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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Germany out, Morocco in to Women’s World Cup last 16
2. Africa finishes 5-0-2 in last seven; Europe still dominates
3. Nike boosts USA Gymnastics with 2023-28 sponsorship
4. U.S.’s Mu may not (or may still) run 800 m at Worlds
5. Germany’s Krueger rips FIE and IOC for Kharlan disqualification
The group stage ended with a bang at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, as debutante Morocco advanced to the knock-out round and Germany failed to make it for the first time. The oddsmakers now see England and Spain as the favorites, ahead of the U.S., to win the title. Statistics compiled by The Sports Examiner showed that Europe still dominated the group stage, with a 16-6-6 (W-L-T) record and eight teams advancing, with Africa (5-4-3) and Oceania (3-2-1) also posting winning records against other regions. Africa advanced three teams despite their four entries scoring a combined 14 goals and giving up 25. USA Gymnastics and Nike announced a five-year sponsorship deal, a critical validation of the renewed federation that has emerged from the Larry Nassar scandal. Olympic and World women’s 800 m champ Athing Mu of the U.S. may or may not run at the 2023 World Athletics Championships later this month in Budapest, according to her coach, Bobby Kersee. She might just skip it and continue to train for 2024; she’s run only twice this season. German fencer Lea Krueger, a member of the Athleten Deutschland executive committee, told German radio that many fencers were upset with the disqualification of Ukraine’s Olha Kharlan at the World Championships, and blamed the International Fencing Federation and the International Olympic Committee for the problems.
● World Championships: Cycling (U.S.’s Dygert opens track Worlds with another Pursuit gold) ●
● Panorama: Russia (CIS Games in Belarus to draw 2,214 athletes from 22 nations) = Transgender (British Rowing assigns transwomen to Open class) = Athletics (2: AIU touts importance of out-of-competition testing; Jerusalem ready to host European U-20s) = Fencing (U.S. Foil star Nicole Ross retires) = Modern Pentathlon (UIPM turns 75 as Schormann misuses Aristotle’s quote) ●
Germany out, Morocco in to Women’s World Cup last 16
The shocks continued on the final day of the group stage at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, as second-ranked Germany did not advance to the elimination round for the first time ever and Morocco – the darling of the men’s FIFA World Cup last year – will be in the knock-outs in its first Women’s World Cup appearance!
● Group H: South Korea 1, Germany 1 ● The Germans had crushed Morocco, but lost to Colombia, so had to win if Morocco unexpectedly beat Colombia … which it did.
And the Koreans made it harder with a great chance by American-born, 16-year-old Casey Phair in the second minute that hit the goal post, and then a pass through the box by midfielder Young-ju Lee from 35 yards away found breaking midfielder So-hyun Cho in the box, who scored in the sixth minute with a right-footed, diagonal finish.
Sure, the Germans controlled possession, but the shots were hard to come by against a packed-in defense. In the 42nd, a long ball from the right side by defender Svenja Huth found striker Lea Schueller and midfield scoring ace Alexandra Popp two-on-two in front of the Korean goal and Popp headed it in for the tie at halftime.
Popp got another shot with a header in the 59th on another Huth cross, but this time hit the crossbar! Popp’s header in the 74th was saved and – knowing that Morocco was beating Colombia late – the Germans applied heavy pressure in stoppage time, with two blasts from substitute midfielder Sydney Lohmann going wide. Germany finished with 71% possession and 14-5 on shots, but they are going home.
● Group H: Morocco 1, Colombia 0 ● The Colombians looked great in wins over South Korea (2-0) and Germany (2-1), but could not score against a feisty and fast Morocco, despite 60 % possession in the game.
Morocco had only scored one goal in its two games, but was on offense right away, with a good chance in the opening minute from striker Ibtissam Jraidi was saved. But the pivot point came in stoppage time, as Colombian defender Daniela Arias pushed Jraidi to the ground at 45+2 for a penalty.
Ghizlane Cheddak’s penalty was saved by Colombian keeper Catalina Perez, but bounced to the right of goal and a cross to the middle of the box by defender Sakina Ouzroui found striker Anissa Lahmari, who finished for the 1-0 lead at 45+4.
