THE TICKER: More Tokyo virus concerns; Luvo Manyonga suspended for whereabouts; Tommy Lasorda passes at 93

The U.S. celebrates a IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton! (Photo: USA Hockey)

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

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● A state of emergency was declared for the Tokyo Metropolitan Area in view of escalating infections from the coronavirus. The International Olympic Committee provided a statement to the Kyodo News Service:

“The IOC has full confidence in the Japanese authorities and the measures they are taking.

“Together with our Japanese partners, we continue to be fully concentrated and committed to the safe and successful delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 this summer.”

Senior IOC member Dick Pound of Canada was less sure, telling the BBC, “I can’t be certain because the ongoing elephant in the room would be the surges in the virus.” The BBC story noted that “Pound added that competitors should be high up the priority list when it comes to getting vaccinated.”

Prediction: nothing is going to get decided until late March or early-to-mid April.

Athletics ● Major announcement from the Athletics Integrity Unit of a provisional suspension of South Africa’s 2017 World Long Jump Champion Luvo Manyonga for “whereabouts” failures.

Manyonga, now 30, has been one of the favorites for Tokyo in the event, but could now face a lengthy suspension. “Whereabouts” failures often lead to two-year bans, but Manyonga was previously suspended for the use of Tik (a locally-used methamphetamine) for 18 months in 2012, potentially exacerbating any new penalty for several years.

“The 2021 USATF Indoor Championships, originally scheduled for Feb. 20-21 in Albuquerque, N.M., have been canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, USATF announced today (Friday).”

The 2020 Indoor was held in Albuquerque, but there will be no event this year. The World Athletics Indoor Tour is now scheduled to start on 24 January at the Tyson Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas (USA).

World Athletics released bid guides for three major upcoming events, including the 2023 World Relays and new Road Running Championships and the 2025 World Championships:

● The 2023 World Relays are projected to cost the host $3.5-4.0 million for a two-day event, with economic impact potential of $5.87 million, mostly from spending to organize the event. Really?

● The 2023 World Road Running Championships, built around the World Half Marathon Championships, is expected to run for a week and cost $2.0-2.5 million to stage, with a potential direct economic impact from tourism and event spending of $6.08 million.

● The 2025 World Championships, often whispered to preferably be placed in Africa, has a $70-80 million price tag, with potential direct economic impact of $104.1 million, mostly from tourism.

Expressions of interest are due by 1 March 2021.

Coach and founder George Perry had some time over the holidays to dig deeper into the Equity in Athletics database, which houses data on all collegiate athletic programs in the U.S.

His latest study is on the cost of performance at the NCAA Division I Championships, where he shows the cost-per-point from the 2019 meet. His presentation uses graphics, but he provided the tools for calculation in a text format. So here goes, from 59 schools that scored points in his database:

(Note that this is based on total costs – NOT net costs – of the men’s and women’s T&F programs taken together, with men’s and women’s points combined.)

The most expensive cost-per-point schools:
1. $2.447 million per, for 3 points: Oklahoma
2. $1,703 million per, for 4 points: Nebraska
3. $525,601 per, for 7 points: Purdue
4. $479,242 per, for 5 points: Wichita State
5. $464,804 per, for 7 points: Missouri
6. $452,222 per, for 8 points: Auburn
7. $440,135 per, for 12 points: Michigan
8. $414,659 per, for 5 points: Georgia Tech
9. $362,497 per, for 13 points: Miami
10. $356,735 per, for 10 points: Iowa State

The least expensive were the schools that scored the big points:
1. $48,821 per, for 38 points: North Carolina A&T
2. $59,160 per, for 27 points: New Mexico
3. $63,095 per, for 82 points: Florida
4. $69,084 per, for 63 points: Southern California
5. $70,529 per, for 70 points: Texas Tech
6. $75,171 per, for 83 points: Louisiana State
7. $88,270 per, for 52 points: Stanford
8. $91,444 per, for 13 points: Southern Mississippi
9. $91,859 per, for 67 points: Texas A&M
10. $94,770 per, for 37 points: Brigham Young

Of the schools which did not score an NCAA Outdoor Championships point in 2019, the largest investments in the sports – according to the school-provided data – came from Clemson (spent $4.715 million), Tennessee ($4.273 million), Mississippi (spent $4.261 million), Penn State ($4.107 million), and Duke ($3.976 million). Another 15 schools spent more than $3 million and a further 18 spent more than $2 million. Wow.

