The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: Russian ski star Stupak wants an athlete conference; Dentsu chief admits Tokyo bid-rigging; Wheaties box & star vaulter Bob Richards dies

Two-time Olympic vault champ Bob Richards was the first athlete to appear on the front of a Wheaties box (left, in 1958), and also appeared on a bike in 1965. (Photos: General Mills boxes via Smithsonian Magazine and Pinterest).

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1. Stupak calls for athlete conference; Slovakia split on Russia
2. Dentsu chief admits Tokyo 2020 bid-rigging
3. Speed skating to stay in Milan in 2026
4. US Sailing takes new tack, so Cayard resigns
5. Two-time Olympic vault winner Bob Richards passes at 97

Russian cross-country skiing star Yulia Stupak, a 2022 Olympic Winter Games relay gold medalist, said there should be an athlete’s conference to decide whether Russian and Belarusian athletes can compete and is sure they will allow it. But she also said it will never happen. Ukraine’s government slapped 50-year sanctions on Russia’s two current International Olympic Committee members and its two Honorary Members. In Slovakia, the government wants to keep Russia and Belarus out of international competitions, but the National Olympic Committee maintains the IOC line that participation should not depend on country of origin. In Tokyo, the head of the ad giant Dentsu is reportedly to have confirmed that the company was involved in rigging bids for Tokyo 2020 test-event contracts and Games venue management contracts worth millions. In Milan, an agreement will apparently shortly be announced that the 2026 Winter Games speed skating venue will be temporarily arranged in the giant Fiera Milano Rho exhibition center, avoiding a costly move to the 2006 venue in Turin. US Sailing’s Board of Directors created a new structure for the national team effort, splitting the team development from fund-raising, causing current Executive Director Paul Cayard to resign, despite raising more than $18 million since coming on in 2021. The only man to win two Olympic pole vault titles, Bob Richards, passed away at age 97 in Texas on Sunday. He was a three-time Olympian, a pastor, motivational speaker and the first athletes to be pictured on the front of a Wheaties box, in 1958.

World Championships: Freestyle Skiing & Snowboard ●
Panorama: Paris 2024 (Lehanneur to design torches) = Athletics (2: American 400 m Record for Diggs; Hawaiian lei ceremony for L.A. Marathon) = Football (4: Messi and Putellas win Players of the Year; Montagliani re-elected as CONCACAF head; Mexico defeats U.S. for CONCACAF men’s U-17 title; French star Renard and others quit France) = Gymnastics (Moldauer wins U.S. Winter Cup All-Around) ●

Stupak calls for athlete conference; Slovakia split on Russia

Russian cross country skier Yulia Stupak, a Beijing 2022 gold medalist on the women’s 4×5 km relay and a four-time Olympic Winter Games medalist, is now calling for a skiers’ conference to decide whether Russians should compete internationally. She told the Russian news agency TASS:

“I think it would be right to gather several athletes from each country and discuss the situation on neutral territory. I am a million percent sure that personally there would be no claims from foreign athletes against us. But I think that it is unlikely that anyone will agree to such a conversation, and it will hardly depend on us.”

Athletes from Ukraine – which had seven entries in the Beijing cross-country events, might not be so enthusiastic. Stupak also said she has no interest in being a “neutral athlete”:

“I heard that work is underway to allow us to be neutral. There is talk that we will have to sign some kind of paper. We won’t sign. We’re really tired of infringing on our rights and humiliating the dignity of a Russian athlete. I’m a Russian athlete, I love and respect my country. And if they give me a neutral status, then I won’t sign any paper.”

In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a 50-year sanctions bill against specific Russian citizens, including several sports figures. Included are current International Olympic Committee members Shamil Tarpishchev and Yelena Isinbayeva and honorary members Vitaly Smirnov and Alexander Popov. None are currently active athletes.

What is now becoming a familiar divide is playing out on Slovakia, with the government against Russian and Belarusian participation in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris and the National Olympic Committee in lock-step with the International Olympic Committee, saying participation cannot depend on nationality.

