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● Plus: Russia: Biathlon suspending Russian & Belarusian federations = Paris 2024: Mayor says Russia may not be welcome = Winter Games 2030: Good but not great support in Sapporo poll = Paralympics: NBC releases modest viewing stats = Athletics: Singapore for 2025 Worlds? Philippine federation suspended over Obiena = Figure Skating: Chen withdraws from ISU Worlds; Liu’s father targeted by China ●
The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:
≡ SPOTLIGHT ≡
In a season marked by an epic failure at the Beijing Olympic Winter Games, American star Mikaela Shiffrin clinched the seasonal FIS Alpine World Cup title with a second-place finish in the Super-G in Courchevel, France.
She came into the four-race World Cup Final this week just barely ahead of the 2021 World Cup champ, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova,1,245-1,189. But Shiffrin surprised everyone, including herself, with a win in Wednesday’s Downhill and then won her fourth medal of the season (0-2-2) in Thursday’s Super-G.
Shiffrin started 11th in the order, with everyone chasing Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel, who 1:13.68 mark was holding up beautifully from the no. 3 spot.
Just as she did in the Downhill on Wednesday, Shiffrin skied well on the top of the course, but picked up speed on the bottom, especially near the finish and timed 1:13.73 to miss the lead by 0.06, but ending up ahead of everyone else. Swiss Michelle Gisin was third in 1:31.81.
The 80 points for second place, combined with Vlhova’s 17th-place finish that earned no points, gave Shiffrin an unassailable 1,425-1,189 lead with only the Slalom and Giant Slalom to go. From the low of the Olympics – where she finished only three of six races – to her fourth World Cup overall title inside of a month is amazing.
“It’s hard to compare them all,” she said afterwards of her fourth career World Cup crowns. “They’re all special, but this season has been one of the most confusing seasons I’ve ever had. I felt motivation, I felt triumph…but I also had some tough moments…this COVID time and different things that were difficult to deal with. That carried through the Olympics, and carried right until now.”
Italy’s Federica Brignone won the seasonal Super-G title with 506 points to 390 for teammate Elena Curtoni and 380 for Shiffrin.
The men’s Super-G saw Austria’s 2021 World Downhill and Super-G Champion Vincent Kriechmayr win for the second consecutive day. He won the Downhill on Wednesday and his 1:09.43 run was 0.53 ahead of Swiss Marco Odermatt (1:09.96) – second for the second consecutive day – and teammate Gino Caviezel (1:10.18).
American Ryan Cochran-Siegle was seventh (1:10.79).
In another repeat, Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, who won the Downhill seasonal title on Wednesday, won the seasonal Super-G title on Thursday with 530 points to 402 for Odermatt. The Swiss star clinched the overall World Cup title on Wednesday, with Kilde to finish second.
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
● Russia ● American basketball star Britney Griner will continue to be jailed in Russia over possession of a vape pen containing hashish oil, according to a BBC report of a Moscow court hearing:
“The court granted the request of the investigation and extended the period of detention of the US citizen Griner until May 19.”
She was detained at the airport in late February on her arrival in the country to play for her club team in Ekaterinburg. The BBC story also included:
“Ekaterina Kalugina, a member of Public Monitoring Commission, a semi-official body with access to Russian prisons, told Russian news agency TASS Ms Griner was sharing a cell with two other women with no previous convictions.
“She said Ms Griner’s ‘only issue’ was that the prison beds were too short for her tall frame.”
The International Biathlon Union is going a step further than many federations and announced Thursday that it has begun procedures to suspend the national federations of Russia and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine:
“The IBU [Executive Board] agreed on additional steps on the basis that the Russian and Belarusian National Federations as representatives of their nations failed to uphold their humanitarian obligations in the spirit of the IBU Constitution. The suspension would be reviewed regularly by the EB, run through to the next Ordinary Congress in September 2022 and depend on the future development of the situation and behaviour of the suspended associations. Both National Federations were informed about the decision yesterday and have seven days to react. After this period, the EB will consider the answers and take a final decision on the suspension.”
In addition, the national federations in Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland will “host training camps for Ukrainian athletes and teams of all categories as soon as it is possible for them to travel outside of their country.” The IBU will contribute €250,000 (~$278,000) to the effort.
● Games of the XI Olympiad: Berlin 1936 ● The recent community concern over the possible loss of the “Olympic oak tree” planted by 1936 Olympic high jump gold medalist Cornelius Johnson in Los Angeles led to more questions about the other “Olympic oaks.”
The oak saplings were given to each of the gold-medal winners in the 129 events at the Berlin Games as a gift. There were 24 given to U.S. athletes who won golds, including four to Jesse Owens and one to Johnson.
