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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Ledecky authors no. 3 800 m Free ever at USA Swim Nationals
2. Duplantis scales 20-1 in Ostrava; Crouser 74-3!
3. Canada Soccer may have to declare bankruptcy
4. Russian sports minister: “we’re not a package”
5. Good audiences for CONCACAF Gold Cup on Univision
The USA Swimming National Championships started Tuesday in Indianapolis, with Tokyo Olympic winners Katie Ledecky and Bobby Finke taking the women’s 800 m Free and men’s 1,500 Free by wide margins. World leader Regan Smith won the women’s 200 m Butterfly, but after that, things got crazy. At the annual Golden Spike meet in the Czech Republic, Swedish vault superstar Mondo Duplantis cleared an outdoor world-leading 6.12 m (20-1), while shot world-record holder Ryan Crouser of the U.S. won the men’s shot at 22.63 m (74-3), but said, “It wasn’t pretty.” Canada Soccer has been railed on by both men’s and women’s players for insufficient support, but the situation appears to be much worse than that, and the federation will be considering bankruptcy! Russian sports minister Oleg Matytsin said that if international competitions are not open to its athletes on acceptable terms, they will make up their own events, with at least four major, multi-national events to be held in the next 15 months. He says he is open to discussions with the International Olympic Committee and others, but “We will not make concessions.” Good television ratings for the opening matches of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Spanish-language Univision and just so-so on FS1, with English commentary. For the Mexico-Honduras opener, the audience split was 2.24 million to 274,000!
● Panorama: Cycling (heavy effort vs. technical fraud at Tour de France) = Football (Italy agrees on anti-Semitism program for all levels) = Weightlifting (McLaren says IOC did not bury IWF corruption report) ●
● Errata: Two silly errors on yesterday’s post, with Salt Lake City not having won anything yet (not get), and the Special Olympics World Games in Hangzhou (CHN) in 2027, not 2017. Thanks to eagle-eyed readers Bob Liljenwall and Paul Roberts for the corrections! ●
Ledecky authors no. 3 800 m Free ever at USA Swimming Nationals
There was no doubt that Katie Ledecky was going to win the women’s 800 m Free at the USA Swimming National Championships in Indianapolis on Tuesday, but she made an emphatic statement that she is as good as ever.
The 2012-16-20 Olympic champion in the event, Ledecky took over from the start, leading by 0.45 at the first turn and already 1.30 up at 100 m and 3.66 at 200 m. She was close to her own world record pace through the first half, and faded only slightly, to win in a world-leading 8:07.07, up 13.21 seconds on the rest of the field. She was visibly thrilled with the time, and she should be.
This swim was special, the no. 3 performance in history and her fastest in the event since 2016! Unbelievably, she now owns the top 30 (!) times in history in this event. She is also now the sixth American to make six World Championships teams, joining Nathan Adrian, Elizabeth Beisel, Natalie Coughlin, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps.
Behind her was a furious effort from 17-year-old Jillian Cox, who made the American team for the 2022 World Short-Course Champs, and took control of the race for second, finishing in a lifetime best 8:20.08 – by more than 13 seconds! – now no. 5 on the 2023 world list. That was enough to hold off Claire Weinstein (8:21.00, no. 9 in 2023), Leah Smith (8:21.88) and Katie Grimes (8:23.78).
Ledecky’s distance compatriot, Tokyo Olympic men’s 800 m and 1,500 m gold medalist Bobby Finke – who also trains at the University of Florida, as does Ledecky – was in charge from the start of the men’s 1,500 m final and built a huge lead on the way to a win in 14:42.81, the no. 5 performance in U.S. history. He entered the meet ranked 24th in the world at 15:02.24, and now ranks fifth.
Charlie Clark, who made the 2022 Worlds team as well, was a clear second in 14:50.84, a lifetime best and now no. 8 in U.S. history. Will Gallant finished third in 15:02.63.
The opening event of the first day was the women’s 200 m Butterfly, with world leader Regan Smith dominating the race from start to finish, winning in 2:05.79, well off her American Record 2:03.87 on 2 June, but better than all but two others in the world for 2023.
