THE TICKER: USOPC re-structuring tosses Adams and Penn; could New Balance’s showy new facility galvanize others? Riders in limbo via UCI’s harsh ban rules

USOPC Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland

Plus: Russia: Foreign athletes to be invited to summer aquatics festival = Athletics: public 5K to be added to Oregon Worlds = Bobsled: U.S. federation looking for new head coach = Skiing: FIS sub-committee clears ski-flying for women = Swimming: Schoenmaker to skip FINA Worlds for Commonwealth Games; ISL appoints new Commissioner and chief executive = Wrestling: U.S. turns to Ivanov to raise Greco success = SCOREBOARD/Athletics: how about those adidas and Florida 4×4 relay splits; Webb returns to the track at age 39 = Shooting: Germany and Norway best
at Rifle-Pistol ISSF Grand Prix ●

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


Getting through the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, followed by the Beijing Olympic Winter and Winter Paralympic Games was a challenge for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, but one which was successfully completed.

Now comes the spring cleaning.

The Sports Business Journal reported last week that USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland informed the staff by video message that Chief of Sport Performance and National Governing Body Services Rick Adams and Chief of Business Operations Kevin Penn will be leaving as part of a restructuring.

In addition, USOPC Vice President for Bids & Protocol Chris Sullivan will be retiring, as has been expected. Chief of Athlete Services Bahati VanPelt, who had come with considerable fanfare from a long career with the National Football League and the NFL Players Association program, The Trust, left just prior to the Beijing Games after two years and four months.

Hirshland joined the USOPC as Chief Executive Officer in August 2018, following the exit of Scott Blackmun, who resigned in February of that year due to prostate cancer, and replacing interim chief executive Susanne Lyons, who became the USOPC Board Chair.

An re-organizational initiative within the USOPC will now see the athlete performance and athlete services groups combined into a single division, with a new head to be hired, and the business and legal operations merged under the direction of General Counsel Chris McCleary. A replacement will be hired for Sullivan, who will help with the transition.

While Penn had been with the USOPC since July 2016, Adams and Sullivan represented significant institutional memory and experience. Adams joined the then-USOC in 2010, dealing with the National Governing Bodies and sport performance. Sullivan’s tenure goes back to 1997, when he came from Olympic Regional Development Authority in Lake Placid, New York.

The Sports Business Journal story noted that there is no specified date for Adams or Penn to leave the organization.

With long-time Board member Lyons concluding her term at the end of this year – she joined the Board in 2010 and was elected Chair in 2019 – the USOPC will be primarily in Hirshland’s control.

She spoke of “fundamental reform” of the organization – which had 567 employees as of the end of 2020 – during her video address, with an all-staff meeting held on Tuesday. Whatever her future plan is, it will be watched closely with the Paris Games now only two years away and an agreement with the Los Angeles 2028 organizers for the USOPC to receive more than $476 million from their joint marketing venture from 2021-28.

Hirshland is not universally popular, but who is? But with Paris 2024 and LA28 on the horizon, not to mention Salt Lake City’s bid for the 2030 Winter Games, this is the right time to leap towards the future. The question is, where is the USOPC headed and how will it get there?


● Russia ● The Russian sports ministry and national federations have been chatting about separate competitions for their athletes, now banned by the International Olympic Committee and nearly all of the International Federations.

Is this the start of a separatist movement by Russia? On Tuesday, Olga Pavlova, the Vice President of the Russian Federation of Synchronized Swimming, told TASS that foreign countries would be invited to compete in Kazan (RUS) at a summer “Friendship Games”:

“We are working hard. All the countries of the Caribbean, Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba, Brazil, we will contact everyone, we want to see China. We are working, we are waiting for these competitions.”

Other aquatic-sport invitations are being planned; earlier this year, the Russians staged a nine-nation Paralympic winter festival to give Russian Paralympic athletes a chance to compete after they were banned from the Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing.

● Athletics ● Although there was a massive grand opening and even a staged time trial to beat the “world record” in the women’s indoor Distance Medley on Friday evening, the long-term impact of the new The TRACK at New Balance in Brighton, Massachusetts may be much more important than anyone realizes.

Although not in the same league as Nike and adidas, New Balance is a $4 billion-plus company in annual sales and has been increasingly aggressive with signings of elite athletes, such as Sydney McLaughlin and Elle Purrier St. Pierre.

According to the company, the facility includes a 200 m indoor track with hydraulically-lifting turns and seating for up to 5,000, the ability to turn the infield into a playing field of various types, a separate throwing area, a court area with two basketball and volleyball layouts, a sports research laboratory, a 50,000 sq. ft. performance venue with a 60-foot-wide stage “and a Beer Hall named Broken Records where visitors can take in the action happening throughout the facility.”

What this does is create a training facility and a showcase for competitions as an extension of the company’s headquarters offices. It’s indoors and limited in size, but if this were to become a trend, consider the possibilities if larger players were to get involved in this way, combining a public, multi-purpose arena with a performance research and development program inside a major metropolitan center.

