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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Bach insists on Russians and Belarusians in Paris
2. World Aquatics to allow Russian, Belarusian entries
3. Weightlifting Worlds open with Thai win in women’s 45 kg
4. Gwen Jorgensen scores Valencia World Cup triathlon win
5. Sole CSUSOP hearing coming Wednesday morning
● International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach of Germany insisted once again, in a television interview with India’s CNBC-TV18 that allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals is the right solution based on the IOC’s “values.” He noted that no decision has been made yet specific to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, but he left little doubt of his view of the right path: the one the IOC is currently pursuing, which is said “is accepted.”
● World Aquatics announced it was falling right in line with the IOC, releasing a detailed procedure to allow a limited number of Russian and Belarusian athletes – no more than one per event – to compete in World Aquatics events, including the 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Qatar next February. The review of the applications will be done by the new World Aquatics Integrity Unit.
● The IWF World Championships in Riyadh (KSA) opened on Tuesday and will continue through the 17th, with Thailand winning the opening event, the women’s 45 kg, for the third year in a row. A record total of 719 entries from 117 nations was announced for a sport hoping for a showcase in order to be allowed back onto the Olympic program for 2028.
● Rio 2016 women’s triathlon champ Gwen Jorgensen was back in the winner’s circle for the first time since her Olympic triumph at the World Triathlon Cup in Valencia, Spain on Saturday. She wants to make the U.S. squad for the Mixed Team Relay, but has a long way to go. Her win helps her, however.
● The sole public hearing of the Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympics will be held Wednesday in Washington, D.C. It may be televised by C-SPAN on one of its channels, but was not on their schedule by Monday evening.
● Panorama: Paris 2024 (Court says students can’t be denied residences during Games for first-responder use) = Athletics (3: Italy’s Weir throws 73-7 1/2 to beat Kovacs in Padua; Bol and U.S.’s Clark, Morris and Allman win in Bellinzona; Young and Sisson win USATF 20 km titles) = Fencing (2: USA Fencing puts hold on rule change allowing coaching during bouts; Ukraine asks IOC to intervene due to FIE inaction) = Football (2: Federal judge throws out bribery convictions on recent Supreme Court ruling; Saudi Arabia looking for 2034 FIFA World Cup) = Swimming (U.S. to send small squad to 2024 Worlds in Doha) = Triathlon (Reed and Tapia Vidal win Americas Championships) = Wrestling (UWW rejects 26 Russian and Belarusian applications, approves 37 entries for Worlds) ●
Bach insists on Russians and Belarusians in Paris
In his latest comments on Russian and Belarusian participation in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris (FRA), International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER) told Shereen Bhan of CNBC-TV18 (India):
“I don’t think that a final decision will be taken in a few days from now. But, I think you have a clear indication of the way how we see it with the recommendations we have been giving to the international federations, meaning, no teams and no anthems, no colours, no whatever national identification with regards to Russia and Belarus.
“But, on the other side, giving the opportunity to the athletes who do not support the war and who are not linked to the military, or to other services that are in Russia or Belarus, to compete as individual and neutral athletes but not as representatives of their country.
“This is a system that we now see working in world championships, continental championships, in World Cups and which in the meantime, I think is accepted. The Ukrainian side is not 100 percent happy about this but they have accepted it because it’s an opportunity for the Ukrainian athletes to qualify for the Olympic Games. We all want a strong Ukrainian team in the Paris 2024. Then I come back to the values because they are again at the base of our decision.”
Bach has pushed for this formulation for months, which has met with strong criticism from many governments, and the process he champions has not been without incident, not least in his own sport of fencing, with the controversial disqualification – and reversal – of Ukrainian star Olha Kharlan at the FIE World Championships after her win over Russian “neutral” Anna Smirnova in July.
But he is undeterred:
“We have on the one hand the Russian government, who wants us to ignore the world. We have on the other hand the Ukrainian government, who said to totally isolate everybody with a Russian passport, which is not possible with regard to our values.