Various sources report that three of the saplings did not make it back to the U.S. and the fate of most of the rest of the 21 is unknown. There are six still known to be standing, according to Fountainhead Associates founder and University of Southern California grad Jerry Papazian, a Board member of the Los Angeles Sports Council.
Owens planted a tree at his high school in Cleveland, Ohio, another at his mother’s home and one at Ohio State; the two school trees are still there. High hurdles winner Spec Towns planted his at the University of Georgia, where is stands today, and the oak given to 800 m winner John Woodruff is at his high school in Connellsville, Pennsylvania.
Three of the oaks came to Los Angeles. USC star Ken Carpenter received one for winning the discus in Berlin, along with one given by Owens to USC sprinter Foy Draper, in honor of him and teammate Frank Wykoff, who ran the third and anchor legs on the world-record-setting 4×100 m relay. Papazian notes:
“The two trees that came to USC were planted in Associates Park, between the Bovard Administration Building and the Physical Education Building on the university campus. They remained practically unknown to the campus for many years, until one of them died in 2004 from root rot. A mature replacement oak has been planted and a new plaque, with the names of the four members of the relay team, is now at its base.”
Of the Draper tree, Papazian added, “They did do everything they could at the time to save it, but it was gone. They replaced the tree with the exact same type of tree and we ‘re-dedicated’ it in 2005 with some former Olympians in attendance.”
Carpenter’s tree is still standing in good health today, celebrated by a plaque at its base.
Which leaves Johnson’s tree, planted at the family home at 1516 S. Hobart Avenue in Los Angeles. The Johnson family owned the home through 1994, but it was sold again in 2019 and the future of the Olympic oak is uncertain; the West Adams Heritage Association is working to ensure its preservation.
What makes Johnson’s tree especially significant is that he was athlete snubbed by German dictator Adolf Hitler, not Owens.
Johnson competed in the high jump on Sunday, 2 August 1936, the first day of athletics at the newly-completed Olympiastadion, with 100,000 – including Hitler – in attendance. Germany’s Hans Woelke won the shot put, Finland’s Ilmari Salminen won the 10,000 m and German Tilly Fleischer won the women’s javelin. Hitler greeted them all after their victories.
The men’s high jump was the last event to finish, with Johnson clearing 2.03 m (6-8) to win over fellow Americans Dave Albritton (2.00 m/6-6 3/4) and Delos Thurber (also 2.00 m). Per the Olympedia.com historical site:
“Johnson was snubbed by Adolf Hitler, who had congratulated all the other winners on that day, but refused to shake the hand of a black man. He was then told by the IOC to congratulate all the winners or none of them, and chose none. This led to the rumors that he refused to acknowledge the victories of Jesse Owens but in reality, Johnson was the black American he had insulted.”
Owens won the 100 m the next day, 3 August.
It was noted, however, by historian David Wallechinsky in his The Complete Book of the Olympics series that Hitler did meet privately with American teen sprinter Helen Stephens after her dominating win in the women’s 100 m on 5 August and no doubt with others in less public circumstances.
For more about the efforts to save the Johnson tree, please contact Rina Rubenstein of the West Adams Heritage Association. You can visit the Carpenter oak and the replacement for the Draper oak on the USC campus any time; it’s in the middle of the campus, appropriately close to the current USC track & field facility, Cromwell Field.
● Games of the XXXIII Olympiad: Paris 2024 ● While the International Olympic Committee has the final say on who can compete in the Olympic Games, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, also the Socialist candidate for President in April, told Reuters on Wednesday:
“For me the Olympic Games are also a part of this world of geopolitics. What is happening today does not effectively put Russia in this grouping of peaceful countries.
“I am very pragmatic and we will make a decision when the moment comes. That’s it.”
The IOC has stressed its political neutrality, with President Thomas Bach (GER) stating that Russian athletes are not to blame for the actions of their government, but that to be fair to Ukrainian athletes who cannot compete due to the Russian invasion, Russia’s athletes (and those of co-conspirator Belarus) must be banned from international competition. However, the Russian Olympic Committee has not been suspended and both of the Russian members of the IOC continue in their roles.
● XXVI Olympic Winter Games 2030 ● Sapporo officials released polling that shows good – but not great – support for the 2030 Winter Games to be held there.
A total of 13,875 people were surveyed across the Hokkaido Prefecture over two weeks using three methods:
● Mail: 52% were “in favor” or “somewhat in favor” with 39% “opposed” or “somewhat opposed” to holding the Games there; 9% were neutral or had no opinion.
● Online: 57% were positive, with 26% negative and 17% neither.
