THE TICKER: Hashimoto takes Tokyo 2020 reins; North Carolina to bid for 2027 WUG; more Worlds medals for Mikaela Shiffrin!

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The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee selected Japan’s Olympics Minister, Seiko Hashimoto, 56, as its new President on Thursday, replacing 83-year-old Yoshio Mori, who resigned after sexist comments about women at a Japanese Olympic Committee meeting on 3 February.

Hashimoto was the obvious candidate, despite expressing “reluctance” to take the role. She was an Olympic speed skater in 1984-88-92-94 and a track cyclist in 1988-92-96. She owns an Olympic bronze medal from the 1992 Albertville Winter Games from the 1,500 m.

She has been involved in politics since winning a seat in the House of Councillors in 1995, as a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. She was State Secretary for foreign affairs from 2008-09. She was Minister of State for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games from September 2019 until taking the organizing committee post.

Upon appointment, Hashimoto said, “It is my mission to host the games by prioritizing safety for both participants and the Japanese people, and create an atmosphere for athletes to go on the stage of their dreams without worrying.”

Tamayo Marukawa, 50, also a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, was named as the new Olympics Minister. She had previously held that role in 2016-17 and has also served as Japan’s Minister of the Environment and Minister of State for Nuclear Emergency Preparedness.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER) posted a warm endorsement on the IOC’s Web site, including:

“With her great Olympic experience, having won a medal, participated in seven editions of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Winter Games, and having led Japan’s delegation to the Olympic Games multiple times, she is the perfect choice for this position. She will ensure that the focus in the final months of preparation remains on the athletes’ experience while planning all the necessary COVID-19 countermeasures. …

“With the appointment of a woman as President, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee is also sending a very important signal with regard to gender equality, which is one of the topics we addressed in Olympic Agenda 2020, the reform programme for the IOC and the Olympic Movement.”

Hashimoto faces a difficult task – and one which was paramount before Mori’s comments and subsequent replacement – in restoring enthusiasm for the Games in Japan. Public support for hosting the Games this summer, vs. cancellation or another postponement, has fallen to as low as 14.5% in a Kyodo poll.

The IOC announced the “implementation guidelines” of the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s December decision in the case of the World Anti-Doping Agency vs. the Russian Anti-Doping Agency. Warning that enforcement will be strict, the notice includes:

“WADA’s independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC) has now confirmed that the guidelines are in line with the CAS decision and, if respected, would not lead to a non-compliance procedure against World Anti-Doping Code signatories.”

The guidelines include the use of the acronym “ROC” for Russian athletes – short for Russian Olympic Committee – and allow flag use with the logo of the Russian Olympic Committee (no text) and a “musical score” to be proposed by the Russian Olympic Committee for ceremonies at the Olympic Games in 2020 and Winter Games in 2022, which if approved must also be used for all sport world championships in lieu of the Russian anthem.

On uniforms and equipment, the guidelines require use of the Russian Olympic Committee logo instead of any other symbols and/or the words “Russian Olympic Committee.” If “Russia” or “Russian” text appears on the uniform, then the words “Neutral Athlete” must be shown as well, in an equivalent size.

The benefit of the guidelines is to standardize the implementation of the Court decision across all Games and World Championships, instead of a one-by-one series of decisions for events in 2021 and 2022. The Russian Olympic Committee declared its agreement to comport with the guidelines almost immediately.

As a prefecture, we cannot pledge our full support if the current situation continues.”

That’s Tatsuya Maruyama, the Governor of Shimane, a sparsely-populated prefecture in western Japan, on the island of Honshu, declaring Wednesday (17th) that it may cancel the appearance of the Olympic Torch Relay if the coronavirus situation does not improve.

Kyodo reported that “The remarks by Maruyama, who also criticized the state and Tokyo government over their antivirus measures at a press conference last week, are seen as intended to increase pressure on them to improve their handling of the pandemic.”

The Torch Relay is scheduled to start on 25 March and would come through Shimane in May.

Games of the XXXIV Olympiad: Los Angeles 2028 ● The coronavirus has reached out and touched – again – the 2028 Los Angeles Games, further delaying the completion of a detailed agreement between the LA28 organizing committee and the City of Los Angeles.

The City’s Chief Administrative Analyst sent a note to the City Council on Wednesday, explaining:

“The [Memorandum of Understanding between the City and LA28] currently requires the Parties to negotiate and execute a Games Agreement by March 14, 2021, to identify various obligations and actions between the Parties regarding the hosting of the 2028 Games. To continue negotiations in good faith, and as a result of the continued impacts of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), the Parties require additional time to develop the Games Agreement. Approval of the proposed Third Amendment will extend the date for executing the Games Agreement from March 14, 2021 to October 1, 2021.”

