Home 2020 Olympic Games THE TICKER: White House welcomes massive U.S. summer-winter teams; French gov’t report...

THE TICKER: White House welcomes massive U.S. summer-winter teams; French gov’t report asks better 2024 equine safety; U.S. women U-17s in CONCACAF semis

Team USA at the White House (Photo: U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee via Twitter)

Plus: Winter Games 2030: IOC experts to visit Sapporo = Commonwealth Games 2026: Victoria allocates $1.84 billion U.S. = World Games: Record country total; Lionel Richie to perform in closing ceremony = SCCOG: Ready, Set, Gold! expanding again = Russia: new, separate football tournaments to be organized = Athlete Safety: NBC report says 20 banned coaches still working with kids = Athletics: Famed runner and writer Kenny Moore passes at 78 = Cross Country Skiing: equal distances for men and women proposed, but not everyone is happy = Equestrian: De Vos to run for third Presidential term unopposed = Swimming: USA Swimming updates Worlds roster; Andrew now in five events = Wrestling: Cuban star Borrero defects in Acapulco ●

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

≡ SPOTLIGHT ≡

“The pandemic made training and competing especially difficult and draining. But you did it. You all did it. And we were in awe not just of your incredible athleticism but your endurance and your state of mind — but most of all your character. You all have such incredible character.”

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed an immense throng of Olympians and Paralympians to the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday, congratulating the members of the Tokyo and Beijing Games teams. Among his remarks:

“There are people you’ll never meet who witnessed how hard you competed, trained, and pushed yourself. And you helped them believe in themselves. You’ve helped them believe that they can do things that, ‘Maybe, maybe – just maybe I can.’

“They look at you and see that despite the emotional, mental, and financial, and physical toll, you’ve never gave up. You just don’t quit.”

“As I said to our foreign leaders – my counterparts: There’s no quit in America. There’s just no quit. And you’re the quintessential example of that. There’s no quit in America. None.

“The power of your example gives so many people strength to never give up as well. It matters. It particularly matters today. Because of the pandemic, so much turmoil has occurred. So many people are dealing with problems, particularly little kids, in terms of health, mental health problems, and the like. You’ve given people so much hope.

“In you, I see who we are as a nation. The only nation in the world that can be defined by one word – one word. I was asked when I was in the Tibetan Plateau with Xi Jinping – and he looked at me. … I had a simultaneous interpreter, and he had one. And he looked at me and he said, ‘Can you define America for me?’ It’s a true story; it’s been published all over the world by now. And I said, ‘Yes, I can, in one word: possibilities.’

“We believe: In America, anything is possible. And you are the explanation of what we mean.”

Bobsled star Elana Meyers Taylor spoke for the athlete assembly, echoing Biden’s comments:

“As a team, Olympians, Paralympians, summer athletes, winter athletes, we’ve been through a lot. We came together and we persevered, and we hope we’ve made this country proud.”

≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

● Games of the XXXIII Olympiad: Paris 2024 ● A 72-page report from an animal-welfare study group of the French National Assembly made 46 recommendations to the Paris organizers for equine welfare at the 2024 Games.

The report is aimed at the 2024 organizing committee and not at the Swiss-based International Olympic Committee or Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) because that’s who the National Assembly has jurisdiction over. The Modern Pentathlon, of which riding will still be a part in 2024, is also noted.

The recommendations are mostly technical, dealing with stables space, workout grounds, grounds and a lot of detail about equipment worn by horses and their riders, and constant checks to ensure safety. Also:

● “Respect and the welfare of horses in competition is under increased scrutiny by animal welfare organisations, the public and industry. The Tokyo Olympic Games gave a very poor public image on these issues.”

● For Jumping: “Return to the pre-Tokyo Olympic Games show jumping format of 4 rider-horse pairs per team, with a drop-score”; “Accept the French Equestrian Federation’s (FFE) request to reschedule the individual event after the team events” and “Organise events involving show jumping in daylight, while avoiding the hottest periods of the day.”