“It’s not possible with regards to human rights. It’s not possible with regards to the Olympic Charter and this is how we arrive at this formula; to protect the human rights of the individual athletes but to punish the Russian state, the government, for breaching the Olympic Charter.”
Bach also acknowledged that the entire situation is unmanageable, political and dangerous:
“You have to acknowledge the reality and the reality is that the world is run by politics and this is the system. You need, in order to get your values across, to get your organisation respected, you need cooperation with politics. You cannot say that we have nothing to do with politics and that we are living in an island or a bubble, all alone. I called it once a lie of the past of some sports officials who said that sports has nothing to do with politics and money. Probably, it’s wrong. We have to cooperate with politics.
“We have to have a dialogue with politics and we have to ensure that politics is respecting our autonomy, our neutrality and in this way enabling us to make the world a better place through sports. Otherwise, if we are getting politicised, this contribution will be gone. Then there will be no worldwide solidarity anymore. Then there will be no rules which apply to everybody in sport on this planet anymore and in this dialogue, you almost have to convince political leaders about it.”
Observed: Bach rarely changes his mind once he decides on a course of action. At present, he undoubtedly believes that some individual Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete in Paris. It is the number that is in question, and the political response to that number: 10? 50? 100? More?
In Rio in 2016, when the question of Russian participation – in view of its massive, state-supported doping program from 2011-15 – was left to the International Federations, there were 282 Russian athletes competing in 26 sports. Some 335 Russians competed at Tokyo in 2021.
But there is opposition. On Monday, a joint statement of the Nordic Olympic and Paralympic committees and sports federations of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and the Aland Islands included:
“● The situation with the war in Ukraine has not changed.
“● Therefore, we stand firm in our position, not to open for Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international sports participation.
“● Now is not the right time to consider their return; that is our position.”
The Ukrainians have said they will work to organize a boycott of the Games if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed in, but there have been no specifics on beyond a simple statement, and no list of countries.
All signs point to a decision by the IOC some time in early 2024. In the meantime, the delays by many International Federations in determining admission criteria is squeezing out opportunities for qualification. The IOC added to this itself by stating that Russian and Belarusian participation in the Asian Games in China that begin this month cannot be done for “technical reasons.” The head of the Russian Skateboarding Federation, Ilya Vdovin, told the Russian news agency TASS on Monday, “We have no chance of getting to the Olympic Games.”
This is Bach as the controller of a delicate balancing act between a lot of angry nations and people, most of all the Ukrainians, who are in the middle of a war which Bach has repeatedly characterized as just one of many conflicts around the world.
World Aquatics to allow Russian, Belarusian entries
Russian and Belarusian athletes who meet “strict criteria” will be able to compete in future World Aquatics competitions, according to a statement released on Monday. It included:
“[T]he World Aquatics Bureau today unanimously decided on a set of criteria that would allow aquatics athletes with Russian and Belarusian passports to participate in future World Aquatics competitions as Individual Neutral Athletes.
“The opportunity for athletes from the two national federations to compete as Individual Neutral Athletes will be implemented by the independent Aquatics Integrity Unit, set under strict criteria that include robust anti-doping measures.”
The actual regulations from the AQIU include:
● “No contract with the Russian or Belarusian military or with any other national security agency”
● “No support for the war in Ukraine
“Any form of verbal, non-verbal or written expression, explicit or implicit, at any time since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, in particular public statements, including those made in social media, participation in pro-war demonstrations or events, and the wearing of any symbol in support of the war in Ukraine, for example the ‘Z’ symbol, are considered to be acts of support for the war in Ukraine.”
Entries will only be permitted into individual events; athletes will have to apply individually, with no guarantees on the time required for their eligibility check. Further, any necessary qualifying time for a World Aquatics event – such as the 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Qatar – “must be achieved by the Athletes outside of Russia and Belarus at a World Aquatics approved competition.” That will make things a little tougher.
