The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: Police arrest possible Olympic Torch attacker; could Pogacar win all three Grand Tours in one year? Star-driven Pre Classic comes Saturday!

Slovenia's Tadej Pogacar on his way into Paris to win the 2020 Tour de France (Photo: Chabe1 via Wikipedia)

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. French police make arrest over possible Torch Relay attack
2. Could Giro leader Pogacar do the unthinkable?
3. Superb men’s mile, shot, women’s 100 m headline Pre Classic
4. Hold on: McLaughlin-Levrone is qualified!
5. Injury ends Chusovitina’s try for a ninth Olympic Games

● French police arrested a man after seeing online chatter about a possible attack on the Olympic Torch Relay as it moved through Bordeaux on Thursday. There was not a specific threat to the relay, but no chances were taken. Meanwhile, recent rains canceled another opening ceremony rehearsal in the Seine River.

● Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar is cruising to a win in his first Giro d’Italia, which will finish on Sunday. He’s entered in the Tour de France, in which he is a two-time champion. If he should win, would he think about trying to win the Vuelta a Espana as well, a feat never accomplished in a single year? One cycling icon says he should think about it.

● The lone Diamond League meet in the U.S., the Prefontaine Classic, comes Saturday, with a power-packed line-up and live coverage on NBC. The men’s mile with Norwegian star Jakob Ingebrigtsen, American Ryan Crouser in the shot and the women’s 100 m with Worlds winner Sha’Carri Richardson and Jamaica’s two-time Olympic champ Elaine Thompson-Herah are the expected headliners.

● Correction! It turns out that women’s 400 m hurdles Olympic champ Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone is qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials, despite not having run the event since 2022. A rule passed by USA Track & Field in December 2008 allows Olympic and Worlds medal winners automatic entry to the following U.S. selection meets in the event(s) they took a medal!

● Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusotivitina, 48, had to withdraw from the Asian Gymnastics Championships due to injury and is unable to chase a spot in a ninth Olympic Games. The Vault specialist would have had to win the All-Around to get to Paris, but likely finishes with more Olympic appearances than any gymnast in history.

World Championships: Ice Hockey (Canada and Sweden on to men’s Worlds semis, U.S. out) = Judo (Japan finishes with most individual medals, again) ●

Panorama: Paris 2024 (Olympic and Paralympic podiums unveiled) = Athletics (Warholm runs 33.28, no. 2 ever, in the 300 m hurdles) = Boxing (20-event World Boxing calendar published) = Football (FIFA celebrates 120th anniversary in Paris) = Sailing (World Sailing passes new transgender policy) ●

1.
French police make arrest over possible Torch Relay attack

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Thursday that police arrested a man over suspicions he might attack the Olympic Torch Relay in Bordeaux. According to the German news agency DPA:

“Investigators confiscated a weapon that could fire rubber bullets.

“The prosecutors said the suspect had shown interest in the violent and misogynistic ‘incel’ movement, which is characterized by heterosexual men who blame women for their failings in life, romantic or otherwise.

“The relatives of the man in his mid-20s stated that he was mentally unstable.”

Online surveillance noticed a post from “Alex G” that referenced a murder of six people 10 years ago in Isla Vista, California related to blaming women. Prosecutors opened an investigation into possible charged for glorification of a criminal offence and criminal association.

The Paris 2024 Torch Relay opened in Marseille on 8 May and has been moving around the country, as well as to French departments overseas. Rioting over a voting reform measure in New Caledonia – completely unrelated to the Games – has canceled the Torch Relay leg there, scheduled for 11 June.

Another rehearsal of the opening ceremony program on the Seine River was canceled on Wednesday due to high water levels amid continuing rain in Paris. An 8 April rehearsal on the river was canceled and on Wednesday, a 27 May rehearsal was postponed.

Paris 2024 told Agence France Presse that rehearsals will continue “when the weather conditions allow for it.”

Beyond the ceremony, there has been concern about the use of the Seine for open-water swimming and the triathlon events due to high bacteria levels from too much water in the river. A massive new treatment reservoir has been completed to ensure that untreated water is not released into the river, but could be overloaded – causing unsafe bacteria levels – if there are heavy rains, as in 2023.

2.
Could Giro leader Pogacar do the unthinkable?

“If he wins the Giro and the Tour de France, and I’m him, then 100 per cent I try and win the Vuelta.