Brussels-based, which closely follows European politics, noted Foreign Minister Rastislav Kacer’s comments, that included:

“When they say we shouldn’t confuse politics and sport – that’s exactly why they shouldn’t be there. One country kills for unjustifiable and fabricated reasons, the other fights back. To compete is not an entitlement, but a privilege.”

A statement from the Slovak NOC, however, repeated the IOC’s message that it is unacceptable to “refuse participation of athletes in sporting events based on their nationality,” and added:

“The condition is that the participating athletes do not support military conflicts and that their overall conduct is not contrary to the ethics of sport, Olympism and the Olympic Charter.”

The Slovak Smer-SD party, affiliated with the European Socialists, held a media briefing in front of the Slovak NOC office with council member Richard Takac making the obligatory outrageous statement:

“Sport should bring people together. A certain group of people are abusing the situation. Maybe just Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian athletes, if they were to come together at the Olympics, would show politicians that it’s not about how politicians decide what’s going on in Ukraine.”

Dentsu chief admits Tokyo 2020 bid-rigging

Another major break in the expanding bid-rigging scandal at the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, this time from the Japanese ad giant Dentsu. Kyodo News reported Monday from sources:

“Dentsu Group President and CEO Hiroshi Igarashi admitted to prosecutors in voluntary questioning Friday his company was responsible for rigging bids over contracts to plan and run pre-games test events and operate competitions during the Summer Games in 2021.”

Tokyo prosecutors, working in coordination with the Japan Fair Trade Commission, are considering indictments against Dentsu, ad agencies Hakuhodo, Inc. and Tokyu Agency, Inc., and event management companies Cerespo Co., Fuji Creative Corporation and Same Two, Inc.

Already arrested are former deputy executive director of the Tokyo 2020 Games Operations Bureau, Yasuo Mori, and a former Dentsu executive, Koji Hemmi, both accused of coordination the bidding program for 26 test events bid for in 2018, which led to much larger contracts for venue management during the Tokyo Games. The test-event contracts involved ¥538 million (about $3.95 million U.S. today) and the Games venue management agreements were worth about ¥40 billion (about $293.6 million U.S. today).

The bid-rigging scandal is separate, but much larger than the bribery-for-sponsorship program allegedly run by former Tokyo 2020 Executive Board member Haruyuki Takahashi, also a former Dentsu senior director. That investigation is continuing.

Speed skating to stay in Milan in 2026

The question of the speed skating venue for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games has apparently been settled, as Italian media reports that the giant, 20-hall Fiera Milano Rho Exhibition Centre will host the sport on a temporary basis.

The exhibit center was opened in 2005 with 345,000 sq. m (about 3.7 million sq. ft.) of exhibit space and has plenty of room for both the event and spectators. And with a new housing project doubling as the Olympic Village, no problem on athlete housing in the Milan area.

The originally-selected Ink Rink Pine, an open-air facility opened in 1984, was expected to have a roof installed, but the project ballooned in cost to more than $50 million U.S. from the originally-expected $36 million. The location in Baselga di Pine was 240 km northeast of Milan (about 150 miles), so the change will bring more events into the city.

An official announcement is expected shortly, and is reported to have been approved by the IOC and the International Skating Union.

Suggested alternatives to Baselga di Pine included use of the speed-skating rink in Turin, site of the 2006 Winter Games, but this would have required the installation of a new ice surface costing perhaps $15 million. The ISU has consistently repeated its desire for an indoor facility to allow for a more consistent surface for the competitors.

Although hardly free, the convention center site appears to be a reasonable-cost resolution.

US Sailing takes new tack, so Cayard resigns

“Previously, the Executive Director of US Olympic Sailing was responsible for both leading team operations as well as garnering financial support for the team. In this new structure, duties would be streamlined and separated into two roles. A Head of Olympic Operations will focus full-time on this part of the role, while a second position will give fundraising for the team the necessary attention it deserves.”

Friday’s announcement from US Sailing was characterized as an “operational  restructuring,” but has turned into a full-blown replacement as Executive Director Paul Cayard, 63, a six-time Worlds medalist in the Star Class and the 1988 World Champion, resigned on Monday.

