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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Ledecky cruises to Worlds gold no. 20 in 1,500 m Free!
2. Strong ratings for U.S. at Women’s World Cup: 6.263 million
3. Colombia and Philippines win in Women’s World Cup
4. Paris 2024 torches unveiled for year-to-go salute
5. World Aquatics to trial “open category”; Al-Musallam extended
The amazing Katie Ledecky routed the field to win the women’s 1,500 m Freestyle at the World Aquatics Championships in Japan for the fifth time in her career. Her time was the third-fastest in history and she now has a startling 20 World Championships golds and 24 medals in all. The U.S. won six more medals on Tuesday and now has 14, by far the leader. The FIFA Women’s World Cup is a tough one for Fox and Telemundo, since most of the games are in the middle of the night in the U.S. But the USA-Vietnam opener was in a reasonable slot last Friday and drew a nice audience of 6.263 million between the two networks, the 10th-highest-viewed Women’s World Cup game in the U.S. ever. At the Women’s World Cup, the second round of games has now begun, with the Philippines surprising host New Zealand, 1-0, and a scoreless draw between the Swiss and Norway. In Paris, the design of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic torches was revealed, integrating the organizing committee’s themes; they torches will be made in France, but will not be given to the 10,000 torchbearers as only 2,000 will be made. Paris 2024 revealed multiple fan celebration sites to be available during the Games, in the Paris area and well beyond. World Aquatics held an important Congress in Fukuoka, with its new “open” category – that will allow transgender participation – to be disclosed soon, and Kuwait’s Husain Al-Musallam re-elected for a full, eight-year term.
● A special year-to-go reflection from Pierre de Coubertin medal winner George Hirthler: France, America and The Olympic Ideal: A perspective on the present, past and future of the Olympic Movement ●
● World Championships: Fencing (Dershwitz wins first U.S. men’s Sabre gold!) ●
● Panorama: Paris 2024 (2: Report says IOC’s own survey indicates 50 countries might boycott if Russia competes; Russian Federation Council Speaker says U.S. is to blame for sports politicalization) = Cycling (2: Wiebes wins Tour de France Femmes third stage; UCI reports no “technological doping” at Tour de France) = Wrestling (USA Wrestling hosts world’s biggest tournament: 7,134 entries!) ●
● Errata: Some readers of yesterday’s post saw a headline asking when a women’s 4:00 1,500 m would come; it should have been when will a women’s 4:00 mile be run. Now corrected, with thanks to reader Jeff Slade for the first mention. Also, apologies for a mis-spelling of German Tennis Federation President Dietloff von Armin, now corrected. ●
Ledecky cruises to Worlds gold no. 20 in 1,500 m Free!
Another big day for the USA Swimming medal machine at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, with two golds and six more medals among the five finals, led by veteran stars Katie Ledecky and Ryan Murphy.
The irrepressible Ledecky, now 26, crushed the field as expected in the women’s 1,500 m Free, leading from the first turn and dashing away to a 15:26.27 victory, the third-fastest swim in history and fastest in the world this season. Italy’s Simona Quadarella was second (15:43.31) and Bingjie Li (CHN: 15:45.71) was third. Katie Grimes of the U.S. was eighth (16:04.21).
Ledecky was so fast in this race that her 400 m split of 4:05.02 would rank 10th on the 2023 word list and her 800 m time of 8:14.07 is faster than anyone else in the world this season at that distance … except for Ledecky herself! She now owns the top 16 times in the history of the women’s 1,500 m, and won her fifth Worlds 1,500 m title: 2013-15-17-22-23.
Ledecky now owns a staggering total of 24 Worlds medals, including 20 golds and four silvers. That’s the most ever among women for both golds and total medals; only Michael Phelps has more, with 26 golds; Phelps and Ryan Lochte have the most total medals, 33 and 27. Ledecky could earn two more medals in Fukuoka, in the 800 m Free – in which she is the favorite – and on the U.S. 4×200 m Free relay.