Dakota Luther, the 2022 World Short-Course Champion in this event, was a clear second coming into the final lap, but was chased down by Lindsay Looney – a Smith training teammate in Tempe, who was the no. 7 qualifier – in the final 25 m, 2:07.35 to 2:07.86. Looney was second at the 2022 U.S. Nationals, but moved to no. 9 in the world for 2023 this year, with the fastest final 50 m in the field (33.56). Luther was slightly behind her heat time of 2:07.55.
The men’s 200 m Fly final featured Carson Foster, the 2022 Worlds 200-400 m medley silver medalist, who led the qualifying and moved to no. 4 on the 2023 world list at 1:54.30 in the heats. He scored a decisive finals win in 1:54.32.
Foster led essentially from the start, dogged by Trenton Julian, a double relay medalist from the 2022 Worlds, separated by just 0.01 at 100 m and 0.16 m at 150. But Julian faded in the final 25 m and 16-year-old Thomas Heilman came on strong to grab second at 1:54.54, no. 6 in the world this year. His time is also a national age-group (15-16) record, removing Phelps (1:54.58 in 2001) from the U.S. record book.
Julian faded to fourth in 1:55.38, behind Zach Harting (1:55.12).
Maybe the craziest races of the day were the 100 m Free finals.
Rio Olympic co-champ Simone Manuel decided not to race at the Nationals in 2023 and continue building for 2024. The heats were fast, with 2019 national champ Abbey Weitzeil moving to no. 5 in the world with a lifetime best of 52.92, followed by Kate Douglass at 52.98 (equal-6th). Weitzeil was out fast again in the final, leading Gretchen Walsh by 0.03 at the turn, but Douglass came hard from fourth in the middle of the final lap and pushed past Weitzeil in the final 15 m and touched first in another lifetime best of 52.57. Douglass, who swam all or part of seven NCAA Championships wins this season, is now no. 4 on the 2023 world list.
Weitzeil held on for second in 53.11, with Walsh getting third (and on a Worlds relay) at 53.14, with Olivia Smoliga – the 2019 World 50 m Back gold winner – fourth in 53.28, and the 2022 Worlds bronze winner, Torri Huske, fifth in 53.41.
The men’s 100 m Free was highly anticipated and turned out as no one expected.
The focus was initially on Tokyo Olympic champ Caeleb Dressel, but he finished 29th in the heats (49.42) and did not advance. Rio 2016 relay gold medalist Ryan Held looked the best in the prelims at 47.63, fifth on the 2023 world list, followed by NCAA 100-yard Free runner-up Jack Alexy of Cal at 47.75 (seventh).
In the final, those two were in the middle of the pool and Alexy was strong from the start, edging ahead at the turn in 22.61, with Held third (22.79). No one took control on the final lap and six were in contention in the final 10 m, with Alexy getting to the wall first in 47.93.
Behind him was a frenzy, with the next three within 0.02! Notre Dame’s Chris Guiliano – the no. 7 qualifier and a modest 10th in the NCAA 100-yard Free this season – surged with a final stroke to touch second in a lifetime best of 47.98, the fifth American to go sub-48 this season. Matt King, the 2022 national 50 m Free winner, was third in 47.99, 0.06 slower than in the heats, as Held faded to fifth in 48.08, just 15/100ths behind Alexy.
This was crazy. The meet continues on Wednesday with the 200 m Free, 200 m Breast, 200 m Back and the 50 m Butterfly. Coverage of the finals session is only on the Peacock streaming service.
Duplantis scales 20-1 in Ostrava; Crouser 74-3!
Olympic and World Champions Mondo Duplantis and Ryan Crouser were the stars of the annual Golden Spike meet in Ostrava (CZE) on Tuesday, with Duplantis getting a world outdoor-leading vault of 6.12 m (20-1).
