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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Confusion, anger, insults and reprisals from Russia
2. Ukraine’s Gutzeit: “We have not lost yet”
3. Cost causes cancellation of Asian Games Village in Nagoya
4. U.S. women defeat Ireland, 1-0, on Cook’s first international goal
5. Ealey chasing American Indoor Record at Drake Relays
The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and the International Olympic Committee’s recommendations to allow – under strict conditions – “neutral” individual Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete internationally again is creating mounting confusion and anger in Russia. No specifics have been issued and Russian fencers may miss the Sabre Grand Prix in Korea at the end of the month. There’s continuing anger at the IOC, at German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser over possible visa refusals and a ban on 42 retired Canadian Olympians who are demanding the IOC’s February 2022 ban be reinstated. Ukrainian Youth and Sports Minister Vadym Gutzeit says his country will continue to pressure the IOC on keeping Russian and Belarusian athletes out of competitions. In Japan, the cost of hosting the 2026 Asian Games in the Aichi prefecture and Nagoya has skyrocketed by 65%, causing the planned construction of a temporary athlete village to be canceled. The U.S. women footballers defeated Ireland, 1-0, on Tuesday to sweep the two-friendly series, but it was a much more tightly contested match than last Saturday’s 2-0 win for the Americans. The 2022 World Champion in the women’s shot, American Chase Ealey is looking forward to a possible American Record at the end of the month in the mixed-gender competition to be held indoors as part of the Drake Relays. And she’s thinking perhaps about the longest throw in the 21st Century!
● World Championship: Ice Hockey (Canada and U.S. on to playoffs) ●
● Panorama: Anti-Doping (Gabon suspended) = Athletics (3,900 hotel room nights for NVAA Indoor in Albuquerque) = Figure Skating (657,000 watch two-week-old rerun of Worlds!) = Football (Britain & Ireland, Turkey and Italy vie for Euro 24/28) = Swimming (Open water 25 km event out of Worlds for good) ●
Confusion, anger, insults and reprisals from Russia
The International Olympic Committee recommendations to allow individual Russian and Belarusian competitors to re-enter international competition as neutrals under strict conditions has been poorly received in Russia.
Despite a partial lifting of the IOC’s requested ban on Russian and Belarusian participation, the mechanics and impact of the new policies are complex and time-consuming.
It appeared that the first Russian and Belarusian entries under the FIE decision to allow them to compete as neutrals might be the Sabre Grand Prix in Seoul (KOR) from 27-29 April. But maybe not, according to Russian Fencing Federation President Ilgar Mammadov:
“The lists have been sent, they are now being forwarded by the FIE [eligibility] commission to lawyers and cybersecurity specialists, but we have fewer and fewer chances to get to the Grand Prix stage in Seoul, there are practically no more of them, since the competitions start on April 27.
“Apart from that, we don’t even know what conditions will be put forward to us. So in words we were allowed to compete, but according to the documents we are not going anywhere yet. And I talked about this two months ago: not a single specific document, everything is just in words.”
In the meantime, angry statements are being made about everyone who is denying Russia’s free entry, without conditions, back into international sport.
Following German Interior Minister Nancy Faesar’s statement on Monday that “host nations are now powerless” in the question of Russian and Belarusian participation – especially in relation to granting entry visas into their countries – Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marina Zakharova fired back on Wednesday:
“This is yet another encroachment on the independence of sports, on the inadmissibility of political involvement in this sphere, against the backdrop of already total sanctions imposed on the Russian sports sector solely for political reasons. Such statements and actions of Western functionaries contradict the fundamental principles of the Olympic Movement.”
Russian Wrestling Federation head Mikhail Mamiashvili told TASS on Wednesday:
“I am inclined to believe that the IOC is trying to take steps to get Russia and Belarus back to international events, but how that all works out is a different issue. We have repeatedly stated our position on this issue: we cannot give in to demands that force our athletes to sacrifice their dignity.
“However, now we must stop and take a look at where we stand and what we stand for, to outline our priorities.”
And the head of the Russian Cross Country Ski Federation, two-time Olympic relay gold medalist (nine-time World Championships winner) Elena Vyalbe, unloaded on Wednesday. Asked if she is concerned that she may not be accredited by the International Ski & Snowboard Federation to attend competitions, even if Russians are allowed, she snapped back:
“I’m not going to adapt to the international federation and even to the International Olympic Committee.”
As for the IOC and President Thomas Bach (GER):
“Bach has already done so much bad for world sports that it is unlikely that any of the subsequent leaders will be able to surpass him. This sports official is completely dependent on sponsors, and therefore on the United States, which was evident from his very first steps as head of the IOC. I have doubts that he has ever even cracked open the Olympic Charter to read what it says, never mind being guided by this document in his work.”