Murphy, 28, had never won the men’s 100 m Back at the Worlds going into Tuesday, winning bronze in 2017 and silver in 2022. But he was parked right next to the defending champ, Italian Thomas Ceccon, in lane four and the two were 3-4 at the turn, with Poland’s Ksawery Masiuk on a suicidal 25.00 pace for the first lap. But Murphy was steady and passed Masiuk and China’s Jiayu Xu, and was stroke for stroke with Ceccon to the wall and touched first in 52.22, with Ceccon in 52.27. Out of sight of everyone was fellow American Hunter Armstrong in lane eight, who moved into contention in the final 25 m and out-touched Xu, 52.58 to 52.64, for the bronze for the second Worlds in a row.
For Murphy, it was his sixth career Worlds gold, but only his second individual win, after the 200 m Back last year and a great lead-in to the 2024 Olympic year, after winning the 100 m Back in Rio and getting bronze in Tokyo.
The women’s 100 m Breast final was an opportunity for 2017-2019 World Champion Lilly King of the U.S., along with Tokyo Olympic champ Lydia Jacoby. But the remarkable comeback of Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte – the London 2012 gold winner and still just 26 – was completed with a wire-to-wire win in 1:04.62, winning by a huge margin for such a short race: 1.22 seconds. South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker, the Tokyo silver medalist in this event, was only fourth at the turn, but passed Jacoby and King and grabbed second in 1:05.84, with Jacoby right behind at 1:05.94 and King at 1:06.02.
Meilutyte won her second gold in this event 10 years after her win at the 2013 Worlds in Barcelona … at 16! It’s Jacoby’s first Worlds medal, and King was shut out by 0.08 from a 12th career Worlds medal. But she’ll be back for the 200 m Breast later in the week.
One of the anticipated showdowns of the meet came in the women’s 100 m Back, with Australian Kaylee McKeown, the Tokyo Olympic champ and American Regan Smith, the 2022 Worlds winner. They were 1-2 on the world list coming in and in the final, Smith had the lead at the turn as expected, but McKeown came on with her patented last rush to win, 57.53 to 57.78, the fourth-fastest swim in history. Smith finished with her sixth-fastest ever and won her fifth career Worlds medal (4-1-0). Almost lost in the 1×1 showdown was American Katharine Berkoff, the no. 4 performer in the history of the event, who turned third and came home third in 58.25 for her second career Worlds medal.
The men’s 200 m Free looked fairly open, with seven swimmers in the 1:44s this season, but it was 20-year-old Matthew Richards (GBR) who stole the show. Romanian sprint sensation David Popovici led at the final turn, but Richards and Tokyo Olympic winner Tom Dean (GBR) closed better and went 1-2 in 1:44.30 and 1:44.32, with Richards moving to no. 9 all-time. World leader Sunwoo Hwang (KOR) and Popovici finished 3-4 in 1:44.42 and 1:44.90. Americans Luke Hobson (1:45.09) and Kieran Smith (1:46.10) were fifth and seventh.
All together, there were four more world-leading marks on Tuesday:
● Men/200 m Free: 1:44.30, Matt Richards (GBR)
● Men/50 m Breast: 26.20, Haiyang Qin (CHN) ~ semifinals
● Women/1,500 m Free: 15:26.27, Katie Ledecky (USA)
● Women/100 m Breast: 1:04.62, Ruta Meilutyte (LTU)
After three days of swimming, the U.S. has now piled up 14 medals (3-6-5), followed by three with five: Australia (5-0-0), China (2-0-3) and Italy (1-4-0). Sixteen countries have won medals in swimming so far.
The men’s 800 m Free, with Olympic winner Bobby Finke of the U.S., the women’s 200 m Free, men’s 200 m Fly, men’s 50 m Breast and the Mixed Medley 4×100 m final are on the schedule for Wednesday.
Strong ratings for U.S. at Women’s World Cup: 6.263 million
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is a tough one for Fox and Telemundo, the English and Spanish-language rights-holders, with the matches in Australia and New Zealand usually shown in the middle of the night to U.S. audiences.