The Swedish star had to clear 6.00 m (19-8 1/4) to win the event over Kurtis Marschall of Australia and Ernest John Obiena (PHI), both of whom cleared 5.90 m (19-4 1/4). From there, Duplantis went to 6.12 m and cleared on his first try and to 6.17 m (20-2 3/4), which would have been the no. 2 vault ever outdoors. But he missed three times.
It’s Duplantis’s 15th career meet at 20 feet (6.10 m) or higher (eight outdoor, seven indoor), the most ever, with Ukrainian great Sergey Bubka next at 11 and France’s Renaud Lavillenie with one.
Crouser, who has redefined the shot put and set a world record of 23.56 m (77-3 3/4) at UCLA in May, was in front from his first throw, reaching 22.17 m (72-9), then extending to 22.63 m (74-3) in the second round. He didn’t improve, but still had superb throws of 22.16 m (72-8 1/2) in round three, 22.14 m (72-7 3/4) in round four and 21.97 m (72-1) in round six. But he had challenges:
“It is the third full day for me in Europe. I’ve had one of the higher jet lag days. So, to come out and throw an ugly 22.60-plus, I am happy with it.
“It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t technically proficient. The brain-body connection wasn’t quite working. I was even having trouble setting my feet just how I want them. I just didn’t have that top end gear to accelerate through the ball.”
New Zealand’s Tom Walsh, the 2017 World Champion, reached 22.15 m (72-8) in round four to finish second.
On the track, the top performer was Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji, 21, who won a tight women’s 1,500 m from countrywoman Hirut Meshesha, 3:57.38 to 3:57.87, to move to nos. 5 and 8 on the year list, with another Ethiopian, Tigist Girma, 20, getting a huge lifetime best of 3:59.33 in third.
Puerto Rico’s Tokyo Olympic champ Jasmine Camacho-Quinn took the 100 m hurdles, winning in 12.42 (wind: 0.0) over American Tia Jones (12.44), world-record holder Tobi Amusan (NGR: 12.47) and 2019 World Champion Nia Ali of the U.S. (12.75).
In the men’s 1,500 m, Steeple world-record holder Lamecha Girma (ETH) won a sizzling race from Ryan Mphahlele (RSA) and George Mills (GBR), 3:33.15 (lifetime best) to 3:33.38 and 3:33.85.
South Africa’s Akani Simbine won the men’s 100 m in 9.98 (+0.6), France’s Wilhem Belocian took the 110 m hurdles (13.25, +0.5), World Champion Kristjian Ceh (SLO) won the discus at 68.55 m (224-11) and Tokyo Olympic runner-up Jakub Vadlejch thrilled the home crowd with a javelin win at 81.93 m (268-9).
Canada Soccer may have to declare bankruptcy
Canadian soccer players have been complaining vehemently about a lack of support from their national federation, with the women threatening to go on strike earlier this year.
Well, Canada Soccer’s interim Secretary General Jason deVos – an eight-year member of the national team himself – said that things are so bad that bankruptcy is a possibility. In an interview with TSN, de Vos explained:
“We are in a real struggle. It’s not imminent, but we need to explore what bankruptcy entails and how it might affect our organization.
“We don’t have enough revenue coming in for the programs that need to be run, and that includes everything from grassroots coach education and referee development to youth national teams and our senior men’s and women’s teams.”
Noting that bankruptcy was more of a last resort than a primary option, deVos said the federation may not have enough money to play matches in the three remaining international windows in the fall. As for Canada’s men’s and women’s national team members:
“I need for them to understand we only have so much money and there’s only so much we can give them. I don’t want to have to take money from programming resources to provide more compensation. I know the players understand that, but they also want what they feel they deserve.”
Fingers are being pointed at Canadian Soccer Business, which bought the rights to the national team’s media and sponsorship rights in 2018 on a 10-year deal that pays the federation an annual fee of C$3-4 million ($2.26 to 3.04 million U.S.).
Canadian Soccer Business has said it is willing to discuss amending the agreement, but nothing has happened yet.
