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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Russians out of Paris ‘24 in basketball (expected) and surfing (wow)
2. USA Fencing approves Russian and Belarusian entries, with conditions
3. Milan Cortina 2026 settles on Fiera site for speed skating
4. Pogacar, Vollering rocket to La Fleche Wallonne victories
5. Ferreira’s late goal gives U.S. 1-1 draw with Mexico
The question of Russian and Belarusian participation in international sports and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games continues to dominate the headlines. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA), as expected, barred Russia and Belarus from qualifying events for Paris, in line with the International Olympic Committee’s suggestion. But the International Surfing Association told the Russian news agency TASS that it would also bar Russia and Belarus under the same concept, offering an insightful twist into the “team” concept, even for what appears to be an individual sport. USA Fencing’s Board also allowed Russian and Belarusian participation in its events, but with conditions that essentially limit entry to Russian and Belarusian passport holders living in the U.S., who renounce any support for the Russian invasion. The question over the speed skating venue for the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina – and another fight on costs – was resolved with the events to be held in two halls of the Fiera Milano exhibition center, the simplest and most cost-effective solution. In the high-profile La Fleche Wallonne races in Belgium, Slovenian superstar Tadej Pogacar won his third straight race on the UCI World Tour with a final surge to the uphill finish, while Demi Vollering of the Netherlands attacked with 200 m to go and no one could follow. Coming up Sunday is the fourth “Monument” race of the season, Liege-Bastogne-Liege. In Arizona, the U.S. men fell behind Mexico, 1-0, in the first Allstate Continental Clasico, but a goal by Jesus Ferreira in the 81st minute was the key to a 1-1 final.
● Panorama: Beijing 2022 (no date set yet for Valieva doping hearing) = Paris 2024 (2: French labor chief says no 2024 interference; Olympic law appealed by leftist political parties) = Russia (2: 19th EPO suspension imposed; Duma passes law to bring RUSADA into compliance) = Los Angeles (two Olympians indicted into L.A. City high school Hall of Fame) = Athletics (Kipchoge apologizes for poor Boston Marathon showing) = Football (U.S. and Mexico announce 2027 Women’s World Cup bid) = Modern Pentathlon (Turkey wins World Cup Mixed Relay for home fans) = Shooting (China dominates ISSF Rifle & Pistol World Cup) = Swimming (2: USA Swimming to debut new online television network; Short claims world-leading 400 m Free in Australian Champs) ●
● Errata: Yesterday’s Lane One comment on the 2022 World Athletics Championships was corrected to show 65% of those surveyed liked the “food and beverage” quality instead of “foot and beverage” quality. Thanks to sharp-eyed reader Mike Navarro for the correction.
Russians out of Paris ‘24 in basketball (expected) and surfing (wow)
The International Basketball Federation announced on Tuesday that its program for Paris 2024 Olympic qualifying will not include Russian or Belarusian teams:
“The FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournaments field will be comprised of the 28 countries that participated in the Second Round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Qualifiers and did not qualify for the 32-team World Cup to be staged this summer in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia. …
“Following the IOC recommendations on the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport in international competitions published on 28 March, the FIBA Executive Committee has decided to not allow the registration of the Russian men’s national team in the FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournaments 2023. Bulgaria, as the next-best-ranked European team, will be the final team to participate to the FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournaments.”
This was no surprise, as FIBA noted the IOC’s suggestion against any Russian or Belarusian teams.
With the IOC’s team ban likely to be enforced by all of the International Federations, Dmitry Svishchev, Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports says the lawyers should get involved:
“Representatives of federations in team sports should think about the possibility of a class action lawsuit. Any adequate court will take their side in a dispute over suspension due to IOC recommendations. What is the difference between an athlete in a team sport and an individual? and by decisions to suspend our teams, the international federations are simply violating human rights.
“Therefore, I would not rule out the possibility that our federations in team sports will go to court.”