Los Angeles County (population ~ 9.97 million) has been hit hard by the virus, with 1,174,340 million cases reported and 19,514 deaths as of 18 February.

World University Games ● The U.S.-International University Sport Federation has designated the Raleigh-Durham area as its candidate in a bid to bring the 2027 World University Games to the United States.

The candidate area – Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Cary, North Carolina – is locally referred to as “The Triangle” and has hosted a major multi-sport event before, the 1987 U.S. Olympic Festival. That event set numerous attendance records and totaled 464,423 spectators, the most at a Festival up to that time.

The head of the bid committee is Hill Carrow, 66, who was the head of the 1987 Festival organizing committee and brings invaluable experience to the task of bidding and, if successful, staging the event.

After being fairly dormant in the international university sports arena for years, the U.S. is suddenly a central player, with the 2023 Winter World University Games coming to Lake Placid, New York. New U.S. International University Sports Federation President Dan Guerrero – the recently-retired athletics director at UCLA – announced the Raleigh-Durham candidacy this way:

“We are very excited about the possibility of bringing the Summer World University Games back to the U.S., where it has only previously been held one time, in 1993 in Buffalo, New York. The next available year to bid on the Games, 2027, holds a lot of promise for Olympic sports in the United States as it is the year prior to the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California.

“In addition, our country has strong momentum for attracting the Summer World University Games, thanks to excellent work being done by the Local Organizing Committee in Lake Placid, New York, where they are slated to host the Winter World University Games in 2023 and are receiving very positive reviews for their Games preparations.”

The selection of the 2027 host is expected to be made in the spring of 2022 and the U.S. bid will be a favorite, as the FISU, the federation for university sport, is eager to raise its almost non-existent profile in the U.S.

Alpine Skiing ● The FIS Alpine World Championships continues in Cortina d’Ampezzo (ITA), site of the 2026 Winter Games, with more medals for Swiss star Lara Gut-Behrami and American Mikaela Shiffrin.

In Thursday’s Giant Slalom, Shiffrin scored the fastest first run at 1:13.22, but with only a lead of 0.02. While her second-run time of 1:17.46 was the fourth-fastest in the field, it was not enough to hold off Gut-Behrami, who jumped from third to first in 1:17.36 for a combined time of 2:30.66.

Shiffrin finished just 0.02 back, with Austrian Katharina Liensberger third (2:30.75); American Nina O’Brien was 10th overall (2:32.46).

Shiffrin has now won three medals in this Championships – one of each color – and now has a career total of 10 Worlds medals. Gut-Behrami has two golds and a bronze, and eight career medals and Liensberger now has a gold and a bronze for her first Worlds medals.

The men’s Giant Slalom was a wild affair, with France’s Alexis Pinturault – a 17-time World Cup winner in the event – leading after the first run. But he failed to finish his second run, as did German Alexander Schmid, standing third after the first run. That opened the door for France’s Mathieu Faivre, already the Parallel Giant Slalom gold medalist, who skied confidently down the Labirinti course and moved from fourth to first.

Italy’s Luca de Aliprandini was second after the first run and had a chance to win, but posted the 11th-fastest time on the second run and fell to second, 2:37.25-2:37.88. Austria’s Marco Schwarz, who won the Combined earlier in the week, posted the second-fastest second run in the field to move up from sixth to the bronze medal.

The results show once again the fluid nature of a World Championships or an Olympic Games: Faivre, 29, came into these Worlds with one career World Cup win … and has won two golds. Aliprandini, 30, had never won a World Cup medal in his nine-season career, but took silver.

The 2021 Worlds will finish this weekend with the Slalom races, with Shiffrin the four-time defending champion.

Athletics ● One of the best indoor meets of the year was the Copernicus Cup in Torun (POL) on Wednesday, headlined by Britain’s Elliot Giles, who ran the second-fastest indoor 800 m of all time in 1:43.63. Only Dane Wilson Kipketer’s 1:42.67 from 1997 is faster, and runner-up Jamie Webb of Great Britain – in 1:44.54 – moves to no. 8 on the all-time list.

There were five other world leaders as well:

Men/High Jump: 2.34 m (7-8), Maksim Nedasekau (BLR), Andrii Protsenko (UKR) and Gianmarco Tamberi (ITA)

Women/60 m: 7.08 (=world lead), Javianne Oliver (USA)
Women/3,000 m: 8:31.24, Lemlem Hailu (ETH)
Women/60 m hurdles: 7.81, Christina Clemons (USA)
Women/Triple Jump: 14.60 m (47-10 3/4), Paraskevi Papahristou (GRE)

In addition, Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega won the men’s 1,500 m in 3:32.97 to move to no. 8 on the all-time list; American Grant Holloway ran his 2021 win streak to four meets with a 7.38 victory in the men’s 60 m hurdles, and Sam Kendricks of the U.S. won the men’s vault over Piotr Lisek (POL) and Ernest John Obiena (PHI) as all three cleared 5.80 m (19-0 1/4).