And of the IOC’s demand for a neutral status for Russian and Belarusian athletes?
“And the guys who are now sitting in the trenches and fighting for us, will not be offended by the fact that we give up and go to the competition with a white rag? It really infuriates me when the same questions are constantly exaggerated. I think I’ve said enough about this. I am against a neutral status and I will convince my athletes that we should not be traitors to the motherland. In this difficult situation, they should not be people who split our country into those who will continue to love it and who will hate it. …
“At the moment, we all need to be patriots of our country more than ever. Like never before. During this competitive season, we very often hear the Russian anthem, which is played at our competitions in honor of the winner. For some reason, I had never listened to it with such enthusiasm before. A year ago, when the anthem was played at the national championship, tears did not well up in my eyes. And now they are. I am sure that all my athletes are well aware of the complexity of the situation. They are also not small children and were not born yesterday.”
In the reprisals department, the Russian Foreign Ministry banned 42 mostly-retired Canadian athletes who signed a petition supporting a ban of Russian athletes from the 2024 Olympic Games. TASS reported that among them are three-time Olympic Ice Dance gold medalist Tessa Virtue, two-time World Pairs Champion Megan Duhamel, four-time Olympic women’s ice hockey gold medalists Haley Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford, Canadian (and American) triple Olympic bobsled gold medalist Kaillie Humphries and numerous other medal winners. According to TASS:
“On March 9, Canadian Olympic athletes signed a joint letter urging the national Olympic organization (the Canadian Olympic Committee) to keep Russian and Belarusian athletes barred from all international tournaments, despite recent recommendations on behalf of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).”
The Canadian athlete letter included:
“Refusing their participation in international sport is not simply a matter of denying athletes a choice to compete because of their passport, it is a rejection of an unlawful and inhumane war and a recognition of the role international sports plays in geopolitics.”
World Skate announced that it will follow the IOC’s recommendations on the re-entry of Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals. Of course, it has no procedure in place to do this, and also noted:
“Understanding the need to find a consistent approach across all World Skate disciplines, World Skate is now working to develop the necessary independent review processes to allow and plan a return of these athletes, in consultation with the IOC and [Association of Summer Olympic International Federations] ASOIF.”
Ukraine’s Gutzeit: “We have not lost yet”
“We will have to bring together our federations and our athletes to decide which position to adopt. The decision will be difficult. The [Olympic] Games are the most important moment for every athlete. But the most important thing for us today is our victory in the war. Even if we don’t participate [in 2024], it’s just a competition.”
Vadym Gutzeit, a 1992 Olympic Team fencing gold-medal winner in Sabre, is now the Ukrainian Youth and Sports Minister, who continues to press the International Olympic Committee and the International Federations to keep Russian and Belarusian athletes out of international competitions, now and as long as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues.
He told Agence France Presse on Tuesday:
“It is necessary to continue to put pressure. And maybe the IOC will understand that, while there is a war in Ukraine, it is not the time for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return.
“We hope that the big and strong federations will show solidarity with the Ukrainians, and that they will not allow Russians and Belarusians to participate in international competitions. We have to defend our cause.
“[IOC] President Thomas Bach was in Ukraine, and assured President Volodymyr Zelensky that he will be helping in the future. What has changed?
“Nothing has changed, it has only gotten worse. So many cities have been destroyed, so many people – women, children – have been killed.”
He noted, however, that no decision on specific future actions have been taken: “We are not talking about a boycott now.”
The IOC has recommended that individual Russian and Belarusian athletes – no teams– could return to international competitions with a neutral status, and federations are considering their options. Ukraine and many other European countries have remained strongly against this; the IOC has stated that it has made no decision as yet on whether Russian or Belarusian athletes can participate in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, saying only that it will decide later.
Cost causes cancellation of Asian Games Village in Nagoya
The heavy cost of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games continues to bedevil major international events in Japan, as the projected expense for the 2026 Asian Games has jumped by 65.3% and caused the cancellation of a proposed Games Village in Nagoya.
The Aichi Prefecture was awarded the Games, to be held primarily in the regional capital of Nagoya, in 2016. The Asahi Shimbun reported in February that the original cost estimate for the event of ¥85 billion (about $638.6 million U.S. today) had ballooned to ¥140.5 billion or about $1.06 billion U.S. now. In the original financial plan, the Aichi and Nagoya governments were to shoulder a cost of ¥60 billion (~$450.4 million), but now it could be much more.
In response, the Japanese organizers are asking the Olympic Council of Asia to reduce the number of sports from the planned 41 down to 32, the same number to be held at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, but has met resistance.