But the U.S. women’s opener against Vietnam was in an afternoon slot in New Zealand so at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time in the U.S. last Saturday and drew an excellent audience of 5.263 million on Fox and another 1.0 million on Telemundo, Peacock and its affiliated platforms (810,000 on Telemundo on TV) for a total of 6.263 million. Fox’s audience ranks no. 10 all-time among U.S. viewers for a single Women’s World Cup match.
Reports noted that Fox’s Friday audience included 156,000 streaming viewers, or 3.0% of the total audience.
Otherwise, the audiences reported of more than 200,000 are not too bad considering the start times (Eastern time zone); the other reasonably-placed match, Nigeria and Canada, drew 1.228 million on Fox:
Wednesday, 19: June:
● 266,000: New Zealand vs. Norway on Fox (2:45 a.m.)
● 190,000: Australia vs. Ireland on Fox (5:45 a.m.)
Thursday, 20 June:
● 1,228,000: Nigeria vs. Canada on Fox (10:00 p.m.)
● 413,000: Australia vs. Ireland on Fox (6:00 a.m.)
● 231,000: Philippines vs. Switzerland on FS1 (12:40 a.m.)
Friday, 21 June:
● 5,263,000: U.S. vs. Vietnam on Fox (8:30 p.m.)
● 1,000,000: U.S. vs. Vietnam on Telemundo-Peacock (8:30 p.m.)
Saturday, 22 June:
● 804,000: Denmark vs. China on Fox (7:45 a.m.)
● 525,000: England vs. Haiti on Fox (6:00 a.m.)
● 197,000: Sweden vs. South Africa on FS1 (12:30 a.m.)
● 177,000: Netherlands vs. Portugal on FS1 (3:00 a.m.)
Sunday, 23 June:
● 468,000: France vs. Jamaica on Fox (6:00 a.m.)
The 6.263 million cumulative audience for the American women compares interesting to the U.S. men’s World Cup opener last November in Qatar, which kicked off at 1 p.m. Eastern on Monday of Thanksgiving Week, 21 November 2022:
● 7.761 million: U.S. men vs. Wales on Fox 2022
● 5.263 million: U.S. women vs. Vietnam on Fox 2023
● 3.475 million: U.S. men vs. Wales on Telemundo-Peacock 2022
● 1.000 million: U.S. women vs. Vietnam on Telemundo-Peacock 2023
● 11.236 million: U.S. men vs. Wales total 2022
● 6.263 million: U.S. women vs. Vietnam total 2023
Away from football, the only other Olympic-sport event to register more than 200,000 viewers and a Nielsen report was the final-day wrap by NBC of the Tour de France, with 693,000 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday afternoon.
The Diamond League track & field meets on CNBC? Not listed, so apparently less than 200,000.
Colombia and Philippines win in Women’s World Cup
The group-stage matches grind on in Australia and New Zealand, with Group A now set to be decided on its final day of play next Sunday. Tuesday’s matches:
● Group H: Colombia 2, South Korea 0 ● The Colombians controlled the game, leading at half by 2-0 and not letting the Koreans close to goal in the second half.
A hand-ball in the box by Korean defender Seo-yeon Shim off Colombian defender Manuela Vanegas’ strike from the right side led to a first score in the 30th minute as striker Catalina Usme sent a left-footer that rambled into the far left side of the net.
Colombian midfielder Linda Caicedo, 18, stormed down the left side in the 39th, faked left and sent a curving, eight-footed shot that flummoxed Korean keeper Young-guel Yoon and popped off her hands and into the net for a 2-0 halftime lead.
Midfielder Geum-min Lee had a golden chance for a Korean score at 45+9, but her headed into an apparently open net was saved by Colombian keeper Catalina Perez.
Neither side scored in the second half, but the youngest player in the history of the World Cup, American-born Casey Phair, 15, was subbed in for Korea in the 78th. Colombia finished with 57% of possession and a 17-5 edge on shots.
