentenced in absentia to three years in prison, and “confiscation of nearly 1.9 million euros ($2.2 million) from his account in Monaco, where World Athletics is based”;

Alexei Melnikov, former Russian team head coach, sentenced in absentia to two years in prison.

The Associated Press reported that “The court also awarded 16 million euros ($18.9 million) in damages to the IAAF, roughly one-third to be paid by the Diacks and the rest by them and the four others found guilty.”

Beyond the expected appeals, Diack isn’t done yet with the French courts, as a separate case about vote-buying relative to selection of Olympic host cities is still to come.

World Athletics posted a statement, including:

“[W]e are grateful for the strong and clear decisions that have been taken against the individuals involved and charged with these crimes, and we would like to reassure everyone that the reforms our Congress approved in 2016 will ensure that similar actions by individuals can never happen again in our sport.

“We are grateful for the damages awarded by the Paris Criminal Court totalling €16 million for embezzled funds and for reputational damage suffered as a direct consequence of these crimes and the resulting media coverage. As the Court acknowledged, this damage has impacted World Athletics’ finances and had a negative impact on World Athletics’ image and reputation in a deep and lasting way. We will do everything we can to recover the monies awarded, and return them to the organisation for the development of athletics globally.”

World Athletics has a separate civil suit against the Diacks in process.

Cycling ● The meanest stages of the 2020 Tour de France have passed, with defending champion Egan Bernal (COL) having abandoned the race and Slovenians Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar ready to take the top two places on the podium.

On Wednesday’s horrific Stage 17, which featured two mammoth climbs of 1,542 m to the Col de la Madeleine and an uphill finish rising 1,300 m to the Col de la Loze in Meribel, it was Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez who rode best, taking the lead with 2.5 km left and winning by 15 seconds over Roglic.

The race leader did not break on the climbs, waited for his opportunities and earned a 15-second gap over Pogacar plus a time bonus to place him 57 seconds in front. American Sepp Kuss earned an impressive fourth, 56 seconds behind the winner.

On Thursday, the last major climbing stage, Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski and Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz came to the line almost together, with Kwiatkowski given the win after handling six different rises and the downhill finish. Roglic and Pogacar were again right together, finishing 4-5, both 1:53 behind the winners.

The two Slovenians ride for different teams: Roglic for Jumbo-Visma and Pogacar for UAE-Team Emirates, but are positioned to be the first 1-2 from the same country since 2012, when Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome took gold and silver for Britain.

Behind the 57-second gap from Roglic to Pogacar, Lopez is 1:27 back of the leader and then Richie Gate (AUS) is 3:06 back in fourth. Friday’s stage is hilly, but not punishing and Saturday’s 36.2 km Individual Time Trial has a trying uphill finish that could pose problems. Sunday’s ride into Paris is mostly flat.

In the women’s Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile, Dutch star Annemiek van Vleuten continues her ride toward a third straight title in the most important women’s event of the year.

Belgian Lotte Kopecky won Thursday’s Stage 7 in a mass finish ahead of Lizzie Deignan (GBR: -0:02) and Pole Kasia Niewiadoma (-0:03). With two stages left, van Vleuten leads Niewiadoma by 1:57 and Anna van der Breggen (NED) by 2:03.

Van Vleuten won the second stage to take control of the race, but countrywoman Marianne Vos – herself a former winner of the Giro Rosa – has won three stages thus far.

Football ● Reuters reported a FIFA estimate that a total of about $14 billion in economic activity has been lost in the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Finland’s Olli Rein, who heads FIFA’s pandemic relief committee, “said that FIFA, along with financial consultants, had estimated the club game to be worth between $40 billion and $45 billion worldwide.

“He said the figure of $14 billion was based on the current scenario, where football is slowly restarting after a three-month hiatus earlier this year, but it would be a ‘different ball game’ if the pandemic did not let up.”

The FIFA Congress is being held by videoconference today (17th).

Swimming ● The International Swimming League took an important step toward credibility with a multi-year agreement with CBS Sports in the U.S. to televise events on its over-the-air, cable and digital channels.

The cable CBS Sports Network will show the first ISL event of 2020 on 16 October from Budapest (HUN) and CBS Sports will show the 17 October (Saturday) competition. The mix between the channels will be announced later.

This is uncharted territory for CBS, which has not been active in the Olympic sports area, but which needs more programming for its cable and digital channels, which lag far behind leader ESPN. ISL meets were shown in the U.S. last year on the all-digital ESPN3 network.

An early indicator of how interested CBS is in this series will be whether it sends its own announcer team instead of using the ISL-provided promotional artists of 2019. There are excellent ways to create broadcast interest in team-scoring events in what are usually considered individual sports, but ISL didn’t use any of them in its first-year broadcasts.

Wrestling ● The International Olympic Committee is unlikely to suspend or expel Iran as a result of the execution of Greco-Roman wrestler Navid Afkari last Saturday (12th), according to IOC member John Coates (AUS), an attorney and close advisor to IOC chief Thomas Bach (GER).

Coates told the Sydney Morning Herald:

“‘We talked about it last night in my regular meeting with the president,’ Coates said on Tuesday. ‘The week previously he’d written to the supreme ruler, the president. We’d been part of other attempts. The difficulty for us is this execution didn’t relate to a sporting event. He was certainly a great athlete.

“‘And the other difficulty is of course that there is probably 50 of the national Olympic committees that come from territories that still have capital punishment.

“‘We’ve been getting two sides to the story as to whether he got a fair go or didn’t get a fair go.’”

The IOC Executive Board could take up the issue at its next Executive Board meeting on 7 October.

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● As expected, Yoshihide Suga, 71, a close advisor to retired Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was elected as the new Prime Minister of Japan and took office today (17th).

Suga’s term will continue through the end of Abe’s term, to September 2021, after the close of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Eight ministers in the 20-member cabinet retained their posts, seven were moved to new posts and five new members have been seated. Seiko Hashimoto, 55, the Olympics and Paralympics Minister, continues.

Suga has confirmed a strong commitment by the government to the success of the 2020 Games.

XXIV Olympic Winter Games: Beijing 2022 ● Human rights groups continue to campaign against holding the 2022 Winter Games in China. A letter from more than 160 groups was delivered to the International Olympic Committee last week, arguing that the event should not be held in China:

“The letter said that the 2008 Olympics had failed to improve China’s human rights record, and that since then, it has built ‘an Orwellian surveillance network’ in Tibet and incarcerated more than a million Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group, in the Xinjiang region. It listed a litany of other alleged abuses from Hong Kong to the Inner Mongolia region, as well as the intimidation of Taiwan.”

Comment: Although there may be protests ahead of the 2022 Winter Games, as seen prior to the 2008 Olympic Games, this activity comes far too late to be effective. The only possible alternate site is Salt Lake City, Utah and with the continuing pandemic, it’s impossible to consider moving the 2022 event now. A campaign against Beijing 2022 would have had to start in 2019 to have any potential impact. It will have little to none now.