● For Cross Country: “Improve the protection of horses by fully checking their clinical condition before deciding whether or not to allow them entry to the Olympic Games.” … “Equip the cross-country course with 100% of obstacles designed to collapse in the event of a fall or impact.”

For the Pentathlon, the recommendations include “Assign a different horse to each rider to avoid multiple rounds,” to “Draw lots for the horse 24 hours before the event, so that every rider-horse pair can get to know each other” and “Lower the height of the obstacles to 110 cm maximum.”

Observed: Would those changes have avoided the issues in Tokyo that led German coach Kim Raisner to punch the horse Saint Boy for not cooperating with pentathlete Annika Schleu? As Saint Boy had already had a difficult ride earlier in the event, it might have. And that would have changed the current trajectory of the Pentathlon out of the 2028 Games.

● XXVI Olympic Winter Games: 2030 ● The International Olympic Committee’s three-member technical team that has visited Salt Lake City and is in Vancouver (CAN) will visit Sapporo (JPN) by the end of May.

A total of 13 sites are expected to be visited. The bids from Sapporo and Salt Lake City are the most advanced so far, but no decision appears to be imminent.

● Commonwealth Games: Victoria 2026 ● The Victoria State Government announced its budget for 2022-23 that will allocate A$2.6 billion ($1.84 billion U.S.) to support the project:

“Four regional athlete hubs will be established in Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland, creating jobs, housing and modern sports infrastructure to encourage Victorians to get active and attract future major events to every corner of the state. Shepparton will also host sporting and cultural events as part of the Commonwealth Games. …

“The 2026 Commonwealth Games are expected to create more than 600 jobs before the Games, 3,900 jobs during the Games and a further 3,000 jobs after the event – more than 7,500 jobs in total.”

● World Games: Birmingham 2022 ● The International World Games Association announced that a record 110 countries will send athletes to compete in 34 sports and 223 medal events. That’s eight more than the 102 nations at the 2017 World Games in Wroclaw, Poland. Afghanistan was the latest country to confirm a qualifying place for Birmingham.

The U.S. will have an enormous team, with 373 qualifiers in 142 events. Ukraine has qualified 140 athletes in 80 events and arrangements are being made to find a way to get them safely to Birmingham.

Alabama native Lionel Richie will perform at the Closing Ceremony in Birmingham, echoing his iconic performance at the closing of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, where he performed a specially-adapted, nine-minute version of his “All Night Long” hit from 1983.

Richie will add to an already impressive line-up including Alabama, Taylor Hicks, Reuben Studdard, the legendary Martha Reeves. The World Games opening on 7 July will include musical guests Alabama, Nelly, Sara Evans, Sheila E., Tony! Toni! Tone!, and Yolanda Adams.

● Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games ● Ready, Set, Gold! has evolved to the point that it is now the primary way that Southern California students learn about the Olympic and Paralympic values. I am proud of how the program adapted during the Covid pandemic and how we found a way to grow our audience and continue to serve our community.

“With the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games coming to Los Angeles, we are ideally situated to increase our impact in this community, and possibly nationwide as well.”

That’s 1976 Olympic swimming superstar John Naber, the four-time Olympic gold medalist, and Chair of the unique Ready, Set, Gold! Program that is a direct legacy of the failed Los Angeles bid for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Not just the host of the 1932 and 1984 Games, Los Angeles – via the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games – has been a perpetual bidder for the Games when allowed and bid for the U.S. designation as the American candidate for the 2012 and 2016 Games, losing to New York and Chicago, which both lost at the international level.

But during the U.S. bid process for the 2016 Games in 2006, the concept of bringing Olympians directly into L.A.-area schools to inspire children in both athletic and lifestyle learning was made into reality with the development of Ready, Set, Gold! by the SCCOG.

The program has continued to expand, now serving 72 schools in five Southern California school districts, with more than 40 Olympians and Paralympians participating and touching 8,720 students in-person and 35,000 plus virtually each academic year.