The Colombians were game, making repeated runs in the second half and just missing chances in the 58th and especially in the 62nd, when striker Mayra Ramirez’s rising shot at the right side of the goal hit the post and bounced away.
Colombia out-shot Morocco, 11-8, and both move on to the elimination round, where they could meet again in the semifinals.
Of the 32 teams that started on 20 July, only Japan, England and Sweden won all three of their games. As for the knock-out round, it’s now set to start on Saturday:
● 5 Aug.: Switzerland vs. Spain in Auckland
● 6 Aug.: Netherlands vs. South Africa in Sydney
● 5 Aug.: Japan vs. Norway in Wellington
● 6 Aug.: Sweden vs. U.S. in Melbourne
● 7 Aug.: Australia vs. Denmark in Sydney
● 8 Aug.: France vs. Morocco in Adelaide
● 7 Aug.: England vs. Nigeria in Brisbane
● 8 Aug.: Jamaica vs. Colombia in Melbourne
The championship match will be on 20 August in Sydney.
The sharpies have substantially re-arranged the lines now that the group stage is done, but the U.S. is still highly thought of:
● +250 to +300: England
● +400 to +470: Spain
● +450 to +470: United States
● +650 to +800: France
● +750 to +850: Japan
● +900 to +1,100: Netherlands
● +1,000 to +1,300: Australia
● +1,800 to +2,000: Sweden
● +3,000 to +4,400: Colombia
● +5,000 to +10,000: Norway
● +8,000 to +15,000: Denmark
● +8,000 to +15,000: Nigeria
● +10,000 to +20,000: Switzerland
● +15,000 to +20,000: Jamaica
● +25,000 to +30,000: South Africa
● +25,000 to +50,000: Morocco
As for the U.S. and Sweden on Sunday, the American women are favored at +110 to +120, while the Swedes are clearly the underdog at +240 to +260 (a +260 bet means a wager of $100 that wins returns $260).
If the eyeshades are right, it would be Spain and the U.S. in one semi and England and France in the other.
Africa finishes 5-0-2 in last seven; Europe still dominates
A fabulous finishing run by African teams pushed three teams into the Round-of-16, second-best to Europe among all the regions in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
African teams started 0-4-1, then stormed to a 5-0-2 (W-L-T) in their final four matches and qualified Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco for the elimination round. Two qualified in 2019 and one in 2015, and makes Africa the emerging star of the tournament going into the knock-outs, despite a -11 cumulative goal differential.
In statistics compiled by The Sports Examiner, you can compare how the regions did against each other, with Europe once again dominant, and Asia, CONCACAF and South America (!) all having losing records:
Africa: 4 teams/3 advanced
● 5-4-3 (W-L-T)
● Goals: 14-25
● Shots: 117-201
● On Goal: 45-66
● Possess.: 36% on average
Asia: 5 teams/1 advanced
● Goals: 15-31
● Shots: 127-257
● On Goal: 46-83
● Possess.: 38% on average
Europe: 12 teams/8 advanced
● Goals: 60-21
● Shots: 467-243
● On Goal: 168-74
● Possess.: 64% on average
(4 Europe vs. Europe games not included)
North & Central America, Caribbean: 6 teams/2 advanced
● Goals: 10-28
● Shots: 174-259
● On Goal: 47-100
● Possess.: 43% on average
(1 intra-CONCACAF match not included)
Oceania: 2 teams/1 advanced
● Goals: 8-4
● Shots: 91-51
● On Goal: 25-15
● Possess.: 56% on average
South America: 3 teams/1 advanced
● Goals: 11-9
● Shots: 122-87
● On Goal: 39-32
● Possess.: 54% on average
Only the European, Oceanian and South American teams had positive goal differentials through the group stage. But the African teams were 5-4-3 with a 14-25 goals-against total. Defense wins.
At the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, European teams were 7-1 in the round-of-16 and produced seven of eight quarterfinalists and three of the four semifinalists.
Fox Sports reported that the U.S. vs. Portugal final group-stage match that began at 3 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday drew an average of 1.354 million viewers in the middle of the night.
The audience peaked at 1.731 million from 4:45 to 5:00 a.m. Eastern, near the end of the match, with Kansas City, Austin and Detroit the top markets for the telecast.
No word from Telemundo on its Spanish-language audience.