One entry per event per country for Russia and Belarus will be allowed for any World Aquatics event – like the Worlds in Qatar – with the selection at the discretion of the national federation for each country.
There are also the required anti-doping requirements. An added ban is on media contact:
“Neutral Individual Athletes and their Support Personnel will not be allowed to go through the mixed zone or to participate in any press conference during World Aquatics competitions. They will also not be allowed to give any interviews to media during such competitions.”
These new requirements place World Aquatics right in line with the IOC’s requests, and have possibly – in a labyrinthian way – opened the door for at least five potential Russian medalists in Paris in 2024, across at least six events (with 2023 top-five world-list rankings):
● Kliment Kolesnikov (100 m Back: rank 1)
● Evgeny Rylov (200 m Back: 4)
● Kirill Prigoda (200 m Breast: 4)
● Ilia Borodin (400 m Medley: 5)
● Evgeniia Chikunova (100 m Breast: 3)
● Evgeniia Chikunova (200 m Breast: 1; world record)
Qualifying for Paris is based on qualifying times, with the 2024 Worlds in Doha scheduled for 2-18 February 2024.
Weightlifting Worlds open with Thai win in women’s 45 kg
The 2023 World Weightlifting Championships are underway in Riyadh (KSA), the first time for the event in Saudi Arabia, with a record turnout of 719 athletes from 117 countries. It is a “mandatory” event for qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, which means that athletes must register, show up and weigh in, but do not have to lift.
The first competition was in the women’s 45 kg class, with Thailand’s Sirivimon Pramongkhol winning her first Worlds gold, moving up from silver in 2022. The London 2012 Olympic fourth-placer, now 28, she served a doping suspension from 2018-20, but won the Asian Championships earlier this year. It’s the third straight world title for Thailand in this class.
Pramongkhol won the Snatch (78 kg), Clean & Jerk (101 kg) and overall title (179 kg), and the medal winners were also in the same places for all three stages. Rosina Randafiarison, 23, won a remarkable silver for Madagascar, which has never won a Worlds medal; she was eighth in this class at the 2019 Worlds. Randafiarison was second across the board, lifting 77 kg (Snatch), 93 kg (Clean & Jerk) and 170 kg (total). It’s worth noting that Madagascar has never won an Olympic medal; she’s now a contender for Paris.
Turkey’s 2023 European Champion Cansu Bektas won the bronze at 75-87-162 kg, ahead of Marta Garcia (ESP), who lifted 71-84-155 kg. The U.S. did not have an entry in this class.
The 2023 Worlds will be the longest ever, continuing through 17 September.
Gwen Jorgensen scores Valencia World Cup triathlon win
It had been a long time since Rio 2016 Olympic women’s triathlon gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen had won a tri, exactly 2,569 days according to World Triathlon, as she triumphed at the Valencia World Triathlon Cup race in Spain on Saturday.
Now 37, she retired in 2017, raising a family and initially targeting an effort for an Olympic marathon slot, but that did not work out, with her best finish an 11th at the 2018 Chicago Marathon. In December 2022, she announced a triathlon comeback, primarily aimed at the Mixed Team Relay rather than the standard Olympic distance race.
That’s a 300 m swim, a 6.6 km bike route and 1,000 m run, vs. the Olympic distance of 1,500 m – 40 km – 10 km.
In the Olympic distance race in Valencia, Jorgensen was eighth out of the water, behind Jolien Vermeylen (BEL), and very competitive on the bike route of 38.4 km, moving to the run in sight of the lead, within a pack of 22.
Jorgensen’s strength is her running and she was energized, taking the lead on the third of four laps and posting the fastest time in the field by 22 seconds in 33:37. She finished in 1:55:01, 16 seconds clear of Nina Eim (GER: 1:55:17), with Germany’s Marlene Gomez-Goeggel third in 1:55:24. It was her first win since Rio in 2016.