The pandemic forced the RSG! Project online, which dramatically expanded its reach and allowed new instruction and excitement around at-home exercise, better diet and nutrition and finding new outlets for leadership. Among the current “instructors” are Olympians who share their experiences including Pairs skating star Tai Babilonia (1976-80 Winter Games), Beijing 2008 beach volleyball’s Nicole Branagh (2008), swimming stars like Jordan Wilimovsky (2016-20) and track & field stars Reynaldo Brown (1968), Rosalyn Bryant (1976), Mark Crear (1996-2000), Allen James (1992-96) and more.

With children back to in-person leading, 80 schools are targeted for the 2022-23 school program. Pretty impressive for a failed bid!

● Russia ● The talk of separatist sports competitions continues, with State Duma Deputy Boris Paikin saying Wtorriednesday:

“It is necessary to stipulate for a series of international competitions among football clubs from friendly countries. This would be a real response to the international isolation of Russian sports in general and football in particular.

“For example, as you know, the Russian Football Union has developed a set of measures to support Russian football. The RFU is proposing to attract more than 20 billion rubles of extra-budgetary additional funding for the development of sports every year.

“Russian sports federations should take the initiative and act as organizers of international-level competitions. We have extensive organizational experience for this, all the necessary capabilities, and most importantly, top-class athletes.”

● Athlete Safety ● A disturbing report from NBC News states “[a]t least 20 people appear to be working with kids after they were accused of abuse and barred from participating in Olympic-affiliated events.”

An analysis found that 20 coaches banned for abuse and other violations of the U.S. SafeSport Code are today working with children, out of some 1,400 coaches banned by the Center or a U.S. National Governing Body. The story included:

One coach who was banned for drugging and raping an athlete sued SafeSport, claiming his ban precluded him from earning a living. In response, SafeSport lawyers said the coach wasn’t precluded from employment and could, in fact, continue to coach.

“‘He can go overseas and work for another Olympic committee,’ the motion filed by SafeSport says. ‘He could work in a Taekwondo studio that is not subject to the auspices of the U.S. Olympic Committee or under their purview.’”

Congress created the U.S. Center for SafeSport in 2017 in response to the Nassar abuse scandal in gymnastics, and it receives $20 million in funding each year from the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee. It files a quarterly report with the USOPC on its activities; TheSportsExaminer.com has asked for these reports to be made public, but none have been as yet.

Said SafeSport chief executive Ju’Riese Colon in the story:

“I do not think that people who have been banned from Olympic and Paralympic sports should have the flexibility to move on to someone’s local school or university.

“That’s not what the intent of the Center was. It’s just something that unfortunately has happened at least 20 times.”

● Athletics ● A gifted runner and storyteller, Kenny Moore brought the joy and challenges of running and track & field to audiences for decades through his writing for Sports Illustrated and in books.

He passed away on Wednesday (4th) at his home in Kailua, Hawaii, at age 78.

Moore ran for Oregon, but was best known for his fourth-place finish in the marathon at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, won by fellow American Frank Shorter, one of the launch events of what became the American running boom of the 1970s and 1980s.

A three-time All-American for Oregon in the Steeple (6th in ‘64 and ‘66) and the 5,000 m (‘66), he made the U.S. Olympic Team in the marathon in 1968 (14th) and 1972. A Stanford Law grad, he got a Master of Fine Arts in writing from Oregon after the Munich Games and soon began a brilliant writing career.

His work in Sports Illustrated was exquisite and he used his high profile to lobby for athlete’s rights. He worked on two feature films about the sport, “Personal Best” (1982) and “Without Limits” (1998). He was most proud of his book about his college coach at Oregon, Bowerman and the Men of Oregon (2006).

● Cross Country Skiing ● The three-time Olympic champion Vegard Ulvang (NOR), head of the International Ski Federation’s Cross Country Executive Board, is proposing that the race distances between men and women should be equalized.

Vegard believes the gender equity argument is the strongest reason for this, but he has received substantial pushback from some women in the sport.

At present, the FIS Cross Country World Cup features sprints, one 10 km race and mostly 15 km races for men, plus the annual 50 km race in Oslo at the end of the season. Women’s races includes sprints and 10 km races for women, with a 30 km race at Oslo.