The only proper venue for such a suit would be the Court of Arbitration for Sport, although filings could be made with jurisdictional questions to the European Court of Justice – where Russia’s prospect would be questionable at best – or a similar venue with at least some jurisdictional claim over France and the Paris 2024 organizing committee.
A similar reply came from the World Baseball-Softball Confederation, whose sports are not on the program for Paris 2024, but could be for Los Angeles in 2028:
“The latest recommendations of the IOC executive committee dated March 28, 2023 do not apply to baseball and softball, since they provide that teams of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport cannot be considered for participation in international sports competitions.”
Same from the International Hockey Federation, which told the Russian news agency TASS:
“So far, we continue to monitor the situation and, if necessary, we will make appropriate decisions in accordance with these recommendations.”
The International Surfing Association, responding to a TASS inquiry, gave a highly technical and brilliantly subtle declaration:
“The ISA noted the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Executive Board recommendation on 28 March 2023 to enable International Sports Federations to implement their own policies regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian competitors as neutral athletes in events under specific conditions.
“This IOC recommendation on neutral athletes does not apply to team sports nor team events. ISA events are competitions with qualified teams who are entered by their National Surfing Federations.
“There is no provision in the ISA Rule Book for the participation of individuals outside their national teams, including for World Surfing Games and other events that play a part in athlete qualification for the Olympic Games via their National Olympic Committees.”
Observed: This is a staggeringly brilliant reply by the ISA, whose Executive Director, Bob Fasulo (USA) is a 30-year veteran of Olympic sport. On a purely technical level, all of the International Federations work with “teams” at the regional and world championship level, as the ISA notes, since entries are made by national federations; for the Olympic Games, entries can come only from National Olympic Committees, except for the Olympic Refugee Team.
By seizing on this procedural fact, the ISA makes the case that although its Olympic competitions are contested by individuals, those athletes are part of formalized teams through the entry process, at both the International Federation and IOC level.
The same is true for sports seen as essentially for individuals such as athletics, judo, swimming and so on, and could be applied more broadly to keep Russian and Belarusian athletes out altogether from both single-sport world championships, regional events such as the European Games or Pan American Games, and the Olympic Games.
Interesting and impressive, it will be fascinating to see if this concept is applied more broadly.
USA Fencing approves Russian and Belarusian entries, with conditions
The USA Fencing Board of Directors issued a new policy concerning the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in USA Fencing events, with some interesting twists. The announcement noted:
“[T]he Board amended the policy on Russian and Belorussian participation in USA Fencing competitions, now allowing them to participate if they meet certain criteria, including No. 1 and either No. 2 or No. 3 below:
“1. They display no physical manifestation of Russian or Belorussian affiliation within the venue, including but not limited to uniforms, warm-ups, equipment bags, or accessories.
“2. For the previous three years, they have not held an FIE license indicating Russian or Belorussian sport nationality, unless they have officially been approved for a change of sport nationality from the FIE.
“3. For the previous one year they have not competed in USA Fencing competitions or functions and have renounced their support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine by executing a declaration to that effect.”
“The rationale behind this decision is to include at USA Fencing events those individuals who may be Russian or Belorussian and reside in the United States and contribute in positive ways to the USA Fencing community. As long as they have denounced the actions of Russia and Belarus, these individuals will be permitted to return.”
Again, quite clever, and it includes a written statement that renounces any support for the Russian invasion.
Milan Cortina 2026 settles on Fiera site for speed skating
One more uncertainty in the Milan Cortina 2026 Olympic Winter Games has been removed.
The speed skating events, originally slated to be held in a renovated outdoor rink in Baselga di Pine, will be held in a temporary facility at the Fiera Milano Rho Exhibition Centre instead.
A roof was planned to be added to the Baselga di Pine site, but proved to be much more expensive than projected – more than $80 million vs. the original estimate of $54 million – requiring a different solution. One option was to take speed skating to Turin, site of the 2006 Winter Games, but this was also a costly solution as new refrigeration equipment would be needed, as well as accommodations and other support.