The story noted that after the 19 June loss to the U.S. in the CONCACAF Nations League final, several Canadian players flew back to Toronto in coach class. Said deVos:
“In terms of them flying business class, it’s transatlantic flights only. We would love to be able to fly all of our players in business class on every flight, but we don’t have the resources to do that. It’s not that we’re saying, ‘You don’t deserve it, or you don’t need it.’ We can’t afford it.”
Russian sports minister: “we’re not a package”
Another look into the Russian perspective of sport, once again from Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin, on Tuesday from a conference in Baku (AZE):
“In June 2024, Kazan will host the BRICS Games, the decision was made a week ago at a meeting of [sports] ministers in Durban [RSA]. In September 2024, we plan to hold friendly Games in Moscow after the Paris Olympics. I want to emphasize that none of these competitions is an alternative to the Olympic Games and is not directed against the policies of the International Olympic Committee or other international sports federation and does not violate the international sports calendar.
“Russia will continue to strengthen its sports sovereignty through the formation of additional open competition formats.”
In fact, Matytsin and his ministry are busy with even more events:
● 2023: August: International University Sport Festival in Yekaterinburg (RUS)
● 2023: August (4-14): Games of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Belarus
● 2024: June (4-18): BRICS Games in Kazan (RUS)
● 2024: September: Friendship Games in Moscow (RUS)
A winter-sports Spartakiad is also planned. Matytsin expanded on his view of where Russia stands in an interview with the Russian news agency TASS. Highlights:
● “We do not offer anything destructive. First of all, we aim to protect the interests of our athletes and coaches, to create a competitive environment through the internal calendar, by organizing an open format of tournaments in order to attract foreign partners. And this is already part of foreign policy.
“We do not want to destroy the international calendar and respect the activities of international federations. And I continue to recommend that our federations and the sports leadership maintain dialogue and look for opportunities to participate in international competitions as much as possible. But at the same time without giving any reason to doubt our self-sufficiency.
“That is why I am categorically against the term ‘return Russia to the international arena.’ We are not a package to be sent or returned somewhere, we make the decision ourselves where to participate, where not, and in what status.”
● “Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin said at the [St. Petersburg International Economic Forum] that we do not quarrel with anyone, we do not turn away from anyone, we are ready to conduct a dialogue. But on those conditions that will meet our national Russian interests. This absolutely concerns the sphere of sports, any attempts to discriminate, politicize or provide an opportunity to participate in competitions on some unacceptable conditions for us are unacceptable. We will not make concessions.”
● “We have proved everything to everyone in sports, we have held all possible international competitions: Olympic Games [Winter 2014], Universiades , world championships in football , athletics , swimming . It seems to me that in one decade to carry out all this is not a small feat. And we didn’t do it in order to prove something to someone. We have neither the time nor the desire for such a thing. We don’t care if someone likes it or not. We have to love ourselves, respect ourselves, like ourselves. I see that our colleagues share the same approach.”
● “We will do everything necessary, everything possible to ensure our participation in competition. The BRICS Games, like the Games of the CIS countries, are the prerogative of the state. No federations, with all due respect, can dictate these conditions to us here. This is a decision of the countries, and the countries carry them out.”
● “Russia is facing serious challenges, and we are going through all kinds of difficulties with dignity. In conditions when the majority of Russian athletes cannot take part in traditional international tournaments, we have revised the Unified Calendar and increased the number of domestic competitions.
“We do not close ourselves off from the outside world, we participate in international tournaments, create new competition formats and invite everyone to them.”
He closed with:
“Over the past two years, we have been working under unprecedented external pressure, when sports became one of the first industries targeted by sanctions, we felt the discriminatory attitude of the international community. It was important to restructure the work here, direct efforts to strengthen the sports system within the country, and prevent the level of Russian athletes from decreasing due to restrictions in their performance on the international arena.”
Good audiences for CONCACAF Gold Cup on Univision
Never doubt the power of the Mexican men’s national team – El Tri – to draw a big audience in the U.S., with more than 2.5 million tuning in for its CONCACAF Gold Cup opener on Sunday, a 4-0 win over Honduras in Houston.
