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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. FIFA reports 2.45 million tix sold for Qatar 2022
2. European Championships a hit with television viewers
3. Bol storms to 400-400H-4×400 triple at European Champs
4. McClain and Malone win at USA Gymnastics Champs
5. Bennett pulls off back-to-back stage wins to start Vuelta a Espana
FIFA announced the results of the latest ticket sales effort for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with more than 520,000 tickets taken and now 81% of all tickets sold. A final sales period is expected to begin in late September. The 2022 European Championships in Munich has been widely viewed in Europe and especially in the major markets of Germany, Great Britain and Italy, a significant boost for the viability of the multi-sport concept in just its second edition. At Munich’s Olympiastadion, Dutch star Femke Bol won an unprecedented triple in the women’s 400 m, 400 m hurdles and the 4×400 m relay to headline the final weekend of track & field competitions, with Britain winning the most medals. Teenager Konnor McClain was the surprise winner of the USA Gymnastics women’s All-Around, edging Shilese Jones on the final rotation as the post-Simone Biles era gets started in earnest. Stanford’s Brody Malone defended his men’s All-Around title decisively. At the 77th Vuelta a Espana, Ireland’s Sam Bennett won both the second and third stages with sprints to the line, the first time in eight years that anyone has won back-to-back stages in this race.
FIFA reports 2.45 million tix sold for Qatar 2022
More than 81% of all tickets for the 2022 FIFA World Cup have been sold, with FIFA announcing that 520,532 tickets were taken during the last sales period which ended on 16 August.
Agence France Presse reported that there are expected to be 3,010,679 tickets available in total, and a final sales period will open in late September or shortly thereafter; the first match will be played on Sunday, 20 November.
In terms of the countries with the most purchases, the top 10 are Qatar, the U.S., England, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, the UAE, France, Argentina, Brazil and Germany.
In a somewhat related matter, the suspended CONMEBOL qualifying match between Argentina and Brazil from 5 September 2021, in which Brazilian health officials objected to the use of three Argentine players – coming from Europe – who had not met Brazil’s anti-Covid quarantine regulations, was finally canceled.
FIFA had ordered the game to be completed (and was scheduled for 22 September), but as its outcome meant nothing in the final qualifying standings in South America and the World Cup draw has already been completed, there was no reason to hold the match. FIFA’s order to hold the match and fines on both the Argentina and Brazilian federations was appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but was resolved before a decision was announced.
European Championships a hit with television viewers
The 11-day European Championships in Munich (GER) has proved a success not only with local attendees, but with fans watching on television across Europe.
The second edition of the nine-sport program is being shown by the European Broadcasting Union’s 40 national broadcasters across the continent, with impressive viewership reported for the first six days that ended on Tuesday, 16 August:
● Germany: The top audience was 4.15 million for track & field on 16 August (Tuesday), and 3.07 million on 15 August (Monday). Beach volleyball on 15 August drew 2.85 million and 2.40 million watched triathlon on 14 August (Sunday).
● Great Britain: The largest single-sport audience was 1.5 million for track & field on 15 August and its afternoon programs on 16 August (Tuesday) had a 19.4% audience share.
● Italy: Track & field was again the leader, with 1.6 million viewers on 16 August; some 900,000 watched gymnastics on 14 August.
The appearance of individual stars made a difference, of course, with Norwegian distance star Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s race in the men’s 5,000 m on 16 August (Tuesday) giving national broadcaster NRK a 55.2% audience share for athletics that evening. In Sweden, the opening night of track drew a 35% viewing share.
The event concluded on Sunday, but these are impressive statistics and a boost for the viability of the European Championships concept – held this time without swimming – for the future.
Observed: More data is needed for a better evaluation, but the concept of ganging together multiple national or regional championships into a festival program that becomes more than the sum of its parts appears to be quite popular.
The U.S. has no such program at present, but the idea could be a popular promotion for Olympic sport at a cost far less than the cost of the old U.S. Olympic Festival. And if the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee has no interest in this – it produces no national events at all any more – it could be created by the National Governing Bodies as a group, or by an independent entity like the multiple national championships event in Germany known as “Die Finals,” produced in cooperation with national broadcasters ARD and ZDF.
Said European Triathlon Union president Renato Bertrandi (ITA), “Well, for us, this is impossible to match with a standard European Championship. … We had the possibility to be shown to millions of spectators. Those numbers are very, very difficult to reach without events like this.”