● Group A: Philippines 1, New Zealand 0 ● The start of the second round drew a big crowd of 32,357 to Wellington Regional Stadium to see the homestanding Football Ferns, but it was a 24th-minute goal from Sarina Bolden that gave the Philippines their first-ever Women’s World Cup victory.
New Zealand controlled play early, but could not score, then suddenly went down 1-0 as midfielder Sara Eggesvik sent a cross in front of goal and Bolden – born in Santa Clara, California – rose above three defenders to head the ball straight at Kiwi keeper Victoria Esson, who made contact, but could not control the ball and it tumbled into the net.
A Hannah Wilkinson header for New Zealand went over the goal in the 58th and fellow striker Jacqui Hand’s shot in the 64th hit the left goal post, then a Hand score in the 68th was wiped out for offsides. Nothing worked and despite 69% of possession and a 16-4 shots edge, the Football Ferns suffered the loss. Both teams are 1-1 and will play to advance on Sunday.
● Group A: Switzerland 0, Norway 0 ● This match in Hamilton (NZL) ended 0-0, but only thanks to Swiss keeper Gaelle Thalmann, who denied striker Sophie Roman Haug’s header of a cross in front of the net that was aimed at the far right corner of the goal.
That excitement in the 24th minute was the best chance for a goal in the game. The Swiss hit the crossbar from long distance in the 32nd and Norwegian defender Maren Mjelde’s header in the 38th was saved by Thalmann, and a rocket off a rebound by Haug was punched away in the 56th.
After it’s 1-0 upset loss to New Zealand in its opener, Norway was the aggressor and had 15 shots to eight for the Swiss and 51% of possession. But it didn’t help and the Norge are still scoreless at this Women’s World Cup. Both teams have a chance to advance with wins in their final games.
On Wednesday, Group C matches have Japan vs. Costa Rica at 1 a.m. Eastern, followed by Spain vs. Zambia at 3:30 a.m.; Canada will face Ireland in Group G, at 8:00 a.m. Eastern.
In Group E, the U.S. women will play against the Netherlands in a re-run of the 2019 Women’s World Cup final on Thursday, to be shown on Wednesday in the U.S. at 9:00 p.m. Pacific time.
Paris 2024 torches unveiled for year-to-go salute
The Games of the XXXIII Olympiad Paris 2024 will open a year from today, on 26 July 2024. The climax of the Opening Ceremony on the River Seine will be the lighting of the Olympic Flame, and the Paris 2024 torch was unveiled on Tuesday.
Designer Mathieu Lehanneur came up with an unusual design, which an introductory video displayed as a reflection of the Eiffel Tower, with the top half going from the small flame opening at the top to a larger base section in the middle, then mimicking water ripples from the middle down to a thin base which can be easily held. Essentially, a tower on top, reflected in water below.
Lehanneur’s shaping reflects the Paris 2024 themes of Equality, Water and Peacefulness, as the design is refined and subtle, with the Paris 2024 logos for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games modestly shown in the middle section.
There are no squared edges on this torch at all, an intentional choice. A total of 2,000 will be produced by French steel works ArcelorMittal, an Official Partner of Paris 2024, far less than the expected 10,000 people who will carry the torch; most will go to officials and sponsors, as the reduced number is promoted as a sustainability measure. The torch itself will be made of recycled and renewal materials, will be 70 cm (28 inches) in length, 10 cm in the middle (3.94 inches) and weight 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs.).
The Torch Relay will begin in Marseille on 8 May 2024.
On Monday, Paris 2024 released details of its fan sites during the Games, described as “groundbreaking celebration initiatives, such as the Champions Park, Club France or the Park of Nations in La Villette.”
The Champions Park, at the Trocadero in central Paris, will be a large gathering area, to which all medal winners will be invited. Club France, to which all French medal winners will be invited, will be at the Parc de la Villette, in the northeastern section of the city.
The Park of Nations in La Villette will have sports demonstrations, with pavilions designed by France’s national architecture schools. Some as-yet-unnamed National Olympic or National Paralympic Committees will have spaces at this location.