The big interest came from fans watching Univision, much more than the English-language coverage on FS1:
● 2,238,000 on Univision for Mexico-Honduras
● 274,000 on FS1 for Mexico-Honduras
● 1,031,000 on Univision for USA-Jamaica
● 642,000 on FS1 for USA-Jamaica
● 285,000 on Univision for Trinidad & Tobago-St. Kitts
● 113,000 on FS1 for Trinidad & Tobago-St. Kitts
That’s pretty impressive.
There was good news for track & field, with NBC drawing 839,000 for Saturday’s USA Track & Field NYC Grand Prix. That’s the best audience this year for the three outdoor meets NBC has shown; the Bermuda Grand Prix had an average of 636,000 viewers on NBC on 21 May and 777,000 for the L.A. Grand Prix on 27 May.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Cycling ● The 110th Tour de France starts Saturday and the International Testing Agency and the UCI are on hand with a large anti-doping and anti-cheating team that will check the riders … and the bikes.
The technological fraud regimen has been substantially expanded in recent years; for 2023, all bikes will be scanned prior to each stage. Post-race, bikes ridden by the stage winner, the leaders in all categories, and from a handful of randomly-selected riders will be scanned, plus:
“riders who give rise to suspicion, for example following the pre-stage scan, an abnormally high number of bike changes (in which case the bikes on the team car can also be checked) or other incidents picked up by the UCI Video Commissaire.
“These post-stage checks will be carried out using either mobile X-Ray technology or devices that use backscatter and transmission technologies. If necessary, the bike in question will be dismantled.
“Once the riders have crossed the finish line, the bikes subject to post-stage checks will be quickly tagged, enabling rapid control procedures to be carried out in a matter of minutes. The introduction of RFID tagging (tamper-proof tags using radio frequency identification technology) for all bicycles as part of the UCI Road Equipment Registration Procedure for the 2023 Tour de France and Tour de France Women with Zwift strengthens the UCI’s ability to monitor the use of bicycles throughout the stages.”
The bike-testing program covered 934 bikes for the 2022 race.
● Football ● The Italian football federation (FIGC), working with the Italian government, announced Tuesday a plan to counter anti-Semitism throughout Italian football:
“Concrete actions are planned, including the inclusion of an explicit reference to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in the clubs’ code of ethics, the commitment not to give players the jersey with the number ’88’, the interruption of the match in the event of anti-Semitic chants, acts and expressions, and the strict observance of the nominal allocation of seats in the stadiums.”
The protocol was signed by Home Secretary Matteo Piantedosi, the Minister for Sport and Youth Affairs Andrea Abodi, the National Coordinator for the fight against anti-Semitism Giuseppe Pecoraro and the FIGC President Gabriele Gravina.
The plan will be implemented at all levels of Italian football, including domestic leagues and at national team matches. The Associated Press reported that “In March, a fan wearing a Lazio shirt with the name ‘Hitlerson’ and the No. 88 on it was banned for life from attending matches of the Roman club.”
● Weightlifting ● A charge by Russian Weightlifting Federation head Maxim Agapitov that the International Olympic Committee was responsible for silencing a portion of a report by McLaren Global Sport Solutions concerning corruption within the International Weightlifting Federation was refuted by Canadian Prof. Richard McLaren himself.
McLaren told the Russian news agency TASS:
“There was one report from the IWF investigation. However, in accordance with our terms of reference, part of the report was only provided to the IWF integrity committee, as it contained sensitive personal information that, in my opinion, should not be published in public. This action was entirely within our purview.
“The sports community had a full report except for the part that was sent only to the integrity committee so they could take action. At the same time, this body was an official body of the IWF and could make decisions, based on its content, to do as it saw fit.
“It is not true to say that the IOC withheld the non-public part of the IWF report. It was solely my decision, not dependent on anything related to the IOC. I made the decision to place part of the report only in the hands of the IWF integrity committee. The reports were also sent directly to law enforcement, but it had nothing to do with the IOC.”
For our updated, 651-event International Sports Calendar (no. 2) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!