The race was held on Friday and the quartet of Heather MacLean (3:14.92), Kendall Ellis (52.05), Roisin Willis (2:03.30), and Purrier St. Pierre (4:23.55) dutifully ran under the recognized world best of 10:39.91 by the Nike Union Athletics Club from 11 February in Spokane, Washington.

(Update: David Monti of Race Results Weekly notes that while the Distance Medley is not a recognized event by World Athletics, it is a USATF-recognized event for record purposes and that there was a second team in the race, as required. Thanks, David!)

The annual New Balance Indoor Grand Prix will be held in this space in 2023 and the chatter is about future collegiate or open championship events. Interesting. Maybe game-changing?

World Athletics sponsor ASICS announced a public 5 km run as a part of the World Athletics Championships program this July in Eugene, Oregon.

The ASICS Uplift Oregon 5K will be held on Sunday, 17 July, the third day of the 2022 Worlds in Eugene, finishing outside Autzen Stadium, the football home of the Oregon Ducks, about 2 1/2 miles from Hayward Field.

The 5K course route will be run on a section of the course to be used for the Worlds marathons; registration is $50 with about 2,000 runners expected.

● Bobsled & Skeleton ● USA Bobsled & Skeleton is in the market for a new head coach for the bobsled discipline.

Coach Mike Kohn stepped down earlier this month after four seasons as head coach, citing a desire to spend more time with family. He had been part of the USABS coaching staff since 2011.

The job description requires “5+ years of sport-specific experience” and “Candidates must be willing and able to travel 120+ days per year, on the IBSF World Cup tour and to related bobsled and skeleton events.” In short:

“The Bobsled Head Coach is responsible for the leadership, development, and execution of the bobsled program to ensure optimal performance by USA athletes at domestic and international competitions, including the World Championships and Olympic Games.”

The no. 1 responsibility: “Create a culture of passion, teamwork, support, innovation, transparency, and clear communication throughout all aspects of USABS.”

● Cycling ● Italian road racer Nicola Conci is a victim of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, even though he is nowhere close to the war zone.

He is a 25-year-old rider on the Russian-named Gazprom-Rusvelo team that has been suspended by the Union Cycliste Internationale, and posted:

“The words of this post are addressed to the UCI. It’s 50 days already that me and my teammates of the ex-Gazprom Rusvelo Team have seen our right to do our job being revoked. We have seen our salaries and our goals being suspended.

“We waited and worked with you and [Professional Cyclists Association] in a professional way, but you now need to take your responsibilities and solve our situation. The time of answers has come. Stop talking start doing. Our future depends from your choices.”

The team is actually based in Italy, managed by a Swiss company and was sponsored by the German subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom, but was shut down nonetheless. And the UCI is apparently not helping.

● Ski Jumping ● This sport is not for the feint of heart. Especially if you are jumping off the staggering 240 m Ski-Flying hills, for example in Vikersund (NOR). For older American fans, the image of Slovenian Vinko Bogataj crashing every week during the intro to ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” show – on a ski-flying hill – is an unforgettable image of what can happen in this sport.

But the women’s side of the sport has advanced far enough, with enough quality competitors, to begin ski-flying competitions. Probably. It was announced that the FIS Ski Jumping Sub-Committee voted 14-0 to allow jumping at Vikersund:

“We all agreed to open this door for the women. There are still many concerns and fears regarding safety and so on, but the time is right and we want the women to start on a Ski Flying hill.”

The decision was not to hold a World Cup yet, but likely “the 15 best athletes of the Raw Air overall ranking will be allowed to ski fly on the Monsterbakken in Vikersund in the final event of the Raw Air 2023.” The decision must be confirmed by the full Ski Jumping Committee in May.

● Swimming ● South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic champ in the women’s 200 m Breaststroke and runner-up in the 100 m Breast, has declared herself out of the 2022 FINA World Championships in June and will compete in July’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.

She follows multiple Australian swimming stars who are also skipping Budapest for Birmingham.

The International Swimming League is on hiatus in 2022, but founder Konstantin Grigorishin (UKR) has appointed Hong Kong tech company Voxoglass founders Ben Allen as Commissioner and Matt Dawe as chief executive.

Before the calamity in Ukraine collapsed the league’s planning 2022-23 season, it was already facing substantial losses of perhaps $20 million per year, a constantly-changing line-up of senior managers and contract staff and claims of non-payment from swimmers, teams and vendors.

● Wrestling ● USA Wrestling has turned to Bulgarian-born Ivan Ivanov, a 1994 Worlds silver medalist, to upgrade its Greco-Roman program.

The U.S. has won more Olympic medals in Freestyle wrestling – men and women combined – than any nation, with 123 since 1904 (52-38-33); Japan is second with 61 and the USSR and Russia combined have 90.