The U.S.-Vietnam opener drew 6.263 million viewers on the two networks combined, and the U.S.-Netherlands match did 6.430 million on Fox and another 1.371 million for Spanish-language coverage on Telemundo and Universo (7.801 million combined).
The Round-of-16 game against Sweden is another early start, from Melbourne, at 5 a.m. Eastern on Sunday.
Nike boosts USA Gymnastics with 2023-28 sponsorship
The long road back for USA Gymnastics from the Larry Nassar abuse scandal and its bankruptcy proceeding that was finally closed in 2022 took a turn into the sunshine on Thursday with the announcement of a major sponsorship from Nike that will run from 2023-28.
This is Nike’s first sponsorship as the “Official Apparel and Footwear Partner of USA Gymnastics and the USA Gymnastics National Team,” and was described as the largest partnership in the history of the federation:
“Starting in 2023 and extending through the 2028 Olympic Games, in L.A., Nike will manufacture and produce all sportswear and footwear for the USA Gymnastics National Teams. In 2025, the partnership will expand to include National Team leotards and competition apparel on mat at international events and National Team camps, marking the first time the Nike Swoosh will adorn USA Gymnastics leotards.”
Nike’s Karie Conner, Vice President and General Manager, North America Kids, spoke about the sponsorship’s focus on children, much more than the national team:
“The USA Gymnastics partnership represents Nike’s commitment to expand sport for the next generation. Together we’re providing opportunities for all kids to experience the joy of movement – and the confidence it builds – from their first forward roll to first back handspring and beyond. We’re outfitting USA Gymnastics National Teams and championing fun at every level of gymnastics to spark a love of movement, especially for girls, because movement is fundamental to all sports.”
The announcement is a major validation of USA Gymnastics, just in time for this weekend’s CoreHydration Classic in the Chicago area and the national championships and World Championships selection meet in San Jose, California at the end of this month.
U.S.’s Mu may not (or may still) run 800 m at Worlds
The story of Olympic and World 800 m Champion Athing Mu continues to twist without end.
Her coach, Bobby Kersee, told the Los Angeles Times:
“It’s in our control if we decide we’re just going to go ahead and train through this year and focus on next year, then that’s what we’re going to do.
“The training is going well but our thought process, openly, is that we’re going to just train here in L.A. for the next two weeks and the next time she gets on the plane it’ll either be on vacation or to Budapest.”
Mu had been entered in the 400 m at the Ed Murphey Classic in Memphis this weekend, but withdrew.
Mu finished second in the women’s 1,500 m at the USATF National Championships in Eugene, qualifying for the U.S. team, but withdrew from that slot, allowing Sinclaire Johnson to take her place in Budapest.
As for the 800 m at Worlds, Mu’s presence or not has no impact on the U.S. team, as she has a direct entry as the defending champion, and three other Americans qualified at the USATF Champs.
Observed: Truth is, Mu hasn’t run much since leaving Texas A&M following her all-conquering Olympic season in 2021:
2022: 10 meets
(coached by Milton Mallard at Texas A&M)
● Indoor: Mile x 2
● Outdoor: 400 m x2
● Outdoor: 600 m x 2
● Outdoor: 800 m x 4
2023: 2 meets
(coached by Bobby Kersee)
● Outdoor: 800 m x 1
● Outdoor: 1,500 m x 1
That’s it. There are lots of reasons not to run, such as undisclosed injuries, physical or mental fatigue, issues that have nothing to do with track, and so on.
What her possible withdrawal does show, once again, is how important the Olympic Games are in track & field and how everything else – including the World Athletics Championships – is secondary.
Only one woman – South Africa’s Caster Semenya – has ever won back-to-back Olympic 800 m titles. But three have done at the Worlds: Semenya, Maria Mutola (MOZ) and Cuba’s Anna Quirot.
The Olympics matters; everything else, not so much.