Even with the win, Jorgensen has a long way to go to make the U.S. team for Paris. Among other things, she needs to be among the top 140 in the World Triathlon Individual Olympic Qualification Ranking (she’s now 70th, with seven American women ahead of her).
But with the win, she does meet a key USA Triathlon criteria if a quota spot becomes available for the U.S. for the Mixed Team Relay:
“Athletes who achieved a Top 3 performance in an individual event(s) between March 1, 2023 through May 27, 2024 in [World Triathlon Cup], Americas Triathlon Continental Championships and Pan Am Games competitions will be considered for the Olympic Team if it is determined that these performances reflect the capacity to achieve a podium performance in the individual standard distance event at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”
Said Jorgensen after the race:
“I came out here and I really wanted to focus on the process and performance, more so than the place. Getting back in the sport after seven years is not easy, I forgot the difference between open water and pool swimming and I am excited, I know my fitness is there in the swim and now I know how to execute it.
“Only one [American: Taylor Knibb] qualified in the Paris Test Event and there’s another qualifying event in Pontevedra [World Championships Series Finals] but I am not on the start list but I am here and I just know that every race I get into, I am going to show up and give my best.”
Sole CSUSOP hearing coming Wednesday morning
The long-awaited hearing of the 14-member Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics will be held on Wednesday morning, 6 September, in Washington, D.C., beginning at 9 a.m. Eastern time and continuing into the afternoon in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The hearing may be televised by C-SPAN on one of its three cable television channels, but it is not on the network’s schedule as of Monday evening. There are five panels scheduled (Eastern time):
● Session I (9:00 a.m.): Opening Remarks & The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement: A Historical View
● Session II (9:35 a.m.): Governance & Accountability
● Session III (10:50 a.m.): Protecting the Safety of Movement Participants
● Session IV (1:00 p.m.): Athletes’ Rights, Equity, & Accessibility and Ensuring Fair Play
● Session V (2:40 p.m.): How to Build a Better Future for Sports in America
U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee chief executive Sarah Hirshland is slated to appear during Session II, and U.S. Center for SafeSport chief exec Ju’Riese Colon is scheduled for Session III.
The Commission is expected to hold just the single hearing, with its report to be delivered in early 2024.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● A French administrative court ruled against a plan by the Crous d’Ile-de-France to free up 3,000 student housing units for use by first responders and security personnel during the Olympic and Paralympic period.
The ruling is appealable, but in a statement, the organization says it intends to find another pathway:
“The National Center for University and School Works takes note of decision No. 2319295/1 of the urgent applications judge of the Paris administrative court which suspends the decision of the Paris CROUS to limit the occupation of accommodation in certain university residences to June 30, 2024. .
“This decision does not call into question the meaning of the provision of vacant accommodation for the reception of personnel mobilized for the Olympic Games, but rather the way in which it has, at this stage, been organised.
“The Cnous will very soon be proposing new methods of consultation and contractualisation allowing the implementation of the project. …
“[C]ontrary to what certain comments suggest, there will never be any question of depriving a student of accommodation during the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. In accordance with the commitments made, students who may have to change accommodation temporarily in order to Ensuring the serenity of the operation of the university residences during the period of the Games will benefit from rehousing nearby at no additional cost and coverage of travel costs.”
● Athletics ● Some noteworthy results at the 36th annual Citta di Padova international meet in Italy on Sunday, including an impressive shot put duel.
Two-time World Champion Joe Kovacs of the U.S. was the headliner, but fell behind early to Zane Weir (ITA) at 21.77 m (71-5 1/4). Then Weir – the 2023 European Indoor champ – unloaded with a lifetime best of 22.44 m (73-7 1/2), moving to no. 4 on the 2023 world list, and no. 15 all-time! Kovacs responded with a second-round throw of 22.40 m (73-6), and neither could improve from there.