In Greco-Roman, however, the U.S. has won 15 medals all–time (3-6-6), compared with 60 for the USSR (plus 22 for Russia), and 58 each for Sweden and Finland. Enter Ivanov.

He won the 1994 Worlds silver at 62 kg and placed fifth in Atlanta in 1996. In the U.S., he has been a successful coach for decades, with his own wrestling club and school in Boise, Idaho. He coached at the U.S. Olympic Education Center in Marquette, Michigan and at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. He is optimistic about the future:

I am all about building a USA Greco-Roman identity, a style that is typical for America. It is our USA cultural style. This will be very specific for our country, for what we are trying to do.

“We need to find a way that we train while, at the same time, making it difficult for people to figure out what we are doing. We are not coming here to fight with rusty weapons, but with new weapons. This is who I am. I am very optimistic about U.S. Greco-Roman because we have a lot of resources.”

The U.S. record in Greco has been dismal, with the last medal (a bronze) in 2008. At Tokyo in 2021, the American entries finished 12th, 10th, 1th and seventh in the four classes it qualified for.


● Athletics ● The astounding men’s 4×400 m at last weekend’s Tom Jones Memorial in Gainesville is worth a deeper look, with a mixed-nations adidas team winning in 2:57.72 and Florida finishing a tight second with a collegiate record of 2:58.53. The splits, courtesy of Track Newsletter:

(1) adidas 2:57.72: Steven Gardiner (BAH) 44.2, Quincy Hall 44.6, Erriyon Knighton 45.1, Grant Holloway 43.8.

(2) Florida 2:58.53: Jacory Patterson 44.4, Ryan Willie 44.5, Jacob Miley 46.0, Champ Allison 43.6.

World 110 m hurdles champ Holloway ran 43.8?! U.S. coaches might want to remember that in the future; he also ran the third leg on the all-American adidas 4×100 m team – with Knighton on anchor – that ran 38.09 for the 2022 world lead.

American mile record holder Alan Webb popped up in the Little Rock Twilight 1,500 m on Friday, placing 13th in section two in 4:13.55. Now 39, he was an assistant coach at Arkansas-Little Rock before taking over at a high school in Little Rock for this season.

He has lifetime bests of 3:30.54 (1,500 m) and 3:46.91 (mile) from way back in 2007, but nice to see him on the track once again.

● Shooting ● The non-stop ISSF World Cup schedule saw the 10-day Rifle and Pistol competition in Rio de Janeiro (BRA) conclude on Monday, with Germany topping the medal table at 12 total (7-3-2), ahead of Norway (10: 3-4-3).

In the men’s 10 m Air Pistol, Slovakia’s Juraj Tuzinsky won gold over Robin Walter (GBR) by 16-6 in the final, and Germany defeated Iran, 16-10, in the men’s Team final. Germany’s Christian Reitz, the 2016 Olympic champ, defeated Tokyo 2020 winner Jean Quiquampoix in the 25 m Rapid Fire Pistol final, 29-27, with American Will Shaner third (20). Reitz got a second gold in the Team Rapid Fire Pistol as Germany skipped past Brazil, 17-1.

Zorana Arunovic (SRB), the 2010 World Champion, defeated Greece’s Rio 2016 25 m Pistol Olympic winner, Anna Korakaki in the women’s 10 m Air Pistol final, 16-6. Iran beat Thailand, 16-12, in the women’s Team final.

Camille Jedrzejewski of France won the women’s 25 m Pistol gold over Doreen Vennekamp (GER), 32-25, but Vennekamp led Germany to the Team win, 17-7, over Thailand.

Reitz and wife Sandra Reitz also won the Mixed Team 10 m Air Pistol event, 16-10, against Thailand.

Croatia’s Peter Gorsa won the men’s 10 m Air Rifle final, 16-4, over Israel’s Sergey Richter. The U.S. trio of Lucas Kozeniesky, Rylan Kissell and Shaner won the Team title, 16-12, over the Czech Republic.

Czech Jiri Privratsky won the men’s 50 m Rifle/3 Positions gold, 16-10, against Simon Claussen of Norway and then the Czech team stomped Norway in the final of the Team 50 m Rifle event by 17-3.

German Anna Janssen defeated France’s Oceanne Muller, 17-7, in the women’s 10 m Air Rifle gold-medal match and then Janssen led the Germans to a 16-12 win over Norway in the Team Air Rifle final.

Norway scored a gold in the women’s 50 m Rifle/3 Positions, with Jeanette Hegg Duestad defeating Janssen in the final, 16-6, and getting a second gold in the Team event, 16-4, over the American trio of Morgan Kreb, Mary Tucker and Sagen Maddalena.

In the Mixed Team finals, the Czech Republic edged Norway, 16-14, in the 10 m Air Rifle championship match, but the Norwegians got the gold in the Team 50 m/3 Positions final against the Czechs, 16-12.

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