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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Badminton says no, pentathlon says yes to Russians
2. Bali governor still wants to ban Israel at ANOC Beach Games
3. Chatter intensifies on Jacobs vs. Kerley 100 m showdown
4. Russian star Kolesinkov says swimming is boring
5. U.S. House passes transgender ban in sports bill, 219-203
The continuing drama over Russian and Belarusian re-entry into international competitions accelerated Thursday, with the Badminton World Federation continuing its ban on participation, but the modern pentathlon federation (UIPM) following the International Olympic Committee’s recommendations as stated. The governor of Bali, whose refusal to allow Israel to compete in the FIFA men’s U-20 World Cup cost Indonesia the event, now refuses to allow Israeli athletes to compete in August’s ANOC World Beach Games. No word yet from the Association of National Olympic Committees on what it will do about it. Online chatter about a rich match race between Tokyo Olympic 100 m champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy and 2022 World Champion Fred Kerley of the U.S. continues to percolate, but with no confirmation yet. Would anyone put up more than $200,000 to do this? Russian swim star Kliment Kolesnikov, a two-time Olympic medal winner in Tokyo, said “if I wasn’t a swimmer, I wouldn’t watch swimming.” And there was a lot more. The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a short bill that bans transgender females from participating in women’s sports, but it is not expected to be considered by the Democrat-controlled Senate. But it is a growing political issue as 20-plus states have already passed such laws.
● Panorama: Paris 2024 (Marathon Pour Tous to be a night event) = World University Games (2025 Rhine-Ruhr WUG to have five host cities) = U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (first Collegiate Wheelchair champs to be held at Drake Relays) = Fencing (USA Fencing announces made-to-measure suit deal!) = Figure Skating (ISU to consider same-sex teams for at least Ice Dance next year) = Sport Climbing (Iran’s Elnaz Rebaki not entered in World Cup season opener) = Swimming (O’Callaghan upsets Titmus in women’s 200 m Free at Australia nationals) ●
Badminton says no, pentathlon says yes to Russians
Two more Olympic-program International Federations have announced their stances on Russian and Belarusian re-entry into international sports, with the Badminton World Federation maintaining a ban and the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne in favor of admission.
The BWF statement Thursday noted, in pertinent parts:
“The Badminton World Federation (BWF) has maintained its suspension of Russian and Belarussian athletes and officials from participating at any BWF sanctioned international tournaments.
“The decision was made following a BWF Council Meeting on Tuesday.
“This position reflects BWF’s core intention to preserve the integrity of badminton competitions and ensure the safety of all athletes. …
“[I]n sight of risks to players and events that could arise by re-opening participation, plus steps to seek more clarity on IOC’s complex criteria for allowing participation, and any such repercussions this may have, including conditions related to Olympic qualification and potential participation in Paris 2024, BWF is not convinced there is satisfactory justification to lift the suspensions on Russian and Belarussian players and officials at this time.”
The Pentathlon statement included:
“The Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) today announces its full support for a structured return to UIPM Sports competitions for individual athletes with Russia and Belarus passports, based on the recommendations for International Federations published by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on March 28, 2023.”
The UIPM Executive Board decision on the 19th also referenced an upcoming review process to determine whether specific Russian and Belarusian athletes as sufficiently neutral:
“UIPM will set up an independent panel to review athlete eligibility based on criteria to be established by the EB in collaboration with the IOC, as well as timings for the opening of the pathway in respect of the UIPM Sports competition calendar, and any other relevant aspects.”
A consultation with the promised working group effort from the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) was also mentioned.
Observed: The BWF decision is interesting as Russian and Belarusian players are not contenders for major honors in the sport (and neither are Ukrainians). But it does recognize that tournaments are coming up in places where Russian and Belarusian entries may not be embraced, including Europe and North America, as well as some countries in Asia.
No less than Russian national coach Claudia Mayorova agreed:
“To be honest, we didn’t even hope that they would let us in. The fact is that European athletes do not want to play with us now. This situation is very uncomfortable for world badminton, so the international federation is determined not to make a decision on the return of the Russians to the their competitions, especially since there are a lot of representatives of Europe in the leadership of the BWF itself.”
The UIPM decision was widely expected, as the federation is working desperately to be returned to the program for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games, and would surely follow the IOC’s lead.
Bali governor still wants to ban Israel at ANOC Beach Games
Indonesia was awarded the FIFA men’s U-20 World Cup, only to have it promptly removed by FIFA after Bali governor Wayan Koster announced that he did not want to host Israel as a participating team.