Bol storms to 400-400H-4×400 triple at European Champs
A very successful 25th edition of the European Athletics Championships concluded at the Munich Olympiastadion, with Dutch star Femke Bol winning an unprecedented triple gold in the women’s 400 m, 400 m hurdles and 4×400 m relay!
Bol won the 400 m going away on Wednesday in 49.44, then took the hurdles on Friday with a meet record of 52.67, winning by an impressive 1.63 seconds over Ukraine’s Viktoriya Tkachuk (54.30). Said the winner:
“Winning this gold medal is a big relief. It was a great race for me. I am very surprised to achieve such a fast time. I was very hard mentally to race the 400 m without hurdles. I am so proud to achieve the double. I will never do the double again. Well, maybe. Never say never!”
She also won a third gold with a brilliant 48.52 anchor on the Dutch women’s 4×400 m relay winners.
Bol wasn’t the only one to set a meet record in the final days. In the men’s 400 m hurdles, Norway’s world-record holder Karsten Warholm showed he has regained his fitness, moving to no. 3 on the year at 47.12, way ahead of France’s Wilfried Happio (48.56). Lithuania’s Worlds silver medalist Mykolas Alekna – age 19 and the NCAA runner-up for Cal – won the men’s discus, just as his father, Virgilijus Alekna, did in 2008! The young Alekna threw 69.78 m (228-11), his no. 2 throw ever, to upset World Champion Kristjian Ceh (SLO: 68.28 m/224-0).
Sweden’s Olympic and World Champion Mondo Duplantis triumphed – as expected – in the men’s vault, with a meet record of 6.06 m (19-10 1/2). Albanian Luiza Gega, fifth at the Worlds, won the women’s Steeple in 9:11.31, a meet record and her fourth national record of the season.
Britain won the most medals with 20 (6-6-8); over the weekend, Keely Hodgkinson got the win in the women’s 800 m (1:59.04), defending champion Laura Muir won the 1,500 m decisively in 4:01.08, Zharnel Hughes won the men’s 200 m (20.07) and the British men won the 4×100 m and 4×400 m relays.
Germany was no. 2 on the medals table at 16 (7-7-2), but had the most wins – to the delight of the home crowd – including Julian Weber in the men’s jav at 87.66 m (287-7) and the women’s 4×100 m. Ukraine got two wins from its women’s stars Yaroslava Mahuchikh (high jump: 1.95 m/6-4 3/4) and Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk (triple jump: 15.02 m/49-3 1/2, no. 2 in 2022).
Other winners on the weekend included Spain’s Mariano Garcia in the men’s 800 m (1:44.85); Finland’s Topi Raitanan in the Steeple (8:21.80), Italian Yemaneberhan Crippa in the men’s 10,000 m (27:46.13), Swiss star Mujinga Kambudji in the women’s 200 m (22.32) and Poland’s Pia Skrzyszowska – still just 21 – in the women’s 100 m hurdles (12.53).
Greece’s Elina Tzengko won the women’s javelin with a lifetime best of 65.81 m (215-11), with 41-year-old, two-time Olympic champ Barbora Spotakova (CZE) earning the bronze at 60.68 m (199-1). Greek Antigoni Drisbioti completed a double in the women’s walks, winning the 20 km race in 1:29:03. Spain won both men’s walks, with Alvaro Martin winning the 20 km in a lifetime best of 1:19:11.
McClain and Malone win at USA Gymnastics Champs
The post-Simone Biles era in U.S. women’s gymnastics showcased a stunning turnaround and final-rotation drama at the USA Gymnastics Championships in Tampa, Florida that ended Sunday evening.
Seventeen-year-old Konnor McClain, an emerging star in 2021 whose training went so wrong that she did not even compete at the Olympic Trials, put on a rush on Sunday to pass first-day leader Shilese Jones and win the All-Around competition by 112.750 to 112.000.
Jones, 12th in the All-Around at the 2019 and 2021 U.S. championships, led at 57.200 on Saturday, followed by McClain (56.400) and Tokyo Olympic Team silver medalist Jordan Chiles (56.150). Carey had the highest score on Vault (14.800), while Jones won on Uneven Bars (14.850) and Floor (14.100). McClain won on Beam (14.800).