From just a single year’s set of data, it’s not possible to derive any meaningful trends, but it underscores – once more – that the leading sponsor of track & field in the United States is our universities.

Lee Evans, the 1968 Olympic champion in the 400 m in Mexico City, who later won a second gold in the 4×400 m relay, scored another major victory more than 40 years after his last race, when a Federal High Court in Lagos, Nigeria reversed a ban imposed by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria.

Evans, now 73, had been working as a coach for the Lagos State Government when suspended for allegedly giving banned substances to a Nigerian athlete. But in a decision apparently handed down last 21 December:

“The judge set aside the report of the AFN’s anti-doping committee fair hearing panel which sat on February 17, 2014, for being speculative, devoid of fair hearing and having been arrived at in a manner unknown to law.

“Justice Faji also awarded N46,430,000.00 in favour of the former Olympian, being the total money and special damages, which he ought to have earned within the four years that his appointment was unlawfully suspended.” That about $117,540 in U.S. dollars.

Baseball ● Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda suffered a heart attack and passed away on Friday (8th) at age 93.

Most famous for managing the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1976-96, Lasorda’s teams won two World Series, four National League pennants and eight division titles. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

He brought an infectious enthusiasm to his team – and to Los Angeles – that endeared him to Dodger fans and made him the target of abuse for others (which he often enjoyed). Less well appreciated was his lifelong devotion to the game of baseball.

He coached an underdog U.S. team to the Olympic title in 2000 in Sydney, Australia and was a key ambassador and promoter of the World Baseball Classic in its early editions in 2006 and 2009. On the international level, his impact was important and will be enduring.

Coming Attractions ● The worldwide sports schedule is filling up a bit more.

U.S. Soccer announced that the U.S. Women’s National Team will play Colombia in two friendlies in Orlando, Florida on 18 and 22 January. The U.S. women last played against The Netherlands last November, winning 2-0.

The International Judo Federation announced a partial World Tour schedule for 2021, starting with the Doha Masters this weekend. The tournament will include the return of 10-time World Champion Teddy Riner (FRA) in the +100 kg category, looking for points for Olympic qualification for Tokyo. His nearly 10-year win streak of 154 matches was ended last February by Japan’s Kokoro Kageura in the Paris Grand Slam.

Ice Hockey ● More on the amazing U.S. win by 2-0 over Canada in the final of the IIHF men’s World Junior Championship in Edmonton (CAN) on Tuesday (5th), which gave the Americans their fifth title.

Certainly the Canadians were favored, having won all four of their group games and outscoring their opponents, 41-4, and having given up one goal in their last four games. But the U.S., despite an opening loss to Russia, had shown considerable tenacity, especially in the 4-3 overtime semifinal win against Finland.

The U.S. took the lead just 13:25 into the game on a goal from Alex Turcotte, and stayed aggressive throughout the period, out-shooting Canada by 13-9. Canada had more action in the second period, with 10 shots on goal to seven for the U.S., but Trevor Zegras got the second goal of the game just 32 seconds into the period, putting the hosts on their heels.

The Canadians made a game effort in the third period, out-shooting the U.S. by 15-1 (!), but keeper Spencer Knight was perfect and maintained the shutout.

This was the fifth time that the U.S. and Canada had met in the World Junior final, and the fourth straight win for the Americans, also in 2004-10-17.

“We had a great start,” noted U.S. coach Nate Leaman. “We hadn’t had great starts our previous games. I thought the guys were tight, but today they were loose. They were loose all day. We had a really good first and then an excellent start coming out for the second. That second goal was really big. It just made it that much harder for Canada. They’re a great team. They pushed us in the third period, but we bent; we didn’t break. The bonus was that we got the first goal.”