Two weeks ago, he said the same thing about the ANOC World Beach Games, scheduled for 5-12 August: “I still reject the appearance of Israel in Bali, including in the upcoming ANOC World Beach Games,” citing Indonesia’s lack of diplomatic relations with Israel and the country’s support for Palestinian interests.
It appeared that things might be changing. Last Friday, Koster met with Indonesian Youth and Sports Minister Dito Ariotedjo and Raja Sapta Oktohari, Chair of the Indonesian Olympic Committee, and told reporters:
“We discussed how to make the World Beach Games run well in accordance with the constitution and good governance, and also continue to run smoothly, because there was an agreement in Bali to be the host.”
Ariotedjo said after the meeting, “Thank God there has been a meeting and also an agreement that the Bali Provincial Government and Governor support 1,000 percent of the holding of the second World Beach Games.”
However, a day later (15th), Koster said in a statement:
“My attitude remains consistent in rejecting the presence of Team Israel at the World Beach Games in Bali in 2023″ and that the event “will run smoothly and successfully as long as they are held without the presence of the Israeli team.”
The Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) has said nothing about the issue so far, but the Indonesian Olympic Committee is expecting to hear about the issue soon. The first World Beach Games was originally awarded to San Diego, but was withdrawn and held in Doha (QAT) instead in 2019.
A meeting of national delegation team leaders for the World Beach Games is set for 28 April-1 May, with 69 countries scheduled to attend, but not Israel.
The Israelis sent three athletes to the first Beach Games, held in Doha (QAT) in 2019, and have qualified for 2023 in 3×3 basketball and open-water swimming.
Chatter intensifies on Jacobs vs. Kerley 100 m showdown
One-on-one match races are pretty rare in track & field, but the online chatter is increasing about a possible – maybe – match-up – perhaps – between Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medalist Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy and American Fred Kerley.
Their Olympic match-up was a thriller, with Jacobs (who was born in the U.S.) winning in a lifetime best of 9.80 to 9.84 for Kerley, but Jacobs has been sidelined by injuries since then, while Kerley went on to lead an American sweep at the 2022 World Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
They’ve only met twice at 100 m, with Jacobs finishing third in the 2021 Diamond League race in Monaco (9.99) to sixth for Kerley (10.15) about a month before the Tokyo Games.
Now Rae Edwards, 41, a retired sprinter (10.00, 9.98w in 2009) who made the 2009 U.S. World Championships team, then transferred allegiance to Nigeria in 2014 and effectively retired in 2016, has been stoking the rivalry and trying to set up a match race via his Twitter feed under the handle @RaesTake:
● 17 April: “@fkerley99 and @crazylongjumper
“F all the back and forth. What’s the ticket cost for y’all to race each other head up? How much y’all want? F all the tweets and retweets…
“How much is it going to cost for y’all to race each other head up?”
● 19 April: “I’ve spoken with @fkerley99 and been in contact with @crazylongjumper [Jacobs] and his camp this morning.
“Both parties have given a soft yes as long as their demands are met!
“Now lets see what company is willing to role out the check to sponsor their asking prices!”
● 19 April: Asked what the asking prices were, “That’s information I’m not allowed to put out publicly as there is no agreement in place but I can tell you’ll they not racing for less than 6 figures each.”
The response has been all over the lot, with one observer suggesting:
“Wb this type of setup
“SP: Crouser v Kovacs
“200mH: Holloway v Benjamin v Warlhom [sic]
“4×1: USA v Jamaica v GB
“40y d time trials: CC [Christian Coleman], Bromell, Norman, Knighton & Bracy
“800m: Hodgkinson v Mu
“100m: Kerley v Jacobs
“I saved some other good matchups for a different time”
Retired U.S. sprint star Bianca Knight (11.07 ‘08, London 2012 Olympic 4×100 m gold) tweeted:
“No offense but… why would anyone risk putting up any type of money for someone known for pulling out of races?” and “What’s stopping him from asking for guaranteed bread to commit, then pull out bc of some unknown reason… or come and lay an egg? It’s a cute lil back & forth but [yawn emoji]”
What about Kerley and Jacobs?
● Kerley, who is famous for his abbreviated tweets, posted on 17 April: “Talk to the agent if you don’t got 6 figures plus we ain’t talk”
● Jacobs put up a photo of the Tokyo 100 m final on Instagram, with an added caption: “Whenever you want and wherever you want, but remember that when it mattered more it ended like this.”