“If in 2015 I had my Giro victory, and [if] I then won the Tour de France, then I would have gone to the Vuelta. I didn’t win the Tour and I didn’t go to the Vuelta but Tadej has a good opportunity in history to do because it’s really hard to win. But he’s young and maybe in three years another rider arrives who is very strong and he can’t do it.”

That’s Spain’s legendary Alberto Contador, now 41, speaking to GCN before stage 16 of the 107th Giro d’Italia, with Slovenian star Tadej Pogacar the runaway leader and almost-sure winner come Sunday’s final stage in Rome.

Contador won the Giro in 2008 and 2015, the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009 and the Vuelta a Espana in 2008-12-14, so he knows what he’s talking about. And no one has ever won all three Grand Tours in the same year.

Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard is the two-time defending Tour de France champion, having edged Pogacar in each of the last two years, after Pogacar won in 2020 and 2021. Vingegaard would normally be the favorite in 2024 again, but suffered a bad crash in April during the Itzulia Basque Country race, with a fractured collarbone and ribs and a punctured lung, and his status is uncertain.

Pogacar plans to ride in the 2024 Tour de France and if he wins, would he try for the first-ever triple crown? Only seven riders in history have ever won the career Triple Crown – Contador being one – but no one has won them all in a single year.

But Pogacar’s interest – for now – are elsewhere. Told of Contador’s comments, he told GCN:

“I think Vuelta for sure not. I have other plans after the Tour. But let’s focus first on the flat stages also, because you never know, we’re getting tired, all the peloton, and it can be some accidents or whatever, let’s hope not. So let’s go day by day to Rome.

“Then the big goal of the season is the Tour and World Championships so let’s take it easy.”

The Tour de France comes quickly from 29 June to 21 July, and the Vuelta a Espana is scheduled from 17 August to 8 September.

The UCI World Road Championships will be in Zurich (SUI) from 21-29 September. He finished third at the Worlds Roads Champs race in 2023, his first Worlds medal. But if he wins the Giro and the Tour, he could reconsider, right?

At the mostly-downhill 18th state of the 107th Giro d’Italia, the expected mass sprint finale saw Belgium’s Tim Merlier get his second victory – also in Stage 3 – in 3:45:44 over three-stage winner Jonathan Milan (ITA), with Kaden Groves (AUS) third, for his third medal of this Giro.

It’s Merlier’s third career Giro stage win.

The 178 km ride into Padova saw Pogacar cruise home in 30th with the same time as the first 89 riders. He maintains a 7:42 lead on Daniel Martinez (COL) and 8:04 on Britain’s Geraint Thomas with two climbing stages coming on Friday and Saturday before the ride to Rome on Sunday.

3.
Superb men’s mile, shot, women’s 100m headline Pre Classic

Another excellent edition of the Prefontaine Classic, the only Diamond League meet held in the U.S., is on tap for Saturday at the new Hayward Field in Eugene, with the usual plethora of Olympic and Worlds medal winners.

Perhaps the most anticipated event is the men’s mile, with 15 entries, including Olympic 1,500 m champ Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR) making his seasonal debut, Diamond League Final runner-up (and World Indoor 3,000 m silver) Yared Nuguse of the U.S., Britain’s 2022 Worlds 1,500 m champ Jake Wightman and 2023 World 1,500 champ Josh Kerr, Rio 2016 Olympic champ Matthew Centrowitz of the U.S., Worlds Road Mile champ Hobbs Kessler (USA) and a lot more. Ingebrigtsen is the favorite in any race he runs; how ready is he?

The women’s 100 m is billed as a showdown between 2023 World Champion Sha’Carri Richardson of the U.S. and two-time Olympic champ Elaine Thompson-Herah (JAM), but don’t overlook Marie Josee Ta Lou-Smith (CIV), at 35, currently no. 3 on the world list at 10.91, or World Indoor 60 m champ Julien Alfred (LCA).

Olympic and World Champion Ryan Crouser leads the field in the men’s shot, along with two-time World Champion Joe Kovacs of the U.S. and 2017 World Champion Tom Walsh (NZL). Any time Crouser is in the field, it’s special and the world-record holder will be making his outdoor debut for 2024.

The rest of the meet is terrific:

Men/100 m: Final entries were not posted, but 2019 World Champion Christian Coleman of the U.S. and Jamaica’s Ackeem Blake, the 2024 World Indoor 60 m bronze winner, are the expected stars.

Men/200 m: “Kung Ku Kenny” Bednarek, the Tokyo Olympic silver winner, and the world leader at 19.67, is slated to again face Courtney Lindsey (19.71) of the U.S. and 2023 Worlds silver winner Erriyon Knighton – now 20 – making his seasonal debut.