By using a portion of the massive Fiera Milano Rho Exhibition Centre, the sport stays within the existing Games footprint. Moreover, the projected €20 million cost ($21.9 million) will not require government funding; the technical details include:
“The project involves the unification of pavilions 13 and 15 in a single space for a total of over 35,000 square meters (~377,000 sq. ft.) of covered area capable of hosting the 400-metre speed track, a grandstand with around 6,500 seats, as well as a training rink, changing rooms and further structures necessary for the organization: an air conditioning and humidity control system capable of guaranteeing the most suitable conditions for maintaining the frozen surfaces according to the requirements of the International Skating Federation (30-40% humidity and 15 degrees [C] at ice level).”
The site for the athlete village for the Cortina – mountain – area for 2026 has been located, in Fiames, a tiny hamlet within the city area of Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Cortina Mayor Gianluca Lorenzi said the facility will be temporary, with 1,200-1,300 beds and the necessary support facilities. Lorenzi said the organizers will need to plan not only for the athletes, but for the “security sector, police, finance guards and Carabinieri: we have to understand how to involve them in the situation because they are fundamental in the execution of the Olympics.”
The project is expected to cost €36 million, or about $39.4 million U.S.
This is in contrast to the under-construction athlete housing in Milan, where a former rail yard is being converted into housing that will eventually be used for university students, with 1,027 rental units across six main buildings of eight stories each.
Pogacar, Vollering rocket to La Fleche Wallonne victories
If you follow the Tour de France at all – and it’s the only cycling event most people know about – you are familiar with Slovenian star Tadej Pogacar, the winner in 2020 and 2021 and runner-up in 2022.
Still just 24, he has started the 2023 season on fire, winning the famed, eight-stage Paris-Nice race, then posting two top-four finishes in major one-race races in Italy and Germany before posting three straight wins in major one-day classics: the iconic Tour of Flanders on 2 April, Amstel Gold Race on 16 April and now, Wednesday’s 87th La Fleche Wallonne (“The Flemish Arrow”).
He ran away with the win in Flanders by 16 seconds, then 38 seconds in the Amstel Gold Race, but he had to race to the line on Wednesday at the end of the 194.3 km ride from Herve to the Mur du Huy, a final uphill climb of 120 m in the final 1.3 km of the race.
Pogacar was with perhaps a dozen riders on the final climb, then simply exploded with about 200 m to go and raced away, clear to the finish, although Mattias Skjelmose (DEN) and Mikel Landa (ESP) were given the same time. Eight others finished three seconds back.
Dutch star Demi Vollering is having almost as good a season as Pogacar in the UCI Women’s World Tour, winning three of her five World Tour races, with a second in the Tour of Flanders and a win in the Amstel Gold Race.
She did it again in the 26th La Fleche for women, attacking with 200 m to go on the final Mur de Huy climb of 115 m in the final km. No one could follow and she won the race for the first time after being third in 2020 and 2022, finishing the 127.3 km course in 3:29:25.
Liane Lippert (GER) finished five seconds back and Gaia Realini (ITA) was seven seconds off the pace in second and third. Veronica Ewers was the top American, finishing 14 (+0:27).
Next up: the fourth “Monument” race of the season: Liege-Bastogne-Liege, on Sunday,
Ferreira’s late goal gives U.S. 1-1 draw with Mexico
The first “Allstate Continental Clasico” was held in front of a good house at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, with the U.S. and Mexico meeting for the 75th time in a rivalry that now spans 89 years.
The match was offensively challenged, but the U.S. came back from a 1-0 deficit to equalize in the 81st minute and take away a 1-1 draw.
The first half was an end-to-end affair, with both sides getting chances to score, but missing the net. A charge through the middle by U.S. striker Jordan Morris in the fifth minute resulted in a deflected shot that went wide; Mexico’s Luis Chavez had powerful strokes go wide in the 19th and 28th minutes. Mexico had the better offensive play, but the American defense was well organized. The Mexicans had 57% of possession, and the only two shots-on-goal in the half.