Outside of Paris will be about 200 “Club 2024″ zones, which will include large viewing screens.
World Aquatics to trial “open category”; Al-Musallam extended
World Aquatics held a busy Congress on Tuesday, with significant developments for its future and for its athletes.
The federation promised a new, “open” category which would be available to transgender athletes now barred by regulations which prevent essentially anyone who has experienced male puberty from competing in the women’s division.
SwimSwam.com reported that World Aquatics chief Husain Al-Musallam (KUW) told the delegates:
“This is a very complex topic. But I am delighted to tell you today that we are now making plans for the first trial of an open category, and we hope to be able to confirm all the details soon. …
“It was very important that we protected fair competition for our female athletes. But you have heard me say many times there should be no discrimination. Nobody should be excluded from our competitions.”
Elections were held and Al-Musallam, running unopposed, was elected to an eight-year term as allowed under the recently-passed, revised constitution. He was originally elected in 2021, but the new rules interposed a new election with first-time term limits of eight years for the first term and an additional four years if re-elected. This is identical to the system used by the International Olympic Committee. In view of the revision of the constitution, Al-Musallam’s election is for a full eight years (to 2031) with the possibility of four more years. Said Al-Musallam:
“I feel very proud and also very humbled that you have shown your confidence in me to continue leading you as your President. It has been the privilege of my life to serve as the President for the past two years.”
American Dale Neuburger, also running unopposed, was re-elected as Treasurer.
World Aquatics also confirmed its intention to move its headquarters from Lausanne (SUI) to Budapest (HUN), with the Hungarian government providing a purpose-built facility that will include pools for training and no rent for 15 years.
The Associated Press reported that Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto promised swim officials: “We are ready to provide you with tax benefits. And we provide immunity for all your official activities and official documentation.”
Hard to beat that; World Aquatics will leave its new Aquatics Integrity Unit in Lausanne and establish a museum there.
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡
● Fencing ● American Eli Dershwitz, the 2018 Worlds silver medalist in men’s Sabre, moved to the top of the podium and won gold at the FIE World Championships in Milan, Italy.
Dershwitz, 27, has been a winner on the Grand Prix (1) and World Cup (3) circuit, but had a dream meet, defeating Mohammad Fotouhi (IRI), 15-12 in the round-of-64, then three-time Worlds medalist Bong-il Gu of Korea (15-14), Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Luigi Samele (ITA: 15-6), and Hansol Ha (KOR: 15-10) in the quarterfinals.
That brought him up against Hungary’s three-time Olympic champ, Aron Szilagyi in the semis, a 15-13 come-from-behind victory and into the final against Georgia’s top-ranked Sandro Bazadze. No problem for Dershwitz, who scored a 15-6 win over the 2022 Worlds bronze medalist.
The victory is only the second men’s individual World Championships gold for the U.S., after Miles Chamley-Watson’s 2013 Worlds triumph in Foil. Dershwitz said afterwards:
“Honestly, it feels surreal. It doesn’t feel like it really happened. Hopefully, either tomorrow or the day after when someone asks me, I’ll have thought a little bit better on how to phrase my thoughts. But for now, I’m just thankful for everyone that helped me get here.
“Honestly, my phone’s been blowing up all day from friends, family, girlfriend, teammates, everyone that’s been with me on the journey over these years. It means the world. And the ‘USA’ chants in the stands? We might have a small group here, but they were loud. Especially when I was down in the semis, they really helped me dig down a little deeper to be a little bit faster, a little bit stronger.”
In the women’s Epee, France’s Marie-Florence Candassamy won her first Worlds medal with a 15-12 finals decision over Italian Alberta Santuccio, also her first individual medal at a World Championship. Italy’s 2018 World Champion, Mara Navarria, now 38, won her sixth career Worlds medal with a bronze, along with Yiwen Sun (CHN), the Tokyo Olympic champ.