Men/110 m hurdles: Three-time World Champion Grant Holloway, 2022 Worlds runner-up Trey Cunningham, Tokyo Olympic champ Hansle Parchment (JAM) and 2023 Worlds bronze winner Daniel Roberts, among others!

Men/400 m hurdles: World leader Rai Benjamin ran 46.64 at UCLA last week and won the Diamond League final last September in Eugene in 46.39! He’ll be chased by 2022 Worlds bronzer Trevor Bassitt of the U.S. and Jamaica’s Roshawn Clarke (48.11 this year).

Women/800 m: World Champion Mary Moraa (KEN) will face runner-up Keely Hodgkinson (GBR) and 2019 World Champion Halimah Nakaayi (UGA).

Women/1,500 m: A too-big field of 15, starring World Road Mile champ Diribe Welteji (ETH) and teammates 2024 World Indoor 1,500 m gold winner Freweyni Hailu and Hirut Meshesha (3:54.87), plus Tokyo silver winner Laura Muir (GBR) and World Indoor 3,000 m champ Elle St. Pierre of the U.S.

Women/Steeple: Look for world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN), Olympic champ Peruth Chemutai (UGA), 2023 World Champion Winfred Yavi (BRN) and 2024 world no. 2 Faith Cherotich (KEN).

Women/5,000 m: A huge field of 21, with all eyes on Olympic champ Sifan Hasaan (NED), running her third race of the year, challenged by Ethiopians Ejgayehu Taye, the 2023 Worlds 10,000 m bronze winner, possibly Hailu and Meshesha as well.

Women/100 m hurdles: World Indoor Champion Devynne Charlton, two-time World Champions Danielle Williams (JAM) and Nia Ali of the U.S., Olympic silver winner Keni Harrison and Olympic champ Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (PUR). And this isn’t even a Diamond League event!

Women/Vault: Olympic and World Champion Katie Moon of the U.S. and two-time World Indoor Champion Sandi Morris (USA) are the expected stars.

Women/Triple Jump: World list top three in Shanieka Ricketts (JAM), Thea LaFond (DMA) and Jasmine Moore of the U.S., plus American Record setters Keturah Orji and Tori Franklin, 2023 Worlds bronze winner Leyanis Perez (CUB) and two-time Worlds silver winner Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk (UKR).

Women/Discus: A showdown between Olympic champion Valarie Allman of the U.S., 2023 World Champion Lagi Tausaga (USA) and world leader Yaime Perez (CUB).

Women/Hammer: The World Champions from 2019 (DeAnna Price/USA), 2022 (Brooke Andersen/USA) and 2023 (Cam Rogers/CAN), with Andersen, Price and Rogers 1-2-3 on the world list for 2024!

The meet will be shown on NBC on Saturday from 4-6 p.m. Eastern, as well as on the Peacock streaming service.

As part of the Pre Classic, Kenya will hold its Olympic Trials races in the 10,000 m, with the women at 10:50 a.m. and the men at 12:05 p.m.

American sprint star Noah Lyles, for one, was confused, posting on X (ex-Twitter):

“Why in the world are we hosting another countries Olympic qualifier. We should know how much of an issue this is after worlds 22. Also their country won’t be able so see their athletes make the team in person.”

His reference was to the visa issues for Kenyan and other athletes to get into the U.S. for the 2022 World Athletics Championships, also in Eugene. It has been reported that Daniel Ebenyo, the 2023 Worlds 10,000 m silver winner, was denied a visa to enter the U.S.; however, he is on the entry list.

The 2023 women’s Worlds 5,000 m champ, Beatrice Chebet, is entered, as is 2023 Worlds 10,000 m bronze winner Margaret Kipkemboi and World Roads 5 km runner-up Lilian Rengeruk. The race favorite, however, will be Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay, the reigning World Champion.

The men’s entries also include Kibiwott Kandie, the 2020 Worlds Half silver medalist, and Nicholas Kipkorir, the 2023 World Roads 5 km bronze winner.

The use of facilities in other countries for trials races has been common for Kenya and Ethiopia in recent years, especially for qualification for events which will be held near sea level. Running trials at higher altitudes in their home countries has been considered a disadvantage in selecting athletes who would perform best in Paris, which 115 feet above sea level. Nairobi is 5,889 feet above sea level.