Hailu’s 3,000 m win was especially impressive, coming at the expense of Steeplechase world-record holder (and last weekend’s 5 km road record-setter) Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN: 8:31.72).

The fourth and final American Track League meet comes on Sunday, once again in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Shot star Ryan Crouser will be back, looking for a third win in the series and trying to better his world indoor record 22.82 m (74-10 1/2) on 24 January.

Allyson Felix will make a rare indoor appearance, scheduled for some speed work on the 60 m and 200 m. ESPN will have live coverage beginning at 4 p.m. Central time.

Six members of Lamine Diack’s family are using a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise €500,000 (~$605,825) to post bail for Diack, now 88, to allow him to leave Paris and return to Senegal.

The fundraising group is shown to include Seydou Diack, N.K. Diack, Bineta Diack, Anta Diack, Mohamed Diack and Katifa Diack but interestly does not include the son Papa Massata Diack, one of the other primary figures in the charges for bribery and fraud brought against his father. The request includes:

“Our father Mr. Lamine Diack, who was the 5th President of the IAAF (World Athletics), aged 88 and sick, has been banned from leaving French territory since November 1, 2015.

“After the verdict delivered by the court, followed by an appeal from his lawyers, the ban was lifted on December 22, 2020, on the condition of paying a deposit of 500,000 € (327 million FCFA).

“We, his children, appeal for help in collecting the deposit, in order to make his return among us possible.”

Begun on 7 February, the appeal has thus far raised €17,398 (~$21,083) against the €500,000 goal.

Italian Alex Schwazer, now 36, was the Olympic gold medalist in the 50 km race walk in 2008 in Beijing, but was banned for doping prior to the 2012 London Games. Another doping test in January 2016 came back negative, but was re-tested and found to be positive, leading to an eight-year ban into 2024 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in an August 2016 decision.

However, on Thursday, Court of Bolzano Judge Walter Pelino issued a decision holding that:

“The preliminary investigation judge believes that it has been established with a high level of credibility that the urine samples taken from Alex Schwazer on Jan. 1, 2016, were altered with the aim of making them positive, and therefore obtaining the suspension and the discrediting of the athlete, as well as his coach Sandro Donati.

This will not allow Schwazer to compete in Tokyo, but he could not appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal to nullify the 2016 decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The World Anti-Doping Agency issued a furious reply on Twitter, including:

“WADA is appalled by the multiple reckless and groundless allegations made by the judge against the organization and other parties to this case.

“During the course of the proceedings, WADA provided overwhelming evidence that was corroborated by independent experts, which the judge rejected in favor of unsubstantiated theories. …

“The agency stands by all the evidence it provided and rejects the defamatory criticism in the decision in the strongest terms. Once the full judgment has been analyzed, WADA will consider all options available, including what legal actions it may initiate.”

A rare news release from the Athletics Integrity Unit on Thursday announced and endorsed a holding by the independent Disciplinary Tribunal against a group of former Russian Athletics Federation officials, who actively interfered in a “whereabouts” failure case against former World Indoor Champion high jumper Danil Lysenko:

● Former President Dmitry Shlyakhtin: banned for four years
● Former Board Member Artur Karamyan: banned for four years
● Former Executive Director Alexander Parkin: banned for four years
● Former Senior Administrator Elena Orlova: banned for four years
● Former Anti-Doping Coordinator Elena Ikonnikova: banned for four years

The bans for Orlova and Ikonnikova will be served concurrently with existing bans (!) of six and eight years, respectively. The cases against Lysenko and coach Evengiy Zagorulko are still in process.

In essence, the conspirators worked together to create false documents to support claims that Lysenko was ill during his second “whereabouts” failure and had been in a car crash and unable to comply with what was the third “whereabouts” failure. The three-member panel found all were deeply involved in the plan and thus were sanctioned.

Biathlon ● The IBU World Championships are continuing in Pokljuka (SLO), with the Individual races showcasing first-time winners in both the men’s 20 km and women’s 15 km competitions.

Czech Marketa Davidova, 24, was one of just two finishers not to suffer a shooting penalty and romped to a 27.9-second victory over Sweden’s 2019 World Champion Hanna Oeberg, 42:27.7 to 42:55.6. Davidova was hardly a favorite, having logged two wins in five years on the World Cup circuit and finishing 43rd and 37th in this race in the 2019 and 2020 Worlds, but was the best on Tuesday. Norway’s Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold was third in 43:31.7.