The second half started the same way, but in the 55th, midfielder Uriel Antuna created a turnover at midfield and sprinted down the right side on a breakaway. U.S. keeper Sean Johnson came out to cut down the angle, but Antuna slid it past him and just inside the right post for a 1-0 lead from 10 yards out. It was Mexico’s first goal against the U.S. in four games.
The game settled down into a defensive slog, with Mexico showing some offense, with the U.S. doing almost nothing. Striker Carlos Rodriguez smashed the U.S. crossbar from outside the penalty area in the 81st, but suddenly the American offense came alive.
A pass out of the U.S. zone by defender Sergino Dest found midfielder Alan Sonora at midfield and he left-footed a cross to Morris on the left side, with help coming down the middle. Morris advanced, took his time and then made a perfect left-to-right pass to the charging Jesus Ferreira past a defender and he re-directed the ball past Mexican keeper Carlos Acevedo and into the net for a 1-1 tie in the 81st minute.
With the clock winding down, both sides upped the pressure and there was a late challenge against U.S. defender Kellyn Acosta that brought the sides together briefly, but it ended 1-1. Mexico had 53% of possession and a final edge of 9-4 on shots.
The tie extends the U.S. unbeaten streak against Mexico to 3-0-2 over 2021-22-23. In the all-time series, Mexico leads 22-36-17, with the U.S. 17-9-8 in the 21st Century. The two sides will meet again on 15 June in Las Vegas in the semis of the CONCACAF Nations League.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Winter Games 2022: Beijing ● The Russian news agency TASS reported that the hearing date in the Court of Arbitration for Sport appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency of the Kamila Valieva doping sanction has not been set yet.
The long-running dispute over Valieva has held up the confirmation of the results of the Team Figure Skating Event at the Beijing Games, where the results on the ice had Russia first, the U.S. second and Japan third.
● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The FrancsJeux.com site reports that the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (known as the CFDT) is unlikely to call for any labor actions that would affect the Paris 2024 Olympic Games related to the continuing national turmoil over the French government’s pension reforms.
CFDT Secretary General Laurent Berger said in an interview Monday:
“The Olympics must be a party, it must be a magical moment for those who love sport and therefore, it is out of the question to make neither this type of threat nor this type of action during the Olympics.
“Trade unionism has an image that was restored during this [recent] period, it assumed its share of responsibility, we said things frankly, sometimes a little roundly, we never crossed the yellow line. We emerge rather grown from this period, I am not for us to bother the proper functioning of the Olympics.”
Protests are continuing over the “Olympic law” recently passed that allows for specific kinds of surveillance prior, during and after the Olympic period in 2024. Two leftist political groups, La France Insoumise (socialist) and the Europe Écologie-Les Verts (EELV, ecological socialists) have filed with the French Constitutional Council to void the law, complaining specifically of:
“The legalization of algorithmic video surveillance, the possibility of carrying out the examination of genetic characteristics without the consent of the person, the creation of new offenses related to entry into sports venues or the additional mandatory penalty of stadium ban.“
The Paris Paralympic Games will end on 8 September, but the surveillance permitted by the law continues to 31 March 2025. The appeals are considered a long shot to succeed.
● Russia ● TASS reported that triathlete Svetlana Kamarasheva has been suspended for eight years – through 16 June 2029 – for the use of erythropoietin (EPO) to increase red blood cell mass.
The story further noted that there are now 19 Russian athletes on suspension for EPO, including Kamarasheva:
“For the use of EPO, athletes Oleg Ilyin, Sofya Grabrova, Ksenia Savina, Anastasia Bazdyreva, Maxim Alexandrov, Maxim Krasnov, Vadim Ulizhov, Alexei Dorofeev, Valentin Smirnov and Andrey Grigorov, rower Oleg Zhestkov, cyclists Evgeny Kudryavtsev, Sergey Nikolaev and Alexander Budaragin, triathletes Igor Polyansky, Vladimir Turbaevsky, Andrey Alypov and Alexander Bryukhankov.”