On Sunday, Jones and McClain dueled throughput the four-event program, with McClain’s score of 112.750 within Jones’s reach on her final apparatus, the Uneven Bars, on which she led all scorers on Saturday. But Jones fell on her dismount and scored only 13.600 to leave McClain in first place. McClain’s second-day score of 56.350 was tops in the field by a large margin in gymnastics: 0.60 points over Chiles.
Chiles ended up third (111.900), ahead of 2021 Worlds bronze medalist Kayla DiCello (110.950) and Tokyo Olympic Floor gold medalist Jade Carey (110.900). Leanne Wong, the 2021 Worlds All-Around silver winner, had a foot injury and contested only the Uneven Bars and Beam.
The individual event champions – using the two-day scores – were Carey on Vault (29.450), Jones and Wong on the Uneven Bars (28.450), McClain on Beam (28.900) and Jones on Floor (28.350).
In the men’s competition, reigning U.S. champ Brody Malone won again and decisively, leading both sessions of the All-Around and finishing with 176.590 points. That was well ahead of veteran Donnell Whittenburg (171.571), newcomers Asher Hong (171.210) and Fred Richard (169.166) and 2017 U.S. champ Yul Moldauer (169.139).
In the two-round scores for each apparatus, Malone won on Floor Exercise and Horizontal Bar and was second on Pommel Horse. Whittenburg won on Rings and was second on Vault. Hong was the Vault winner; Curren Phillips won on Parallel Bars and World Champion Stephen Nedoroscik won as expected on Pommel Horse.
Bennett pulls off back-to-back stage wins to start Vuelta a Espana
The final Grand Tour of the 2022 cycling season, the 77th La Vuelta Ciclista de Espana, got underway over the weekend, with some noteworthy history already from Irish sprint star Sam Bennett.
The opening stages were in the Netherlands this year, with the Dutch Jumbo-Visma team – with three-time defending champ Primoz Roglic (SLO) aboard – taking the opening Team Time Trial. The second stage was a flat, 175.1 km ride to Utrecht, with Bennett winning the final sprint over Mads Pedersen (DEN) and Tim Merlier (BEL) in 3:49:34.
Sunday’s third stage was another sprinter’s race, 193.1 km in and around Breda and it was Bennett and Pedersen finishing 1-2 at the line again (!), this time with Britain’s Daniel McQuay third, all in 4:05:53. For Bennett, it was his 34th World Tour victory – at age 31 – and his fifth career stage win at the Vuelta a Espana. It’s the first time anyone has won back-to-back stages in this race since 2014, when German sprinter John Degenkolb pulled it off in stages 4-5.
The racing returns to Spain on Tuesday, with the first hilly stage and three climbing stages with uphill finishes on the program for next week. The 21-stage event continues through 11 September.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Athletics ● The European Championships was not the only regional title event going on, with the three-day North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) meet on in Freeport (BAH).
Although this meet – in its fourth edition – is not that well known, the U.S. sent a pretty good team and the results showed: out of 43 total events, the Americans won 29 of them!
The top races were in the hurdles, with 2019 Pan American Games runner-up Freddie Crittenden (USA) setting a lifetime best of 13.00 (wind: +0.3 m/s) to beat countryman Jamal Britt (13.08, lifetime best). Crittenden moved to equal-third on the 2022 world list and is the 16th man to run 13.00 or better in U.S. history.
In the men’s 400 m hurdles, Commonwealth Games champ Kyron McMaster (IVB) scored a season’s best 47.34 to win over Americans Khallifah Rosser (lifetime best 47.59, no. 13 all-time U.S.) and C.J. Allen (48.23).
The U.S. men’s victories on the track also included Jonah Koech (800 m: 1:45.87), Eric Holt (1,500 m: 3:37.62), a heartening victory for Evan Jager in the Steeple (8:22.55), Woody Kincaid in the 5,000 m (14:48.58) and Sean McGorty in the 10,000 m (29:23.77). On the infield, William Williams took the long jump (7.89 m/25-10 3/4), Chris Benard won the triple jump (16.40 m/53-9 3/4), Roger Steen won the shot (20.78 m/68-2 1/4), Rudy Winkler won the hammer (78.29 m/256-10) and Curtis Thompson took the jav (84.23 m/276-4).