Track fans with longer memories have seen this before, when Atlanta 1996 Olympic winners Donovan Bailey (CAN: 100 m) and Michael Johnson (USA: 200 m) met in a 150 m indoor face-off around a turn at the Skydome in Toronto in June 1997. There were 48,000 people there and the race was televised to 50 countries, with Bailey getting a great start and winning in 14.99 as Johnson pulled up with a strained left quad as he entered the straightaway.
The money was good: $500,000 appearance fee for both and an additional $1 million to Bailey for the win. The hype was great, but it translated into nothing for the sport, given the anti-climatic finish.
Talk is cheap enough, but fun. Let’s see if anyone wants to pay for something like this. Good for Edwards for stoking the fire.
Russian star Kolesinkov says swimming is boring
Twenty-two-year-old Russian swim star Kliment Kolesnikov won two medals in Tokyo in the 100 m Free (bronze) and 100 m Back (silver) and four golds at the 2021 World Short-Course Championships. But he’s hardly a promoter of his own sport.
In an interview with the Russian news agency TASS, Kolesnikov explained:
“I’ll tell you straight out: if I wasn’t a swimmer, I wouldn’t watch swimming; for me it’s not as spectacular as any team sport. Whatever you do, a team sport will be more interesting, because there is an element of improvisation there, it’s interesting to watch. There is improvisation in such individual sports as tennis or even chess, while ours is a monotonous, cyclical kind, and even more monotonous than skiing or cycling, where overtaking and contact [or even] wrestling are possible. We don’t have that. Therefore, the issue of attracting an audience is difficult. There are well-established sports, such as football, hockey and basketball, which are interesting to people, but I think it is still possible to increase interest in swimming. …
[W]e need a good promotion that would do all this, because you can’t lure people with posters alone. …
‘Take the same bare-knuckle [MMA] fights. They have been working on this for a long time, and as a result, they are already gaining popularity in America. All this takes money and time, there are a lot of nuances. The main thing is that people who suddenly want to do this, understand that the effect will not be achieved immediately.”
Kolesnikov was also asked about the current situation, in which Russian athletes are banned from international competitions. He said he doesn’t follow it too closely, getting his information from coaches or other athletes. He has his own ideas:
“Unfortunately, everything rests on a situation that does not take into account the opinion of athletes. We have one goal – just to swim, but others are trying to get something out of it. Unfortunately, nothing depends on us.
“If [an athletes meeting] had taken place, it would have been much easier – everything would have been decided directly through the popular vote of athletes. This was the case at the International Swimming League, where round tables with the participation of athletes were held, various pressing issues were discussed there. It’s cool when athletes themselves can raise topics of concern to them and discuss them.”
He does not see an alternative to the Olympic Games:
“I think it’s almost impossible to come up with an alternative to them, I can’t imagine how it can be organized. I came to this conclusion after having been there once, having seen and felt what it was like. I don’t even know how to replace such global competitions. Another thing is that the current situation thickens the colors over the Olympic Games. But for me they still remain the number one for the realization of a sports career.”
U.S. House passes transgender ban in sports bill, 219-203
A short bill that would prohibit males to compete against females in sports was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday by 219-203 in a party-line vote.
The measure, H.R. 734, was introduced by Republican Congressman Greg Steube on 1 February and is only three paragraphs long, amending Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972:
“(1) It shall be a violation of subsection (a) for a recipient of Federal financial assistance who operates, sponsors, or facilitates athletic programs or activities to permit a person whose sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls.
“(2) For the purposes of this subsection, sex shall be recognized based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.
“(3) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit a recipient from permitting males to train or practice with an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls so long as no female is deprived of a roster spot on a team or sport, opportunity to participate in a practice or competition, scholarship, admission to an educational institution, or any other benefit that accompanies participating in the athletic program or activity.”
The issue of transgender participation in sports has been a hot-button issue in the U.S. as well as in other countries. The bill is not expected to be taken up in the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Biden Administration said earlier this month it wants to create administrative rules that would not allow categorical bans on transgender participation, but could recognize restrictions based on competitive advantage.
Also on Thursday, North Carolina’s Senate passed a similar bill, prohibiting transgender females from playing on girl’s or women’s teams. A slightly different version passed the North Carolina House and the measure is expected to become law. If so, North Carolina would be at least the 21st state to pass such regulations concerning transgender participation.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Paris 2024 ● One of the signatures of the Paris Games will be the first mass-participation events included within an Olympic Games, the “Marathon Pour Tous.”
