THE TICKER: World Athletics offers 20 for Athletes of the Year; three ARs for Huddle; 28% of AIBA federations can’t vote; unhappy cyclists forming new union

Three American Records in one hour for U.S. distance star Molly Huddle (Photo: KT Tape)

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

Athletics ● World Athletics announced its nominees for its Athletes of the Year for men and women, with fan voting through 15 November. Ten candidates are being offered in each vote:

Men:
● Donavan Brazier (USA), 800 m
● Joshua Cheptegei (UGA), 5,000-10,000 m
● Tim Cheruiyot (KEN), 1,500 m
● Ryan Crouser (USA), shot put
● Mondo Duplantis (SWE), pole vault
● Jacob Kiplimo (UGA), 3,000-5,000 m/Half Marathon
● Noah Lyles (USA), 200 m
● Daniel Stahl (SWE), discus
● Johannes Vetter (GER), Javelin
● Karsten Warholm (NOR), 400 m hurdles

Women:
● Femke Bol (NED), 400 m hurdles
● Letsenbet Gidey (ETH), 5,000 m
● Sifan Hassan (NED), 10,000 m
● Peres Jepchirchir (KEN), Half Marathon
● Faith Kipyegon (KEN), 800-1,000 m
● Laura Muir (GBR), 1,500 m
● Hellen Obiri (KEN), 3,000-5,000 m
● Yulimar Rojas (VEN), triple jump
● Elaine Thompson-Herah (JAM), 100 m
● Ababel Yeshaneh (ETH), Half Marathon

The fans have a small say in the outcome, with 25% of the vote, all on the World Athletics Facebook/Instagram/Twitter platforms, while the World Athletics Council (50%) and World Athletics Family (25%) has three-quarters of the vote.

But it’s a fun exercise, especially in such an odd year, perhaps the strangest year in the sport ever! The awards will be handed out in a remote-staged, online awards program on 5 December.

Two-time U.S. distance Olympian Molly Huddle ran for an hour in the rain on a track in Attleboro, Massachusetts last Sunday and crushed the American Records for 15,000 m (50:07.82), 10 miles (53:49.9) and the Hour (17,930 m). All three of the records had belonged to the late Nancy Conz, who ran 53:06/55:58/17.273 m, way back in 1981.

Now 36, Huddle’s three American standards bring her total of U.S. record performances to 10, as she has already set marks at 5,000 m (2), 10,000 m (1), 5 km road (1), 10 miles road (1), 20 km road (1), and Half Marathon (1). She will be looking to win her first medal in a major championships in Tokyo in 2021.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport posted a new schedule for the appeals by Alberto Salazar and Dr. Jeff Brown against sanctions handed down by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. These were to be held next week, but have been moved to 3-12 March 2021, which may allow for in-person presentations as against a procedure by remote video.

Track & field is not the most heavily-covered sport in the country and it is poorer now for the retirement of Ken Goe of The Oregonian.

From 1977, Goe has covered sports in the state, but didn’t come to track until later. In a parting Q&A with the paper, Goe said:

“It wasn’t natural. I’m not a track person, I didn’t compete in the sport and I didn’t follow it. There’s so much special knowledge in the sport. And it’s not something you can just jump in and pick up… when the University of Oregon got the Olympic Trials in 2008, 2012, 2016 it became a much bigger story regionally a lot of the time and nationally during the big events. It was during that time that I discovered a lot of people in track are interesting people. If I didn’t have a great affinity for the sport, I really liked the people. They’re interesting, smart, analytical and introspective people. They’re really fun to talk to and that is what happened — I fell in love with the people of the sport.”

He will be missed. All the best for a pleasant retirement and all that comes next, Ken.

Basketball ● While the 2020 season just ended on 12 October, the 2020-21 National Basketball Association season will apparently start just weeks later, on 22 December.

After intense negotiations with the NBA Players Association, the league voted on Thursday to plan for a 72-game schedule that would begin late this year and be concluded prior to the start of the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo (starting on 23 July).

There is significant pressure from players – especially international players – for a schedule which allows Olympic participation. And, of course, with all players available, the U.S. will be a prohibitive favorite for yet another Olympic victory.

Boxing ● The deadline passed for candidates to enter the race for the AIBA Presidency, and of course, interim chief Mohamed Moustahsane (MAR) threw his hat into the ring at the 11th hour, making for a total of seven choices:

● Ramie Al-Masri (GER), referee
● Anas Al Otaiba (UAE), President of the Asian Boxing Confederation
● Umar Kemlev (RUS), Secretary General of the Russian Boxing Federation
● Suleyman Mikayilov (AZE), AIBA Executive Committee member
● Dr. Mohamed Moustahsane (MAR), Interim AIBA President
● Bienvenido Solano (DOM), AIBA Honorary Vice President
● Boris van der Vorst (DEN), President of the Dutch Boxing Federation

Long-time observers of Olympic sports recognize the danger signs from Moustahsane here: interim officers who refuse to give up their positions. It’s a bad look for AIBA, but not the only one related to this election.