The U.S. women scored wins on the track by Brittany Brown (200 m: 22.35); by Ajee Wilson in the 800 m over Allie Wilson, 1:58.47 to 1:58.48; Heather MacLean in the 1,500 m (4:04.53); Gabrielle Jennings led a sweep in the Steeple (9:34.36); a medals sweep in the 5,000 m was led by Natosha Rogers (15:11.68); Stephanie Bruce led a 1-2 in the 10,000 m in 33:12.52, and Alaysha Johnson won the 100 m hurdles in 12.62.
On the infield, Vashti Cunningham took the high jump at 1.92 m (6-3 1/2), Alina McDonald won the vault at 4.50 m (14-9) and Quanesha Burks won the long jump at 6.75 m (22-1 3/4). In the throws, Laulauga Tausaga-Collins won the discus at 63.18 m (207-3) and Worlds silver medalist Kara Winger won the javelin at 64.68 m (212-2). In the women’s hammer, World bronze medalist Janee Kassanavoid won over teammate (and World Champion) Brooke Andersen, 71.51 m (234-7) to 69.66 m (228-6).
The American squad won all five relays: the men’s 4×100 m in 38.29 and the 4×400 m in 3:01.79; the women’s 4×100 m in 42.35 and the 4×400 m in 3:23.54. The Mixed 4×400 m of Quincy Hall, Jaide Stepter Baynes, Ismail Turner and Kaylin Whitney won in a speedy 3:12.05, the no. 5 performance of 2022 and no. 5 in U.S. history.
In addition to the American win parade, Jamaica’s World 200 m Champion Shericka Jackson continued to impress, winning the women’s 100 m in 10.83 and teammates Ackeem Blake (9.98) and Andrew Hudson (19.87) won the men’s 100 m and 200 m. World Champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo (BAH) favored the home crowd with a dominant, 49.40 win in the women’s 400 m.
● Cycling ● Swiss Mountain Bike star Mathias Flueckiger, the Tokyo Olympic Cross Country silver medalist and 2021 World Cup winner, has been provisionally suspended by the Swiss anti-doping agency, just before the European Mountain Bike Championships in Munich were set to start.
Flueckiger was informed of a positive test for Zeranol, an anabolic agent used mostly in livestock. Now 33, Flueckiger’s test from 5 June at the Swiss national championships came back positive and he was informed on 18 August. His second (“B”) sample has yet to be tested for confirmation.
● Football ● The FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup in Costa Rica has reached the semifinal stage, to be held on Thursday (25th) in San Jose.
In the quarters, Spain defeated Mexico, 1-0, and Brazil also won by 1-0 against Colombia on Saturday. On Sunday, the Netherlands steamed past Nigeria, 2-0, and Japan defeated France on penalties (5-3) following a 3-3 tie after extra time.
In the semis, Spain will play the Netherlands and Brazil will face Japan.
The medal matches will be played on the 28th. The U.S. women did not advance past the group stage.
● Ice Hockey ● Host Canada won the IIHF World Junior (U-20) Championship in Edmonton with an overtime, 3-2 win against Finland.
It’s the 19th title for the Canadians, far more than anyone else (the USSR won eight), and they won seven games without a loss in the tournament, scoring 41 goals to 14 for its opponents.
In the final, Canada had a 2-0 lead after two periods, but the Finns tied it up with two scores in the first 10:46 of the third period. Forward Kent Johnson won it at 3:20 of overtime by knocking in a loose puck in front of the Finnish goal.
Sweden defeated the Czech Republic, 3-1, to win the bronze medal. The U.S. had gone 4-0 in group play, but were upset in the quarterfinals by the Czechs, 4-2.
● Swimming ● The revival of the “Duel in the Pool” between the U.S. and Australia was a popular attraction at the Sydney Aquatic Centre (AUS), with the Americans breaking away late in the meet for a 309-283 victory on Sunday.
U.S. star Michael Andrew was everywhere, scoring wins in the men’s 50 m Back Skins race, 50 m Breast Skins race and the 100 m Breast, and a second in the 50 m Fly Skins. Shaine Casas won the 50 m Fly Skins and the 100 m Fly and Ryan Held took the 50 m Free Skins and the 100 m Free. Bella Sims won the 200 m Free and the “broken” (segmented) 400 m Free.
Australia’s stars Emma McKeon and Kaylee McKeown were in form. McKeon won the women’s 50 m Fly Skins and 100 m Fly, while McKeown took the 50 m Back Skins, the 100 m Back and the 200 m “mystery” Medley. Among the men, Mack Horton won the “broken” 400 m and 800 m Freestyle races.
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