In addition, the story added:
“Over the years, Olympic champions in cross-country skiing Larisa Lazutina, Olga Danilova, Yulia Chepalova, Evgeny Dementiev, biathletes Albina Akhatova, Ekaterina Yuryeva, Dmitry Yaroshenko, Irina Starykh, Alexander Loginov were caught on EPO or its modifications.”
The Russian State Duma adopted a bill which allows the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) authority over anti-doping rules in the country, rather than the government’s sports ministry.
This is an important development in the Russian quest to have RUSADA declared to be in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency. Because of this legal-authority issue and other items, WADA still does not consider RUSADA compliant, despite the two-year sanctions against the agency having expired last year.
● Los Angeles ● The seventh class of the Los Angeles City Section Hall of Fame was inducted last Sunday, honoring 23 athletes, coaches and contributors for their achievements as high school greats.
Included were two athletes and a coach who went on to the Olympic Games. Fremont High student Anne Vrana-O’Brien competed for the U.S. in Amsterdam in 1928 in the women’s 100 m, and then made the U.S. team again for the 1936 Berlin Games in the 80 m hurdles. Monroe High grad Charles Lakes was the first Black American to compete for the U.S. in artistic gymnastics, in Seoul in 1988, finishing 19th in the All-Around.
Don Gambril graduated from Wilson High in 1951 and became one of the best-known swimming coaches in the country. Head coach at Long Beach State, Harvard and then for 17 years at Alabama, Gambril was an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic men’s teams in 1968-72-76-80 and the head coach in 1984 in Los Angeles. He retired from Alabama in 1990 and is a 1983 inductee into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
● Athletics ● Following a disappointing sixth-place finish in Monday’s Boston Marathon, Kenyan great Eliud Kipchoge appeared briefly at the Tuesday news conference, noting that he suffered an upper left leg injury at the 20-mile mark and fell off the lead:
“I tried to do what was necessary but it wasn’t working. So I put my mind just trying to cope with the pace and just to finish. A lot of thought was going on in my mind but I said, ‘Hey, I can’t quit.’ I’ve been in this sport for a long (time). They say it’s important to win, but it’s great to participate and finish.
“I don’t think it’s the weather. Maybe there was an underlying problem, but it’s just a problem of the leg. What can I say? I’m not a doctor.”
He apologized to those who expected more from him, explaining, “I promised that I would run a fruitful race. So I am sorry. Most of you were expecting me to win.”
Now 38, he did not say when his next race would be; he has stated his desire win all six of the World Marathon Majors races, with Boston and New York the two remaining. “The outcome for yesterday actually destabilized everything, and I need to go back, rearrange again, and come back with a solid program.” But he added that he plans to return:
“Absolutely yes, and to win the Boston Marathon.”
● Football ● U.S. Soccer and the Mexican Football Federation announced a joint bid to host the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup, a year after the 2026 men’s World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
No details were provided, but are expected in mid-May when a plan is due to FIFA.
● Modern Pentathlon ● In the Mixed Relay at the UIPM World Cup in Ankara (TUR) last Sunday, the home favorites scored a victory, with Bugra Unal and Ilke Ozyuksel forging a solid lead to start the Laser Run with a six-second edge over the field.
Although only sixth-fastest in the relay, they crossed first, ahead of Mexico’s Mariana Arceo and Manuel Padilla, who had the fastest Laser Run in the field (12:42.0). But that was not enough to offset the strong Turkish performance in fencing (1st), swimming (8th) and riding (6th); Arceo worked her way up to second on her three laps and Padilla was able to maintain that position.
Turkey finished with 1,347 points to 1,341 for Mexico; Great Britain, with Jessica Varley and a fast-charging Myles Pillage, got up for third (1,317).