In a separate announcement, AIBA declared that 144 of its 200 national federations will be eligible to vote in the AIBA Congress on 12-13 December. That’s only 72% of its membership, and the totals by continent are shocking:

● 90% in Europe: 45 of 50 can vote
● 88% in Asia: 38 of 43 can vote
● 67% in Africa: 32 of 48 can vote
● 49% in Americas: 21 of 32 can vote
● 44% in Oceania: 7 of 16 can vote

This is based on the “payment of membership fees,” which is not controlled by AIBA at all, but by the federations – nearly all government funded – in each country. Regardless of what the candidates say about how they will save AIBA in the future, can the International Olympic Committee afford to support boxing as an Olympic sport in the future when more than a quarter of the national federations can’t (or won’t) pay their dues?

Cycling ● The 75th Vuelta a Espana – the last of the Grand Tours for 2020 – is roaring to the finish this weekend, with defending champion Primoz Roglic (SLO) in an excellent position to win again.

After sharing the lead – down to the second! – with Ecuadorian star Richard Carapaz after stages 10 and 11 and then trailing by 10 seconds after stage 12, Roglic put the hammer down at the 33.7 km Individual Time Trial on Tuesday for Stage 13. He won the stage by just one second over Will Barta of the U.S., but by 49 seconds over Carapaz to take a 39-second lead.

There was no change on Wednesday’s hilly, 204.7 km stage, won by Belgium’s Tim Wellens in a final sprint over Canada’s Michael Woods. Thursday’s hilly, mostly ascending 230.8 km route from Mos to Puebla de Sanabria resulted in the peloton catching Italy’s breakaway rider Mattia Cattaneo with 3.5 km left and then Belgian Jesper Philipsen won the sprint to the line ahead of Pascal Ackermann (GER).

Roglic maintained his 39-second edge over Carapaz, 47 seconds over Hugh Carthy (GBR) and 1:42 on Dan Martin (IRL).

Looking toward the finish, stage 16 is another hilly stage with two significant climbs, before the difficult, triple-climb route on Saturday (178.2 km) with an uphill finish to the Alto de la Covatilla. Sunday’s final stage – the race was shortened this year to 18 stages due to the coronavirus – is a flat ride into Madrid.

This weekend also brings the three-stage Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta for women, with racing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Toledo to Escalona, then an Individual Time Trial in Boadilla del Monte and the final stage in Madrid. This is the final leg of the 2020 UCI Women’s World Tour.

The last two champions are entered and among the favorite: German Lisa Brennauer (2019) and Dutch star Ellen van Dijk (2018). However, all eyes will be on Dutch stars Annemiek van Vleuten and Lorena Wiebes, along with Italians Elisa Longo Borghini and Marta Bastianelli as possible winners.

All is not happy within the peloton as a new riders union is being proposed to counter the current Cyclistes Professionnels Associes (CPA) group. This is an outgrowth of the determination of some riders not to undertake the planned 258 km route for the 19th stage of the recently-completed Giro d’Italia, a stage which was shortened to 124 km after a tiring climbing stage the day prior and inclement weather for racing.

Said Luuc Eisenga, Acting President of the new Riders Union: “We have decided to try to shape and build a new union of cyclists from scratch, one that is based on transparency, a program, a vote and a clear mandate so that everyone knows who is voting on what … [to] defend the interests of professional riders.”

The most significant complaints with the CPA concern its perceived weak voice in the sport at the elite level, voting controlled by groups rather than as individuals and more emphasis on safety.

The UCI reacted with a statement:

“The Union Cycliste Internationale takes note that a group of riders’ agents has created an association which they claim will act on behalf of riders. The UCI wishes to clarify that it only recognises three bodies, part of the Professional Cycling Council in charge of the UCI WorldTour, representing men’s professional road cycling: the CPA for riders, the AIGCP for teams and the AIOCC for the organisers.”

Stay tuned.

Figure Skating ● The ISU Grand Prix continues in Chongqing (CHN) with the Shiseido Cup of China this weekend. The expected stars include home favorite Boyang Jin, a two-time World Championships bronze medalist and three-time national Pairs champs Cheng Peng and Yang Jin.

The competition is on Friday and Saturday, with an exhibition on Sunday. For the sake of safety during the pandemic, the event includes only Chinese skaters.