The U.S. was well represented, with Kyree King winning the men’s 100 m in 10.27 (wind: -0.7 m/s), Alexis Holmes taking the women’s 400 m in 50.66, ahead of fellow American Kaylin Whitney (51.94) and Sinclaire Johnson winning the 800 m in a lifetime best of 1:59.76.
Jamal Britt was second in the men’s 110 m hurdles in 13.71 (-1.3) and TeeTee Terry was second in the women’s 100 m in 11.21 (0.0).
At the Gala dei Castelli meet in Bellinzona (SUI) on Monday, Jamaica’s Oblique Seville beat Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala in the men’s 100 m, 10.01 to 10.04 (0.0). Brazil’s 2022 World Champion, Alison dos Santos, won the 400 m hurdles in 47.50 over France’s Wilfried Happio (47.58), with Trevor Bassitt of the U.S. fourth in 48.82.
Sweden’s 2023 Worlds winner Daniel Stahl got another win over 2022 Worlds gold medalist Kristjian Ceh (SLO), 67.24 m to 67.15 m (220-7 to 220-3).
Jamaica’s Olympic sprint star Elaine Thompson-Herah won the women’s 100 m in a seasonal best of 10.92 (0.0) from Imani Lansiquot (GBR: 10.99), with American Tamara Clark sixth (11.22), but Clark came back to take the 200 m in 22.64 (+0.2).
Jamaican Natoya Goule-Toppin won the women’s 800 m in a seasonal best of 1:57.63, just ahead of American Addy Wiley (1:57.64 lifetime best), and Olympic champ Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (PUR) won another 100 m hurdles showdown in 12.56 (0.0) over Nadine Visser (NED: 12.61) and Nia Ali of the U.S. (12.63). Dutch superstar Femke Bol won the 400 m hurdles over Shamier Little of the U.S., 52.79 to 53.64.
Two other U.S. winners: Sandi Morris in the women’s vault with a season’s best of 4.80 m (15-9; equal-4th in 2023) and Olympic discus winner Valarie Allman at 69.09 m (226-8).
In Monday’s USA Track & Field 20 km Championships at the Faxon Law New Haven Road Race in Connecticut, Clayton Young won in a tight finish with defending champion Conner Mantz, 59:15 to 59:16 in the men’s race.
After a wrong turn during the 18th kilometer, the race came down to the final 1.5 km between the two training partners and Young edged ahead with only 300 m to go. Young’s win was his second on the U.S. Running Circuit this season, after his 8 km win in July.
Emily Sisson, the 10,000 m Olympic Trials winner in 2021, ran away with the women’s title in 1:06:09, way ahead of U.S. Cross Country champ Ednah Kurgat (1:06:39) and Emily Durgin (1:06:59).
It’s also Sisson’s second U.S. title of 2023, after her victory in the 15 km Nationals in Jacksonville in March, and her sixth career American championship.
● Fencing ● The new Board of USA Fencing called an emergency halt to a rule modification agreed to in April, that forbids coaches and spectators to give advice to fencers during bouts. The change was done to get U.S. rules in compliance with those of the Federation Internationale de Escrime (FIE).
But the new Board suspended the implementation of the new rule, in order to consider it more fully during the 8-10 September Board meetings in Denver.
The Ukrainian Fencing Federation filed a complaint late last month with the IOC about the lack of attention to its complaints by the FIE:
“On August 25, 2023, the Ukrainian Fencing Federation filed a complaint with the International Olympic Committee about the actions (inaction) of the International Fencing Federation, which violate the Charter and code of ethics of the IOC.
“This was a continuation of the fight against the illegal and shameful disqualification of Olga Kharlan after her duel with Anna Smirnova from Russia at the World Championships in Milan, as well as other illegal actions of the International Fencing Federation.