The organizing committee announced that the mass-marathon will be held on the evening of Saturday, 10 August 2024, using the same route as run by the men in the morning and just hours prior to the women’s race on 11 August. The mass-marathon will start at 9 p.m. local time for ages 20 and over, with a 10 km race held for those 16 and over, beginning at 11:30 p.m.
Entries are obtained only by completing a series of online contests and challenges over months; the number of entries to be allowed has not yet been confirmed.
● World University Games 2025: Rhine-Ruhr ● The latest event to undertake the regional approach to hosting is the 2025 WUG in the Rhine-Ruhr area of Germany, which announced its host cities on Thursday: Bochum (2 sports), Duisburg (3), Düsseldorf (8), Essen (6) and Muelheim an der Ruhr (1).
Up to 10,000 athletes from as many as 170 nations are expected to compete in 18 sports, with primary funding from the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.
● U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee ● Another small step in the integration of Paralympic sport comes on 29 April with the first National Collegiate Wheelchair Championships to be held inside the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa.
Two races will be held, both at 100 m with seven qualifiers from two regionals, from the University of Illinois (3), Arizona (3) and Michigan (1). The men’s 100 m final includes eight entries, with five from Arizona and three from Illinois.
Said Drake Relays Director Blake Boldon, “Crowning the first-ever collegiate national champions in wheelchair track and field is an exciting next chapter in the history of our event, and we’re all proud of the partnerships that have brought it to life.”
● Fencing ● Given the nature of their sport and that the implements of competitions are weapons – swords – fencers are covered from head to toe with protective gear, almost always completely in white.
Now, USA Fencing is helping its athletes look better off the piste with the announcement of a partnership with Dallas-based licensed, made-to-measure clothier Reveal Suits. As “Official Suit Partner” of the federation, it will “provide tailored outfitting (suit and shirt) to USA Fencing’s most active officials who work at the national or international level.”
Reveal Suits will also have the rights to a special lining with the USA Fencing logo, with a discount for USA Fencing members that includes a donation to the USA Fencing Federation. Gives a whole new meaning to being “sharp” in this sport, right?
● Figure Skating ● Slate.com was the latest to report on discussions in the figure skating world about the possibility of having Pairs and Ice Dance couples be of the same gender, instead of the currently-required one man and one woman.
Writer Talia Barrington explained that the issue has been discussed among athletes and with the International Skating Union’s Ice Dance Technical Committee:
“ISU technical committee chair Shawn Rettstatt [USA] responded that yes, there were plans forming to propose a wider rule change in favor of same-sex pairs in competition. If the issue passes an internal review and becomes an official proposal, it’ll likely be voted on next year at the ISU’s International Congress in Las Vegas, a sprawling biennial event billed as an opportunity to make ‘major decisions about the future and direction of the ISU.’
“It’ll need a two-thirds majority of votes to win. In an interview later, Rettstatt seemed cautiously upbeat about its chances.”
He was clear that how the proposal would be treated is unknown: a loosening of the current rules, a new competition category or something else. And Rettstatt was clear that he was speaking about Ice Dance and not Pairs, a different event with a different ISU technical committee.
● Sport Climbing ● Great concern was expressed late last year for Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi, whose loose wearing of her headscarf at the Asian Championships in Korea in October exposed her to possible criminal penalties under Iranian law. In December, it was reported that the International Federation for Sport Climbing was in touch with her and that she was selected for a coaching advancement program supported by Olympic Solidarity.
It is not clear whether Rekabi, 33, is retired from competition, but she is absent from the entries for this week’s IFSC World Cup opener in Boulder in Hachioji (JPN). Two Iranian men are listed, but no women. Rekabi’s last competition was at the Asian Championships in Seoul in October 2022, where she placed eighth in Boulder and ninth in Lead.
Where is she?
● Swimming ● World Championships 100 m Free gold medalist Mollie O’Callaghan, 19, pulled off a stunning win in the 200 m Free on the final night of the Australian nationals in Gold Coast.
She went out hard in the final to get away from the fearsome kick of Tokyo Olympic 200 m Free champion Ariarne Titmus and made it work, touching first in 1:55.15 to move to no. 3 in the world in 2023, trailed by Titmus (1:55.28, no. 4 in 2023) and sprinter Shayna Jack, who scored a lifetime best of 1:55.37 (no. 5).
O’Callaghan scored a triple at the nationals, winning the 50-100-200 m Frees, along with an unexpected silver in the 100 m Back!
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