4.
Hold on: McLaughlin-Levrone is qualified!

Thursday’s story noting that Tokyo Olympic women’s 400 m hurdles champion Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone correctly stated she hadn’t run a 400 m hurdles race since 2022.

But to say that she’s not qualified for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials in the event was quite wrong (yes, very sorry about this).

Statisticians extraordinaire Kevin Saylors and Glen McMiken were both up early to point to USATF Rule 8 on “Automatic Qualification”:

“Any athlete who attains any of the following shall be afforded automatic qualification into a USA Indoor, Outdoor, Race Walking or Marathon Championship or USA Olympic Team Selection in the same event in which the performance was attained:

“1. Track and Field –
“(a) During the current or four previous calendar years, earned an individual medal in track and field in an Olympic Games or in a World Athletics World Indoor or Outdoor Championship.
“(b) Is the reigning USA Indoor or Outdoor champion.
“(c) Has a World or Olympic ‘A’ Standard that would apply to the current championship team selection.
“(d) Finish as one of the top three at the preceding year’s corresponding national championship (Indoor qualifies for Indoor, Outdoor qualifies for Outdoor).”

As reigning Olympic champ, McLaughlin-Levrone has a clear path into the field under item (a) and need not post a qualifying mark to be admitted to the Trials in Eugene from 21-30 June.

She will need a qualifying mark (a modest 54.85; she hasn’t run that slowly since 2018) to get into the Olympic Games, as she has not raced the event during the qualifying period beginning 1 July 2023, and must have a mark by 30 June 2024.

The USATF Rule 8 which allows medal winners to enter trials events without qualifying marks is fairly new. McMiken notes that it was included in the rule amendments approved at the 2008 USATF Convention in Reno, which took place after the Beijing Games were concluded earlier in the year, and has been in effect for London 2012, Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020 and now Paris.

5.
Injury ends Chusovitina’s try for a ninth Olympic Games

Oksana Chusovitina, 48, trying for a long-shot qualification for Paris and a ninth Olympic Games at the Asian Championships in Tashkent (UZB), had to withdraw due to injury on Thursday. She wrote in an Instagram post (computer translation):

“Yesterday, while training on the podium of the Asian Championships, which is taking place in Tashkent and is a qualifying event for the Olympic Games in Paris, I was injured during the floor exercise. I will not be able to take part and I am very upset as I have been preparing for this competition for a long time. I started doing all-around and I wanted to perform in our country, in front of our fans. But, unfortunately, tomorrow you will not see me among the participants. I would like to express my gratitude to all of you, but you can come and support our girls. That’s what I’m going to do tomorrow!”

In order to qualify for Paris, Chusovitina would have had to win the All-Around in Tashkent, a tall order for a Vault specialist. But she will not compete and this ends a string of eight straight Olympic appearances for three different teams, and two medals:

1992: Unified Team (Team gold)
1996: Uzbekistan (10th in all-around)
2000: Uzbekistan (45th All-Around, 25th Vault)
2004: Uzbekistan (23rd Vault)
2008: Germany (9th All-Around, Vault silver)
2012: Germany (5th Vault)
2016: Uzbekistan (7th Vault)
2020: Uzbekistan (14th Vault)

She is one of just 18 athletes who have appeared in eight or more Olympic Games – including summer and winter – and the only one in gymnastics. Beyond her Olympic exploits, she also owns 11 World Championships medals, including three golds from 1991 (Team and Floor for the USSR) and a 2003 Vault win for Uzbekistan.

And she has a further legacy, with three named skills, two on the Uneven Bars and one on Floor. Amazing.

≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡

● Ice Hockey ● Group winners Canada and Sweden marched into the semifinals at the IIHF men’s World Championship, while the U.S. was eliminated by the host country, the Czech Republic.

Canada (now 8-0) won a convincing 6-3 victory over Slovakia (4-4) in Prague, taking a 2-1 lead after the first period on Jared McCann and Pierre-Luc Dubois goals, extending to 3-1 after two and scoring three more in the third. Nick Paul scored two goals for Canada, which had a 43-21 shots edge.

They will gave Switzerland (7-1) in Prague, which defeated Germany (5-3) by 3-1 in Ostrava, taking a 2-0 lead in the first, giving back a goal in the second and scoring the only third-period goal. Forward Christoph Bertschy was the scoring star, with goals in the first (7:22) and third periods (19:02).