Germany’s Krueger rips FIE and IOC for Kharlan disqualification
German Sabre fencer Lea Krueger, who is also an executive committee member of the Athleten Deutschland, spoke to Deutschlandfunk (German Radio) on the failure of the Federation Internationale de Escrime (FIE) and the International Olympic Committee concerning the disqualification of Ukraine’s four-time World Champion Olha Kharlan at last week’s World Fencing Championships in Milan (ITA):
Noting that Kharlan offered Russian Anna Smirnova her Sabre for a post-match touch instead of a handshake – both a salute and a handshake are called for in the FIE rules – Krueger noted (computer translation from the original German):
“Basically a compromise solution. And she also thought that the Corona rules are still in force [which allowed a weapons touch, not a handshake]. There have been rumors as to whether they are still in effect or not. That didn’t go down well with us fencers. And she also had the go-ahead from the president of the International Federation, who said we would find a solution. But none of that worked.
“There was a very clear sign in the fencing community that this is going too far and that the rules shouldn’t just be interpreted on the basis of the wording.”
As for the situation the FIE found itself in:
“We are the ones who have to deal with the situations now. The International Federations are a bit overwhelmed in this regard because there was not enough time to implement the IOC recommendations [of 28 March]. They are not clearly defined and it is difficult for our International Federation to deal with them because they want to implement this recommendation, but nobody knows how.”
And the future?
“If you want Russians and Ukrainians to start together in Paris [in 2024], there must be ways to make it bearable for the Ukrainian athletes. And then it is no longer a matter of interpreting the wording of any rules, but there must be rules that protect Ukrainian athletes in these situations and not only allow Russian athletes to re-enter world sports.”
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡
● Cycling ● The U.S. scored a gold at the track on the opening day of the World Cycling Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, with Chloe Dygert dominating the competition.
She led the qualifying, 3:17.713 to 3:20.101 over Germany’s defending champ Franziska Brausse and the two then raced for the title, with Dygert overtaking Brausse to win in 3:17:542. Dygert, 26, won her fourth Pursuit Worlds gold, previously in 2017-18-20; too bad it’s not an Olympic event. It’s her eighth career Track Worlds gold, now four each in the individual and team pursuit events.
Britain’s William Tidball, 23, won the men’s Scratch Race, ahead of Kazushige Kuboki (JPN) and Tuur Dens (BEL); Grant Koontz of the U.S. did not finish.
Favored Germany won the women’s Team Sprint, with Pauline Grabosch, Emma Hinze and Lea Friedrich winning a pitched battle with Great Britain to win in world-record time of 45.848 to 45.923 (+0.75). China took the bronze over the Netherlands.
It’s the fourth straight win in the Team Sprint for Germany and Friedrich and Hinze, and the fifth career gold in the event for Grabosch (also in 2018)!
The Cycling Worlds continue through the 13th.
(Thanks to Olympedia.com co-founder Dr. Bill Mallon for a reminder that the Individual Pursuit is not on the Olympic program for Paris 2024.)
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Russia ● Actually, this is about the II Commonwealth of Independent States Games – CIS Games – in Belarus, the first of the anti-Olympic Movement events being staged by Russia or its wartime ally Belarus.
The competition runs from 4-14 August across 11 cities and according to the Belarus First Deputy Sport and Tourism Minister Alexander Dorokhovich, “As of today, 2,214 athletes from 22 countries have registered to participate in 2nd CIS Games.”
The CIS was formed in 1991 following the break-up of the USSR and includes eight former Soviet Republics Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, with Turkmenistan as an associate member. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia were part of the group in the 1990s, but have left.
● Transgender ● British Rowing announced its revised competition eligibility policy and followed the model used by British Cycling in May. Per the statement:
“1. Open Category
“● All individuals will be eligible to compete in the Open category.
“2. Women’s Category
“● Only individuals who are assigned female at birth will be eligible to compete in competitions under British Rowing’s jurisdiction and/or be selected to represent Great Britain, or England, in international events.
“3. Mixed Category
“● Competition organisers can offer Mixed Events at any level of competition, providing 50% of crew are eligible from the women’s category stated above.”
The new policy will go into effect on 11 September 2023; the announcement also included:
“Our policy has been developed following extensive and ongoing research and consultation with stakeholders, the rowing community, academics, and other relevant organisations, and NGBs since 2021 and is based on the scientific evidence available at this time. The eligibility requirements of World Rowing, our international federation, have also been considered in the context of our decisions.”