The men’s title went to Norway’s Sturla Holm Laegreid, 23, competing in his first World Championships, but clearly a rising star in the sport. He and Germany’s 2019 World Champion Arnd Peiffer both shot perfectly, but Laegreid managed a 16.9-second win, 49:27.6-49:44.5. Johannes Dale (NOR) was third in 50:08.5 (one penalty).

The Single Mixed Relay was held on Thursday, with a duel to the finish between France’s Julia Simon and Norwegian star Tiril Eckhoff, already a three-time winner at these Championships. Simon had two shooting penalties on her anchor leg after taking over from Antonin Guigonnat and although Eckhoff shot clean, Simon managed a 2.8 second win by 36:42.4 to 36:45.2. Eckhoff’s partner, superstar Johannes Thingnes Boe, had a tough time with a combined seven penalties on his two legs.

Sweden’s Sebastian Samuelsson and Oeberg combined for the bronze medal in 37:15.4.

The Worlds finish this weekend with the men’s and women’s relays and the Mass Start races.

Figure Skating ● Figure skating coach Peter Oppegard, a U.S. Pairs skater who won – with Jill Watson – an Olympic bronze medal in 1988 in Calgary, has been reported to be under investigation for abusive behavior by the U.S. Center for SafeSport:

“Oppegard is accused of biting a skater in 2013 and throwing hot liquids on other trainees several times between 2005 and 2018, according to USA Today. During that time, Oppegard worked at East West Ice Palace in Artesia, Calif.”

Football ● The SheBelieves Cup kicked off in Orlando, Florida on Thursday with Brazil and the U.S. winning the opening games in advance of their head-to-head meeting on Sunday.

The Brazilians defeated Argentina, 4-1, thanks to a penalty shot from Marta in the first half at the 30-minute mark, then three second-half scores from Debinha (47th), Adriana (54th) and Geyse (82nd minute). Mariana Larroquette scored for Argentina in the 60th minute. Brazil dominated with 57% of the possession time and six shots in the game to two for Argentina.

The U.S. struggled mightily against a tight, well-organized Canadian defense, but managed a 1-0 win, thanks to a 79th-minute goal from substitute striker Rose Lavelle. This was the most competitive game the American women had played in months and looked like it might end in a scoreless tie. But off of a failed clearance in the Canadian end following a free kick, Lavelle ripped a right-footed shot from just outside the penalty area that flew by Canadian keeper Stephanie Labbe. The U.S. had 53% of the possession during the game, but managed only five shots, but held Canada to just one.

Rowing ● The first section of the U.S. Rowing Olympic Trials starts on 22 February in Sarasota, Florida, with five classes competing: men’s and women’s Single Sculls, men’s Double Sculls, men’s Lightweight Double Sculls and women’s Lightweight Double Sculls.

The selection for Tokyo 2020 will be decided for the women’s Single Sculls only, with the other selections finalized at the final Trials event in May.

There are 37 entries in the women’s Single Sculls, with the focus on Gevvie Stone, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist in the event, and 2019 Worlds bronze medalist Kara Kohler. Stone took a couple of years off after Rio to concentrate on her medical residency, but came back to the sport in 2019, losing to Kohler at the U.S. nationals, but teaming with Cicely Madden in the women’s Double Sculls and finishing fifth at the World Rowing Championships.

Heats will take place next Tuesday, repechages on Wednesday, semifinals on Thursday and finals on Friday.

Weightlifting ● On Thursday (18th), the International Weightlifting Federation reversed a much-criticized decision on its anti-doping rules in hopes of currying favor with the already-angry International Olympic Committee. The posting on its Web site included:

“[The Executive Board] specifically approved a recommendation of the Independent Testing Agency (ITA) and the newly appointed independent IWF Anti-Doping Commission to restore Article 12 of the IWF Anti-Doping Rules to a threshold whereby three anti-doping rule violations in a single year would trigger suspension proceedings, instead of four.”

The prior rule had required suspensions after three violations, but was relaxed earlier this year.

An independent panel, outside of the IWF, will be named to verify the eligibility of candidates for next month’s elections, instead of the IWF’s own Ethics and Discipline Commission. However, the eligibility rules themselves are being reviewed as well.

The Last Word ● Happy to report that one of entries in the third AIPS Sport Media Awards category of “Best Column” has advanced to the “shortlist” and will be considered further.

Our story from 4 October 2020 entitled “After 79 years, the Paralympic Games deserves to have the world stage to itself … in 2027!” has passed through two rounds of judging and will now compete with 34 other entries from around the world by an international panel of judges during the next month. Thanks for the honor!

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