● Shooting ● The ISSF World Cup for Rifle and Pistol in Lima (PER) concluded on Wednesday, with China the big winner with 10 medals (4-3-3), with Hungary (2-2-0) and the Czech Republic (1-1-2) next-best at four.
China triumphed in the women’s 10 m Air Rifle, with Zhilin Wang, 19, winning, 17-9, over 20-year-old Eszter Meszaros (HUN) and went 1-2 in the women’s 50 m Rifle/3 Positions, with Siya Xia, 20, beating Tokyo Olympic ninth-placer Mengyao Shi, 16-10.
Tokyo bronze medalist Ranxin Jiang won gold in the women’s 10 m Pistol, 16-12, over Poland’s Klaudia Bres, and the 25 m Pistol final with World Junior Champion Sixuan Fang, 20, out-lasting Ukraine’s Anastasiia Nimets, 28-26.
Serbia’s Damir Mikec, 39, the Tokyo silver medalist, won the men’s 10 m Air Pistol, 16-10, over China’s Bowen Zhang, and Mikec and Zorana Arunovic teamed to win the Mixed Team 10 m Air Pistol final from Jiang and Zhang, 17-13.
Zalan Pekler won for Hungary in the men’s 10 m air Rifle, defeating Naoya Okada (JPN) in the final, 16-10, and in the Mixed Team event, with Pekler and Eszter Denes taking the final, 16-8, from France.
The lone gold for the Czechs came in the men’s 50 m Rifle/3 Positions for 22-year-old Jiri Privratsky, who won over Hungary’s Tokyo Olympic 10th placer, Istvan Peni, 16-10. It’s Privratsky’s second career World Cup gold.
France’s Clement Bessaguet, the 2022 Worlds runner-up, won the men’s 25 m Rapid-Fire Pistol over Czech Matej Rampula, 32-30, hitting his final eight shots.
● Swimming ● USA Swimming announced a new program, its USA Swimming Network, moving beyond streaming on its own Web site to a free video-on-demand program on “Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox and select Smart TVs utilizing the Google Play store. In the coming months, the Network will also be available on PlayStation, Apple TV, the remainder of Smart TVs and on all mobile phones and tablets.”
There will also be a significant source of historical footage as well:
“By 2024, the Network will add the Michael McCaffery Swimming Archive channel to its suite of content channels. The archive will feature decades of archived race footage from USA Swimming competitions. Users will be able to browse 50 years of race footage, or search by athlete and keyword to view a personalized selection of race clips.”
That could be epic. The success of this new, ambitious project will depend in part on how easy it will be to find a specific video among a rapidly-expanding collection.
At the Australian National Championships in Gold Coast, 19-year-old distance star Sam Short won his third event with the no. 2 time in the world this season in the men’s 800 m Free in 7:42.96.
Short had already won the 400 m Free in a world-leading 3:42.46 and the 1,500 m Free in 14:58.90.
The other top marks came in the women’s events, with sprinter Shayna Jack taking the 50 m Free in 24.45, just behind her seasonal best of 24.26. She finished ahead of Meg Harris (24.45), who moved to no. 6 in the world in 2023.
Tokyo Olympic 400 m champ Ariarne Titmus won the 400 m Free in a seasonal best of 4:00.49, making her no. 3 for 2023, behind new world-record holder Summer McIntosh (CAN) and Katie Ledecky of the U.S.
Kaylee McKeown, the Tokyo 100-200 m Back winner, won the 100 m Back in 57.90, behind her 57.84 world leader earlier in the season, but the equal-second performance of 2023 with Regan Smith of the U.S. Freestyle sprinter Mollie O’Callaghan, the 2022 World Champion in the 100 m Free and already the 50-100 m Free winner, was second in 58.42, a lifetime best and no. 3 in 2023!
Lizzie Deckers, 18, won the 200 m Fly in 2:06.55, now no. 2 in 2023 and Jenna Forrester moved to no. 3 in the world with her 4:35.05 win in the 200 m Medley.
The meet concludes on Thursday.
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