The planned to-be-constructed, temporary Athlete’s Village in Nagoya was reported to be downsized from a capacity of 10,000 athletes and officials to 2,000, with most of the entrants to be moved to hotels. Nikkei.com noted last week:
“The athletes’ village was to have been built on the former site of the Nagoya race track to accommodate about 10,000 people, or two-thirds of the athletic delegations. The athletes’ housing facilities would have been temporary, and were set to be disassembled after the games. At a meeting of the Organizing Committee’s directors on Monday, Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura, who chairs the committee, said that construction would be canceled.”
The Olympic Council of Asia will have a say in all of this, of course, but the cost increase is another headache not only for the Aichi Prefecture and the city of Nagoya, but also for the Sapporo 2030 Olympic Winter Games project, already increasingly disfavored by the local population. Polls concerning the event have repeatedly noted public disbelief that the event can be staged for the projected cost.
U.S. women defeat Ireland, 1-0, on Cook’s first international goal
In a much tighter contest than last Saturday’s 2-0 victory, the U.S. got a surprise goal in the 43rd minute from defender Alana Cook and held on to beat Ireland for the second straight friendly, 1-0, on Tuesday evening in St. Louis.
The American women started well, with defender Becky Sauerbrunn hitting the crossbar with a header off of a corner, but could not get the ball into the back of the net. Finally, in the 43rd, and off a corner kick, Cook was just inside the midfield line and lofted a seeing-eye cross from 40 yards that sailed over the head of Irish keeper Courtney Brosnan and into the goal for a 1-0 lead. Brosnan got a hand on it, but was unable to swat it away.
Ireland played much more forcefully and kept pressure on the U.S., ending with 48% of possession and had nine shots against American keeper Casey Murphy, vs. 10 for the U.S. Murphy got her 10th career shutout for the U.S., but was busy during six minutes of stoppage time after 90 minutes as the Irish swarmed the U.S. goal.
The U.S. did get good news with the return from injuries of two experienced defenders: Kelley O’Hara, who had not played since mid-2022, and Tierna Davidson, who last appeared for the national team in February 2022. Midfielder Julie Ertz returned in the first Irish friendly and played the entire second half on Tuesday.
U.S. striker Mallory Swanson, 24, had surgery on her left leg on Tuesday to repair her patella tendon injured in the first Ireland friendly last Saturday. She has been the U.S.’s top scorer with seven goals in 2023, but had to be carried off the field near the end of the first half on Saturday.
The first U.S.-Ireland game last Saturday (8th) drew an average audience of 346,000 on TNT at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Ealey chasing American Indoor Record at Drake Relays
The mixed-gender, indoor shot put competition coming up on 26 April at the Drake Fieldhouse will feature both the men’s and women’s 2022 World Champions, Americans Ryan Crouser and Chase Ealey.
Crouser already owns the world shot records – indoor and outdoor – but his massive 23.38 m (76-8 1/2) toss in February in Pocatello, Idaho is not going to be ratified by World Athletics. So he has his motivation to surpass his existing (ratified) indoor mark of 22.82 m (74-10 1/2) indoors from 2021.
Ealey told reporters in an online news conference in late March that she’s looking forward to coming back to the U.S., as she now trains in England. But she also has records on her mind.
Asked about the American Indoor Record she shares with Rio 2016 Olympic champ Michelle Carter at 20.21 m (66-3 3/4) from 2016 (Carter) and 2021 (Ealey), she said she’s after it:
“I think it’s possible. I just threw, like I said, for the first time yesterday since outdoors and it felt really good. So I feel like I am in really good shape. I’m really healthy, the body’s feeling right and I really think I have some long throws in me and I’ve always kind of been an indoor kind of shot putter as well. …
“I think it’s definitely something that could happen. It wasn’t in the plan but it’s definitely a possibility . I said I was going to do it [at February’s World Indoor Tour Gold meet] in Madrid, and I didn’t, so it’s almost like I get that second chance as well.
“So that’s kind of lit a fire under me for sure.”
The Drake Relays program has the mixed-gender indoor event on the 26th and then Ealey will go outdoors to Drake Stadium for the women’s shot competition on the weekend. She’s not just thinking about Carter’s American Record of 20.63 m (67-8 1/4) from 2016, she got her sights set on the 21.24 m best (69-8 1/4) of New Zealand’s two-time Olympic gold medalist Valerie Adams:
“I have said that before: that is one of the stepping stones I would like to achieve is get the ‘clean world record’ first. So, like this season, I think it’s not out of my range. I’ve seen some things in training and stuff that show me I have some far throws in there. But, yeah, that’s definitely one of the stepping stones that I want. And Val knows that I’m coming for her as well.”