In the detailed policy statement itself, the federation notes:
“The scientific research examining whether those retained physiological/biological advantages translate into a retained sporting performance advantage for Transgender women post transition (compared with pre-transition and/or Cis women) strongly challenges the idea that testosterone suppression alone sufficiently removes the retained sporting performance advantage of Transwomen (when compared with pre-transition and/or Cis women).
“In addition, the scientific community broadly agrees that the majority of the physiological/biological advantages brought about by male puberty are retained (either wholly or partially) by Transwomen post transition.”
The policy applies only to competitive rowing and does not impact recreational programs.
● Athletics ● Athletics Integrity Unit Chair David Howman (NZL) shared the group’s out-of-competition testing statistics and underlined the importance of the tests:
“Approximately 500 elite track-and-field athletes are selected each year on AIU’s [Registered Testing Pool]. Given the predictability of in-competition testing, the AIU’s emphasis is on OOC testing for RTP athletes and, wherever they reside or train, these competitors are tested regularly OOC by the AIU.
“No-notice testing is a critical component in mitigating doping by catching sophisticated cheaters and deterring would-be cheaters. Otherwise, doping can be done prior to competition, be undetectable during the event, but still have a significant impact on an athlete’s performance.”
Howman also addressed the widely-questioned number of tests per athlete, which varies widely from country to country:
“An event like the World Championships is huge, with almost 2,000 competitors, many of whom would not have been in any testing pool and therefore not subject to OOC testing. Consequently, a third of the 1,719 athletes in Eugene [in 2022] had zero OOC tests in the ten months prior to the event. However, this number drops dramatically to just six per cent for the top-eight finishers (the finalists) in individual events.
“Another key finding was that only 39% of the athletes had three or more OOC tests, but this number rises to 81% for the top-eight finishers. In fact, top-eight athletes averaged 4.8 OOC tests in the lead-up to the World Championships.”
The AIU’s statistics showed that for the 2022 Worlds in Eugene, the 142-member U.S. team was tested a combined 530 times out-of-competition, an average of 3.73 per athlete. That was sixth-most among all nations, behind Ethiopia (8.03), China (6.20), Kenya (5.93). Morocco (4.93) and Germany (3.82).
You wouldn’t think of Jerusalem, Israel as a favored track & field venue, but for the second year in a row, it will play host to a major European Athletics age-group championship, the U20, from 7-10 August.
The 3,165-seat Givat Ram Stadium on the campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will be the venue once again, which also hosted the 2022 European U-18 Championships. A total of 1,159 athletes from 44 countries are entered, who will all – no doubt – be welcomed by the Israel Tourism Ministry to plan return trips.
● Fencing ● American foil fencer Nicole Ross, 34, announced her retirement with an Instagram post on Thursday, a two-time Olympian who won three World Championships medals during her career.
Ross made the 2012 and 2020 U.S. Olympic teams, and was a member of World Championships Team event medal winners in 2017 (silver), 2018 (gold) and 2019 (bronze). She said she was inspired to get into the sport after seeing The Princess Bride when she was nine. She started her retirement post with:
“For the past 2 years, I’ve been privately and quietly saying goodbye, but today I am making my retirement from competitive sport official. Goodbyes like this are especially tough, but I’m leaving at peace, and with huge amounts of gratitude.”
● Modern Pentathlon ● The Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) celebrated its 75th anniversary on Thursday (3rd), remembering its formation in 1948, following the London Olympic Games.
The sport had been run since its introduction in 1912 by the International Olympic Committee through a designated commission. The UIPM added the winter sport of Biathlon in 1953, with a separate federation – the International Biathlon Union – founded in 1993.
UIPM President Klaus Schormann (GER), who has led the move from riding to obstacle course racing in a bid to get the sport back onto the Olympic program for 2028, was quoted in the federation’s salute to the anniversary saying:
“I quote Aristotle: ‘The most perfect sportsmen are the pentathletes because in their bodies, strength and speed are combined in beautiful harmony’.”
The only problem with Schormann’s use of the quote is that the pentathlon in the time of Aristotle in the fourth century B.C.E. included the long jump, javelin, discus, a 200 m race – all track & field events – and wrestling. Only the running element has remained in the modern Olympic pentathlon, a clear misappropriation of the Greek philosopher’s observation, especially among those who know.
For our updated, 787-event International Sports Calendar (no. 3) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!