● Street: 65% were positive, with 26% negative and 9% neither.
More data is promised in April, but the sentiment in Sapporo is well behind that of its chief rival.
A 2019 poll in Salt Lake City – prior to the pandemic – showed a sensational 87% in favor of having another Winter Games there, vs. 11% opposed and two percent undecided. Both cities have detailed bids that could be tapped by the IOC for selection at any time.
● XIII Winter Paralympic Games: Beijing 2022 ● NBC released some viewership stats for its Beijing Paralympics coverage, with a total audience across the NBC and USA Network shows of 11.9 million.
NBC stated that’s up 107% over the total audience for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympics. The 11.9 million figure compares to a total audience for the Olympic WinterGames of 160 million Americans. The television-only figures for the NBC and USA Network shows “averaged 165,000 TV-only viewers across NBC and USA Network, up 62% vs. PyeongChang 2018 (102,000 viewers on NBC/NBCSN).”
The six hours of NBC broadcasts – three in primetime – averaged 919,000 viewers, 22% more than the average of the two NBC afternoon broadcasts in 2018. The top U.S. markets for the NBC primetime shows were New Orleans, Louisiana; Ft. Myers, Florida and Memphis, Tennessee.
● Anti-Doping ● Had to happen, only a matter of time.
The Qatar anti-doping laboratory in Doha, working with the Swiss company RigiTech, completed four days of test flights using drones to carry doping samples over distances of up to 20 km by air.
“A primary aim of the study was to establish whether the integrity of the samples used during the four trial days is not impacted by drone flight transport. At the ADLQ laboratory, the samples were rigorously tested in accordance to the laboratory standards of the World Anti-Doping Code to assess whether any of the biological parameters of the samples were affected during the flight using the same analysis that is usually used for actual doping control samples.”
No report on the results yet.
● Athletics ● Sport Singapore announced a bid for the 2025 World Athletics Championships as a part of the celebration of its 60th year as an independent state.
Although tiny, with a population of just 5.4 million, Singapore is not a stranger to larger events, having hosted the first Youth Olympic Games in 2010. It became independent from Malaysia in 1965.
The 2022 World Athletics Championships will be in the U.S., followed by Budapest in 2023. Following the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the 2025 Worlds have long been whispered to be going to Nairobi, Kenya, but there is also a strong – and sympathetic – bid from Tokyo, the site of the “2020″ Olympic Games and a great Worlds in 1991 in the former National Stadium.
The site selection may be made as early as this summer.
The shenanigans of the Philippine track & field federation (PATAFA), in particular its oppressive actions against star pole vaulter E.J. Obiena, has earned it a 90-day suspension from the Philippine Olympic Committee.
The POC President, Abraham Tolentino, noted “Our constitution states that POC may suspend for any reason. However, it’s transparent that PATAFA has deliberately and intentionally disregarded our basic principles of promoting sports and development.”
If the suspension is ratified on 30 March by the POC General Assembly, PATAFA will no longer control the national team and Obiena could be cleared to compete in the Southeast Asian Games, the World Athletics Championships and other events. He was prohibited from competing in this week’s World Athletics Indoor Championships in Serbia, to which the Philippines sent no competitors.
Tolentino said that if Obiena’s issues were ironed out, the suspension would be removed.
● Figure Skating ● Olympic men’s gold medalist Nathan Chen of the U.S. withdrew from the ISU World Championships later this month with injury issues:
“I am disappointed to have to withdraw from Worlds. I have been training for this competition since returning from Beijing. I have a nagging injury that I’ve been dealing with, and I don’t want to risk further injury by practicing and competing next week.”
Chen is a three-time World Champion from 2018-19-21. Camden Pulkinen will replace Chen in the U.S. line-up and make his Worlds debut.
Arthur Liu, the father of U.S. Olympian Alysa Liu, came to the U.S. as a political refugee from China after protesting the Chinese government’s 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, and saw his daughter Alysa become a two-time U.S. women’s champion. But the Chinese government did not forget about him.
The U.S. Justice Department filed charges on Wednesday against “five defendants with various crimes related to efforts by the secret police of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to stalk, harass and spy on Chinese nationals residing in Queens, New York, and elsewhere in the United States.”
Arthur Liu told the Associated Press that he had been approached for personal information, including passport numbers for he and his daughter. Alysa, 16, competed in Beijing, finishing seventh, while constantly escorted by security personnel. Said the father:
“They are probably just trying to intimidate us, to … in a way threaten us not to say anything, to cause trouble to them and say anything political or related to human rights violations in China. I had concerns about her safety. The U.S. government did a good job protecting her.”
For our 832-event International Sports Calendar for 2022 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!