Vegard proposes distance races of 10 km, 20 km and 50 km; the FIS Cross Country Executive Board is scheduled to discuss the matter on 18 May.

● Equestrian ● The Federation Equestre International (FEI) announced, to no surprise:

“FEI President Ingmar De Vos is set to be re-elected for a third and final four-year term after being confirmed as the sole candidate for the Presidential election that will take place during the FEI General Assembly in Cape Town (RSA) on 13 November 2022.”

The 58-year-old Belgian has drawn high marks for keeping his sport in high esteem after the horse-punching incident that marred the Tokyo competition in Modern Pentathlon and has brought that sport to the brink of elimination from the Olympic program for 2028.

He was elected in 2014 and re-elected by acclimation in 2018. He is also respected outside the sport and was only the fourth FEI President (of 13) to become an IOC member, in 2017. He serves on the IOC Legal Affairs Commission, Women in Sport Commission and the Los Angeles 2028 Coordination Commission; he was previously a member of the IOC Digital and Technology Commission.

● Swimming ● USA Swimming published a completed roster for the 2022 World Championships in Budapest, adding selections for the 50 m races not already filled.

In addition, Freestyle superstar Katie Ledecky dropped the 200 m Free from her schedule and will now compete in the 400-800-1,500 m Freestyles, where she will be the favorite in all three. She will be replaced by Leah Smith, who finished third at the Trials in that event.

The U.S. line-up is now led by Michael Andrew, who will swim in five individual events and could be selected for four relays for a total of nine events! Those now confirmed to swim in three or more events:

5: Michael Andrew: men’s 50 m Free; 50-100 m Breast; 50-100 m Fly
4: Caeleb Dressel: men’s 50-100 m Free; 50-100 m Fly
3: Nic Fink: men’s 50-100-200 m Breast

4: Claire Curzan: women’s 100 m Free, 100 m Back, 50-100 m Fly
4: Torri Huske: women’s 50-100 m Free, 50-100 m Fly
3: Lilly King: women’s 50-100-200 m Breast
3: Katie Ledecky: women’s 400-800-1,500 m Free
3: Leah Smith: women’s 200-400-800 m Free
3: Regan Smith: women’s 50-100 m Back; 200 m Fly

The men’s team includes 20 swimmers, with no teenagers, three 20-year-olds, 13 between 21-25 and four from 26-28; the team elders will be 28-year-olds Fink and Chase Kalisz.

The 21 members of the women’s team include seven teens, four 20-year-olds and 10 swimmers in their 20s. Freestyle relay sprinter Natalie Hinds is the oldest at 28.

● Wrestling ● Cuba’s Rio Olympic 59 kg Greco-Roman gold medalist Ismael Borrero, 30, left the team that is in Acapulco (MEX) for the 2022 Pan American Championships and is apparently defecting.

The Cuban Sports Institute’s statement condemned his decision and said it “constitutes serious evidence of indiscipline within the Cuban sports system, and leaves aside the objectives of his team in this competition and the four years of work in preparation for the 2024 Paris Olympics.”

Cuban athletes have defected during competitions in foreign countries for decades and Mexico is a popular choice; 11 of the 24 members of Cuba’s U-23 baseball team defected last October during the WBSC World Cup in Sonora.

≡ SCOREBOARD ≡

● Football ● The U.S. Women’s U-17 squad sailed past Jamaica, 4-0, in its quarterfinal match in the CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship and will face Canada in a semifinal on Friday (6th).

Amalia Villareal scored eighth goal of the tournament to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute and the Americans added first-half scores from Charlotte Kohler (32nd minute) and Riley Jackson (42nd) for a 3-0 halftime advantage. Melina Rebimbas scored the final goal in the 56th. The U.S. had a 40-3 shots advantage and still has not been scored on in the tournament.

Canada defeated Costa Rica, 3-0, while in the upper portion of the bracket, Mexico stomped the Dominican Republic, 10-0, and Puerto Rico eliminated El Salvador, 2-0.

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