Sweden is also undefeated at 8-0, pulling out a 2-1 win over eternal rival Finland (3-5) in overtime in Ostrava. The Swedes out-shot Finland, 35-20, but neither side could score in the first two periods. Finally, Rasmus Dahlin got a goal at 15:02 of the third that looked like a game winner, but the Finns got even at 19:02 from Hannes Bjorninen’s score and onto overtime. But a Finnish penalty for hooking led to a power-play goal from Joel Eriksson at 5:54 of the OT.

The home Czechs (6-2) thrilled a crowd of 17,413 in Prague with a 1-0 win over the U.S. (5-3), getting the only score of the game in the second period, just 16 seconds into a power play as Pavel Zacha scored. The U.S., which had a tournament-high 37 goals coming in, could not solve keeper Lukas Dostal, despite a 36-28 shots edge.

The semis are on Saturday and the medal matches on Sunday.

● Judo ● Individual weight classes were concluded at the IJF World Championships in Abu Dhabi (UAE), with Japan – as always – leading the medal table with nine total and three golds.

On Thursday, Wakaba Tomita won the women’s +78 kg class for the first time, after a silver in 2021 and bronze in 2022. She defeated Turkey’s Kayra Ozdemir in the final, who won her third career Worlds medal (0-1-2).

The men’s 100 kg division went to Zelym Kotsoiev (AZE), the bronze medalist in 2022 and 2023, who got to the top of the podium by beating Canada’s Shady Elnahas, the 2023 Pan American Games winner, who got his first career Worlds medal.

In the men’s +100 kg class, Korea’s Min-jong Kim also got a break through after bronzes in this division in 2019 and 2022. He beat Georgia’s 2018 World Champion, Guram Tushishvili, who won his fourth career Worlds medal (1-1-2).

The Mixed Team event will be held on Friday.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The International Olympic Committee, the Paris 2024 organizers and sponsor Proctor & Gamble (P&G) unveiled the victory podiums for this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The designs are spare, with details that reference iconic French engineer Gustav Eiffel’s arch designs, with muted colors: gray for the surfaces and off-white for the sides. The Paralympic podiums include wheelchair ramps as a standard element.

Following a project from Tokyo 2020, the podiums themselves were made from recycled plastic, and sustainably-sourced French poplar wood. All were constructed in France.

● Athletics ● First it was Brazil’s 2022 World Champion Alison dos Santos with a sensational 46.86 season-opening win at the Doha Diamond League meet on 10 May. Then Rai Benjamin, the Olympic silver winner in Tokyo, with a fabulous 46.64 at the L.A. Grand Prix last Saturday at UCLA.

Now, Olympic and World Champion Karsten Warholm (NOR) showed he is also in form with a 33.28 win – by more than two seconds – for the 300 m hurdles at the Trond Mohn Games in Bergen (NOR) on Wednesday. That’s just 0.02 off of his own world best from 2021, with his 400 m hurdles debut coming at the Bislett Games in Oslo on 30 May.

● Boxing ● World Boxing announced a schedule of 21 member tournaments for the remainder of 2024 and into 2025 in eight countries, for men and women from U15 up to the elite level.

This provides a set of opportunities for boxers from its 27 federations to compete in, with the organization trying to attract other national federations to join to try and get boxing onto the program for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

The only U.S. tournament listed now is the USA Boxing women’s championships from 13-20 August 2024.

● Football ● FIFA celebrated its 120th anniversary on Tuesday the 21st, the same date on which six national federations – Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as Real Madrid CF (for Spain) – which created the Federation Internationale de Football Association, in 1904.

The inaugural meeting took place in Paris at 229 rue Saint Honoré in Paris’ 1st arrondissement. Tuesday’s event was held at the Palais de l’Elysee, with representatives of the initial seven members, FIFA President Gianni Infantino (SUI) and other guests were welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

● Sailing ● The World Sailing Council adopted a new Transgender Participation Policy, effective on 1 January 2025, that brings the federation in line with others such as World Athletics and the Union Cycliste Internationale in protecting the women’s category. From the announcement:

“[T]ransgender female athletes will only be permitted to participate in the female category of an event, or as a female athlete in the mixed category of an event, if:

“● they have not undergone male puberty;

“● they are also able to demonstrate that the concentration of testosterone in their blood has been less than 2.5 nanamoles per litre (nmol/L) continuously for a period of at least 12 months prior to the first event in which they wish to compete.

“In addition, transgender female athletes must maintain testosterone in their blood below 2.5 nmol/L at all times.

“Transgender male athletes will be permitted to compete in the male category of an event, or as a male in the mixed category of an event, if they provide a written and signed declaration that their gender identity is male.”

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