Ealey reached 20.51 m (67-3 1/2) in 2022, the no. 2 throw in U.S. history, and she has nine of the top 11 throws all-time by an American. Of course, that’s only no. 49 on the all-time outdoor list, with Russian, East German and other Eastern Europeans ahead of her from 1976-90, who were not subject to today’s drug-testing protocols.
Asked about passing Adams and perhaps claiming the 21st Century best, now 21.46 m (70-5) by Russian Larisa Peleshenko in 2000, she was hardly scared:
“Yeah, that’s really interesting. I like that. I hadn’t even thought about that being a number, but I do like that. …
“I just started rotating in 2019 and I’ve got a lot of technical changes that need to be made and can be made, and I’ve got a lot of upside to make and I’m pretty excited about it. So, I reckon there’s some far throws in my future.”
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ≡
● Ice Hockey ● The playoff round in the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship will start on Thursday, with Canada and the U.S. looking forward to a possible re-match in the gold-medal final.
The two teams dominated round-robin play in Group A, with the Canadians out-scoring their opponents – except the U.S.– by 14-1 and the U.S. scoring 22 goals to four against Japan, Switzerland and Czechia.
The undefeateds met in their final group game on Monday (10th), with Canada up 2-1 going into the third period. Canada went up 3-1 on an Laura Stacey score at 17:33 of the period, but the Americans stormed back with two extra-attacker goals in the final minute from Hilary Knight (49 seconds left) and Amanda Kessel with four seconds remaining!
The game finally went to a shoot-out that ran on and on for nine rounds, with Briane Jenner and Knight scoring on the first two shots and then 15 straight misses against Canada’s Anne-Renee Desbiens and American keeper Aerin Frankel. Forward Jamie-Lee Rattray scored on the 18th penalty try for the 4-3 Canadian win. Wow.
In the quarterfinals, Canada (4-0) will face Sweden (Group B: 2-2); the U.S. (3-1) will face Germany (B: 3-1); Czechia (1-2 + 1 overtime win) will play Finland (B: 4-0) and Japan (0-3 + 1 overtime loss) and Switzerland (1-3) will face off. The winners will be re-seeded for the semis on Saturday, with the medal matches on Sunday.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Anti-Doping ● The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced that the national anti-doping organization in Gabon has been declared non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code:
“The non-compliance is the result of its failure to implement the 2021 version of the Code fully within its legal system.”
The consequences include:
(1) “Gabon will not be awarded the right to host regional, continental and World Championships, as well as other events organized by Major Event Organizations; until reinstatement.”
(2) “The country’s flag will not be flown at regional, continental and World Championships, and other events organized by Major Event Organizations (including the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) until reinstatement.”
● Athletics ● A report by the Visit Albuquerque tourism bureau stated that the 2023 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships took up 3,900 hotel room nights and created direct spending of $2.3 million.
That’s quite a big higher than the expected 2,700 room nights and $1.6 million in direct spending; no information was offered on the impact of the Mountain West Indoor meet or the USATF Indoor Championships.
● Figure Skating ● Two weeks after the ISU World Figure Skating Championships concluded in Japan, NBC showed a re-run of its highlights program on Sunday (9th) at 3 p.m. Eastern – directly against the final round of The Masters golf tournament – and drew a respectable 657,000 audience.
NBC’s Saturday, 25 March telecast at 8 p.m. Eastern drew an average audience of 1.317 million, meaning the re-run had just about 50% as many viewers. Not bad for two weeks later!
● Football ● The 2028 and 2032 editions of the enormously popular UEFA men’s championship – Euro 2028 and Euro 2032 – have drawn two bidders each.
UEFA announced that a combined bid by Great Britain and Ireland has been submitted for 2024, as well as a bid by Turkey. For 2028, Turkey bid again (it is will to stage either edition), as did Italy.
The next steps are for a staff evaluation of the bid concepts, a report and then a vote by the UEFA Executive Committee in October 2023. England hosted in 1966 and Italy has hosted in 1968 and 1980; Germany will host in 2024.
● Swimming ● SwimSwam.com reported that World Aquatics has permanently dropped the men’s and women’s 25 km event in open-water swimming from its World Aquatics Championship program.
The event, by far the longest on the program, was originally held at the 1991 Worlds and had always been relatively lightly contested, with 13-22 women entered between 2005-22 and from 20-35 men. By comparison, the women’s 10 km open-water – an Olympic event – drew 61 entries in 2022 and the men’s 10 km had 62.
This leaves the 5 km and 10 km distances, but ends the Worlds win streak of Brazil’s amazing Ana Marcela Cunha at four (and five total).
For our updated, 651-event International Sports Calendar (no. 2) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!