“In particular, today, despite the disciplinary complaint filed back in June with the International Fencing Federation, about the exclusion from its membership of the Russian Fencing Federation due to the inclusion of the fencing federations of the [Donetsk and Luhansk regions], the city of Sevastopol and the Republic of Crimea into the latter, still remains motionless. The Ukrainian Fencing Federation expects a quick, fair and impartial reaction from the International Olympic Committee to the indicated actions of the International Fencing Federation.”
The FIE has been operating under an acting president since Russian Alisher Usmanov removed himself from office in early 2022 to pursue sanctions removal from the European Union in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
● Football ● On 9 March, a Federal court in Brooklyn returned a conviction of former Fox International Channels chief executive Hernan Lopez (ARG) for bribery regarding television rights for major football events, including the FIFA World Cup and the South American Copa Libertadores club tournament. Another defendant, Full Play SA of Uruguay was convicted of bribery related to FIFA World Cup qualifying matches and rights to the Copa America national-team tournament.
Last Friday evening, those convictions were overturned on appeal by U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen, who wrote in part:
“The Supreme Court’s latest wire fraud decisions – especially [Percoco vs. United States, decided in May] – and the absence of precedent applying honest services wire fraud to foreign commercial bribery, requires this court to find that [the statute] does not criminalize the conduct alleged in this case and that therefore the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain defendants’ convictions under that statute.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said it is considering its options, including an appeal.
Saudi Arabia is reported to be working on a solo bid for the 2034 FIFA World Cup, following the success of the 2022 event in Qatar. A joint bid with Egypt and Greece for 2030 has fallen apart and lobbying is already under way with European federations to enlist support.
However, bids are also being considered by Australia and New Zealand, China, India and Nigeria. The decision is scheduled to be made in 2027.
● Swimming ● The 2024 World Aquatics Championships, to be held from 2-18 February in Doha (QAT), come at an odd time for USA Swimming, right in the middle of the collegiate season.
Further, with the U.S. already qualified in all seven Olympic relays at the 2023 Worlds in Fukuoka (JPN), there’s little reason to field an all-star team for Doha. And so, USA Swimming released its qualifying criteria for the allowed team size of 14 men and 14 women, and will take only one swimmer per Olympic event.
The selection will be based on the fastest “available swimmer” in each event, but no one if none of the top 10 Americans – by time between 1 October 2022 and 1 November 2023) – no one will be selected. A second selection could be made for a specific event, depending on available space.
The team is expected to be named by 15 November 2023.
● Triathlon ● At the Americas Championship in Veracruz (MEX), American John Reed, 22, dominated the field, winning by a full minute in the Olympic-distance test in 1:43:49, ahead of Martin Sobey (CAN: 1:44:49) and Canadian teammate Brock Hoel (1:44:40). It’s Reed’s first win in an international championship.
The women’s title went to Mexico’s Rosa Tapia Vidal, winning a sprint to the line over Gina Sereno of the U.S., 1:59:35 to 1:59:38. Canada’s Emily Legault was third in 2:00:16. It’s Sereno’s second Americas Championship medal, to go with her gold from 2021; Tapia Vidal moved up from ninth in 2022.
● Wrestling ● United World Wrestling issued a statement concerning its review of possible Russian and Belarusian “neutrals” at its 2023 World Championships beginning on 16 September in Belgrade (SRB):
“Following a rigorous vetting process by United World Wrestling, and in preparation for the Senior World Championships, 235 individuals from Russia and Belarus underwent thorough background and social media checks. This encompassed wrestlers across all styles and categories, as well as their accompanying support personnel. Out of the 235 names, 26 individuals were deemed ineligible due to either active support of the ongoing war or confirmed membership in military or national security agencies.
“The decisions regarding eligibility were made by a panel, relying on comprehensive vetting reports provided by an independent and private intelligence service provider.”
UWW approved 17 “neutral” entries for the Greco-Roman division, and 10 each in the men’s and women’s Freestyle divisions for a total of 37.
For our updated, 787-event International Sports Calendar (no. 3) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!