Gymnastics ● A small, four-nation meet is being held on Sunday at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Tokyo, an early test of whether and how sports competitions can be held in advance of the Olympic Games scheduled for 2021.

The field will include 32 artistic gymnasts from Japan, Russia, China and the U.S., with up to 2,000 spectators to be allowed in the venue. The top U.S. entry is men’s star Yul Moldauer, the 2017 World Championships Floor Exercise bronze medalist. Three-time Olympic All-Around gold medalist Kohei Uchimura is scheduled to compete for Japan.

According to the Kyodo News Service, “Overseas gymnasts were required to take polymerase chain reaction tests within 72 hours before they departed ahead of the arrival in Japan starting Wednesday, while all gymnasts have to undergo daily testing in the lead up to the event.”

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana approved a minor settlement between USA Gymnastics and National Travel Systems regarding travel services and hotel rebates due to the federation. Under the agreement, NTS will pay USA Gymnastics $185,000 in full settlement of all claims.

Sailing ● World Sailing concluded its Annual Conference last week, and elected China’s Quanhai Li as President, defeating incumbent Kim Andersen (DEN), by 68-60. In his first address, Li noted:

“First of all, our most important responsibility is to solve the enormous financial situation that World Sailing is facing. We look forward to the Olympic Games next year in Tokyo as scheduled. Otherwise, World Sailing will be in a challenging time.

“We must effectively manage finances, control unreasonable expenses, increase revenue, and ensure a balance of income and expenditure.

“We have to find the causes of this economic crisis and come up with solutions to make sure that we can operate safely in the future.

“I am confident in all our power to change the current situation. Please give us time to ensure we solve the current financial situation, but also to lay a platform for the future.”

The federation’s 2018 financial statements showed reserves of just $5.3 million after a net loss for the year of $5.6 million (converted from GBP). There is a lot to be done.

Swimming ● The seventh and eighth matches (of 10) in the second season of the International Swimming League are being held on 5-6 November, all in the 25 m (short course) pool at the Duna Arena in Budapest.

Once again, Olympic and World Champion Lilly King (USA) has been unbeatable in the breaststroke, winning first the 200 m race in 2:15.80, then defeating countrywoman Molly Hannis and Jamaican star Alia Atkinson in the 50 m race, 29.20-29.25-29.65. King has now won all 23 of her individual races in ISL competition over almost two complete seasons.

Sprint star Caeleb Dressel (USA) won the 50 m Free (20.65) and 100 m Fly (49.33) and the Cali Condors – with King and Dressel – had the first-day lead over the London Roar.

In the seventh match, held earlier in the day, the only double winner on the first day was Kelsey Wog (CAN), who won the 200 m Breaststroke and the 200 m Medley. Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom returned from injury and won the women’s 50 m Free.

Competition in both matches concludes tomorrow.

Doping ● Never one to keep quiet for long, former Moscow Laboratory chief Grigory Rodchenkov – still in an undisclosed location in the U.S. after exposing the heavy details of the state-sponsored doping program he managed from 2011-15 – gave an interview with the British newspaper The Evening Standard and had no good news to share about the current situation in his Russian homeland.

“The situation in Russia is becoming even worse. Sabotage is aggravated with falsifications, with lying and denying continuing in the top-down bureaucracy.

“Russian authorities were so proud and optimistic of their fraud and wrongdoings that in November 2019 they aired a propaganda film named Blurred WADA, that contains not a single word of truth.”

He is worried that Russia will somehow escape punishment in its appeal of a four-year sanction by the World Anti-Doping Agency, now concluded at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with a decision expected at the end of the month. He is in favor of more stringent oversight procedures:

“Within this flawed sports governance system, Russian cheaters might be able to escape proper sanctions and punishments yet again, and then somehow participate in the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.

“If this happens, the fight against doping will lose even more credibility — as difficult as that is to imagine.”

The Last Word ● Bad news for naysayers on the future of the Olympic and Winter Games, as the City Council of Vancouver, British Columbia voted by 7-4 on Wednesday to have the city’s staff to compile a preliminary report on the feasibility and costs of a bid for the 2030 Olympic Winter Games.

The question of a possible bid will be reopened during the first quarter of 2021. A bid by Calgary, Alberta for the 2026 Winter Games was crushed by 56.4-43.6% in a civic referendum in November 2018. Other bids for the 2030 Winter Games are being considered in Japan and Spain.

Also on Wednesday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo directed his Youth and Sports Ministry to form a bid committee and develop a budget for the 2032 Olympic Games. GamesBids.com noted that the 2032 race already includes an advanced bid from the Queensland (AUS) plus interest from Germany, Qatar, India and a possible joint Korean bid.

So much for the Games losing interest for bidders, at least for the next dozen years.

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