The FIE Worlds continue through Sunday.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● Japan’s Kyodo News posted a story Tuesday which noted the nine sports that it says have completely stonewalled the International Olympic Committee’s request to re-admit Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals, naming “athletics, basketball, equestrian, football, handball, hockey, surfing, rugby and volleyball.”
Other federations have allowed selected Russians and Belarusians to compete under conditions they have set, including fencing, judo, taekwondo ands weightlifting. And the story included this:
“The IOC has withheld its decision on whether to admit them to the Paris Olympics with its in-house survey suggesting that about 50 countries may boycott the games.”
That’s what the story said. Wow.
The Speaker of the Russian Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko fired a new broadside at the Olympic Movement, during a Tuesday news conference:
“A lot of unfair things have already been done to Russian and Belarusian athletes. With this situation hanging in the air, when they were suspended from international competition, from qualifying. They are no longer being treated the same as athletes from other states. …
“Now the hour of judgment has come: if the decision is finally made to exclude [Russia in 2024], then we can bury the Olympic Movement. Because it is impossible to do more damage to international sport. …
“The U.S. and the West are not only putting pressure on all states, demanding that they do what they ask. They also put pressure on all international institutions. It would seem that such a sphere as sport cannot be politicized. It is a gross violation of the principles of the Olympic Movement when some countries try to suspend their participation in the Olympics.
“Even if those athletes who have not changed their citizenship, who have not written libels against their own country, are allowed to compete, then, of course, they will fight for the honor of the country. Even if there is no Russian flag, it will be clear to everyone that these are Russian athletes. I am sure that the support of the fans will not decrease at all. These will be our heroes.
“Now there is a serious geopolitical struggle in the world for the rejection of the unipolar world, from the hegemony of one country or group of countries. For the sovereignty of states, their independence. I am sure that this is an objective historical process that will certainly end with the victory of the unipolar world. Therefore, it will not be long for them to celebrate such “victories’.”
If correctly reported by TASS, she doesn’t seem very optimistic, perhaps trying to lower expectations. She also did not mention what Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has done to Ukrainian athletes, or the millions of refugees now in surrounding countries such as Poland, Romania and others.
● Cycling ● As expected, the third stage of the 2023 Tour de France Femmes, a hilly, 147.2 km route that finished on the flat in Montignac-Lascaux, turned into a mass sprint with Dutch star Lorena Wiebes getting to the line first.
She timed 3:49:47 and finished at the head of a group of eight riders, trailed by countrywoman Marianne Vos and race leader Lotte Kopecky (BEL).
Nine riders are within 1:05 of Kopecky, with Liane Lippert (GER) 55 seconds back and seven more at +1:05, including Dutch superstar and race favorite Annemiek van Vleuten.
The Union Cycliste Internationale announced its findings on hidden motors and the like for the just-completed Tour de France:
“[UCI] today reveals the details and results of the tests carried out at all 21 stages of the 2023 Tour de France as part of its programme to fight against technological fraud (the presence of any propulsion systems hidden in the tubes and other bike components).
“A total of 997 tests were carried out. All were negative.
“Of the tests carried out, 837 were conducted before the start of the stages using magnetic tablets, and 160 at the end of the stages using either backscatter or transmission X-ray technologies.”
● Wrestling ● Now this is impressive. USA Wrestling announced that its USMC Junior and 16U Nationals included a sensational 7,134 entries, making the six-division event once again the largest wrestling tournament in the world.
The total was up considerably from 2022 – 6,646 – with the men’s Junior Freestyle Nationals drawing 1,596 and the men’s 16U Freestyle Nationals, 1,595. The women’s Junior Freestyle Nationals had 853 entries and the 16U Freestyle Nationals, 740.
The U.S. is no stranger to mass events, offering annually the largest archery tournament in the world, the Vegas Shoot indoor in Nevada – 3,911 archers in its 57th year 2023 – and the USA Fencing Summer Nationals, which had more than 5,300 in Phoenix, Arizona, earlier in the month.
For our updated, 787-event International Sports Calendar (no. 3) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!