Zegras was named the Most Valuable Player and was joined on the All-Star Team by Canada’s Devon Levi (goalie), Dylan Cozens (forward) and Bowen Byram (defense), plus defenseman Ville Heinola (FIN) and forward Tim Stutzle (GER). Zegras ended as the leading scorer with 18 points (7+11); Cozens had the most goals with eight.

Nordic Skiing ● Two major skiing events are up this week, with Poland’s Kamil Stoch winning the famed Four Hills Tournament in ski jumping and Jessie Diggins possibly in line to become the first American to win the Tour de Ski.

At the Four Hills, Stoch – a three-time Olympic gold medalist – placed 2-4-1-1 to win his third career title. After winning in Innsbruck (AUT) on Sunday (3rd), he then won the final event at Bischofshofen (AUT) over Marius Lindvik (NOR) and Karl Geiger (GER) to finish with 1,110.6 points. Geiger was second at 1,062.5 and Poland’s Dawid Kubacki was third (1,057.8).

At the Tour de Ski, the men’s events have been dominated by Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov, who has won five in a row after finishing second in the opening Sprint. With two events left – both in Val di Fiemme, Italy, he has a 2:37 lead over France’s Maurice Manificat and 2:47 over Russian teammate Ivan Yakimushkin.

Diggins has a lead of 0:55 over Russian Yulia Stupak with two events left, and 1:42 over Swede Frida Karlsson. After a 1-2 finish with teammate Rosie Brennan on 3 January at Val Mustair (SUI) in the 10 km Freestyle Pursuit, Diggins and Brennan finished 1-2 again in the 10 km Freestyle race at Toblach (ITA) on Tuesday (5th) and the two were 3-4 on Wednesday in the 10 km Classical Pursuit in Toblach, with Stupak winning.

At Val di Fiemme on Friday (8th), Diggins finished ninth in the 10 km Classical Mass Start, with remaining races on Saturday (1.3 km Classical Sprint) and Sunday (10 km Final Climb Mass Start). No American has ever won the Tour de Ski.

This series, now in its 15th edition, has been dominated by Norwegian skiers, who dropped out in December after requesting that only five events be held (instead of eight) in view of the coronavirus.

Water Polo ● An online petition launched by four former U.S. Olympians or alternates is calling for the dismissal of USA Water Polo Board Chair Michael Graff and chief executive Chris Ramsey, based on reports in the Orange County Register of their responses to allegations of abuse by a coach in 2017 and of a USA Water Polo official from 2009-15.

As of mid-day Friday, the petition had 661 signatures vs. the USA Water Polo membership total of about 45,000. The federation released a statement noting its concern over the veracity of the petition, including

“We have learned from a member of our staff that she was added as a signatory to this petition without her permission. In light of this, we have serious concerns about the agenda of the parties behind the petition and whether the parties purportedly supporting the petition in fact do so. As a consequence, we have launched an investigation regarding the petition.”

USA Water Polo’s annual meeting will be held on 30 January 2021; just as important – or more so – will be the reaction of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, which is already keenly scrutinizing all of the National Governing Bodies for compliance with the U.S. Center for SafeSport requirements and procedures.

Games of the XXXIII Olympiad: Paris 2024 ● The “not in my backyard” or “NIMBY” syndrome is hardly limited to the U.S., as Agence France Presse reported a new lawsuit by opponents of the to-be-built media village for the 2024 Games in a portion of Georges Valbon Park in the Seine-Saint-Denis section of the city.

An environmental group and 12 park users filed the action against the Departmental Council of Saint-Denis, which approved the land sale for development. The project will create 1,300 homes and shops in the area, which needs housing. Some 32 acres (13 hec.) are to be cleaned up and converted to new parkland; the Georges Valbon Park is enormous, spanning 1,030 acres (417 hec.), compared to 840 acres for Central Park in New York!

AFP reported that “The summary suspension must be studied by the administrative court of appeal of Paris, competent for disputes related to the Olympic Games-2024.”

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