The Associated Press reported that Cayard was told “just minutes before a board of directors meeting that he would be asked to focus on fundraising while someone else ran the team.” Cayard told the AP:

“I am very proud of my team and what we achieved to date. Unfortunately, the current board of US Sailing recently restructured the Olympic Department, including my role as executive director. The new structure is not what I signed up for, nor something I am willing to be part of. I am not a quitter, but I do know when it is time to go.”

He said he had raised $18 million to support the U.S. Olympic sailing project since taking over in March of 2021.

The U.S. medal performance in the sport has declined. American sailors won four medals at the Sydney Games in 2000, then two in 2004 (Athens), two in 2008 (Beijing), then none in 2012 (London), one in 2016 (Rio) and none again in 2020 in Tokyo.

Two-time Olympic vault winner Bob Richards passes at 97

The only man to win two Olympic golds in the pole vault, Bob Richards, passed away on Sunday at age 97 in Waco, Texas, as shared by his son Brandon on Facebook:

“Family, friends and pole vault community, I am heartbroken to say that my father passed away early this morning. He passed in his sleep peacefully surrounded by loved ones. He is in a better place now and at peace.

“We lost a national treasure today, Bob Richards. My dad was one of if not the oldest Olympian at 97 years old. He was a skinny poor kid from Illinois with stuttering speech. Began reading the Bible and preaching to help overcome his stuttering impediment. He then became a pastor and traveled around the country giving sermons to thousands while he competed in the pole vault at the University of Illinois. He was known as the ‘Vaulting Vicar’ and the ‘Pole Vaulting Pastor’. A three-time Olympian and Two-Time Olympic Champion, He won the Bronze medal in 1948 and Gold in 1952 and 1956. He also won 12 indoor and 11 outdoor National Championships. After the Olympics, he became a spokesman for Wheaties and was featured on the box for 13 years.”

Richards made three Olympic teams, in 1948 (vault bronze), 1952 (vault gold) and 1956 (vault gold, did not finish in the decathlon) and had very impressive lifetime bests of 1.91 (6-3 1/4) in the high jump, 4.72 m indoors (15-5 3/4) in the vault in 1954, 7.09 m (23-3 1/4) in the long jump and 7,381 in the decathlon.

After his second vault win, he became the first athlete to be pictured on the front of a Wheaties box, in 1958. He wasn’t the first athlete; Yankees slugger Lou Gehrig was pictured on the back of the box in 1934, and he wasn’t the first Olympian; that was Babe Didrikson in 1935. But he was highly visible and highly active in promoting track & field and the pole vault, in which he had four sons compete.

An ordained minister, Richards was an accomplished motivational speaker and son Brandon noted that he gave more than 25,000 speeches to all kinds of groups. He also ran for President on the Populist Party ticket in 1984, receiving just 66,324 votes nationwide.


● Freestyle and Snowboard ● The Snowboard stars were back in action at the FIS Freestyle Skiing & Snowboard Championships in Bakuriani (GEO), with Britain’s Mia Brookes, 16, turning all the heads with a spectacular victory in women’s Snowboard Slopestyle.

The winner of just one career medal in World Cup competition – in January – Brookes was sitting in second place going into her second (and final) run. She went for broke, including a never-before-landed 1440 spin – that’s four full rotations – on her third jump and nailed it, then completed three more tricks to finish with a 91.38 score and the lead.

New Zealand’s Olympic champ – and defending World Champion – Zoi Sadowski Synnott had to settle for second at 88.78 from her first run, with Miyabi Onitsuka (JPN) – the 2015 World Champion – third at 83.05. Said Brookes:

“I honestly feel like I’m going to cry. I have never been so happy in my life. I can’t even speak I’m that happy.”

“I was at the top of the course and my coach said, ‘If you want to win this just try the 1440.’ I tried the 1260 in practice, I came around and almost went 1440, so I knew it was possible on this jump. I tried it once before in Absolute Park but this is the first time I’ve stomped it so I am super happy.”

Norway’s Marcus Kleveland came in as the defending men’s World Champion from 2021 and made it two in a row, scoring 87.23 on his second run to win over Japan’s Ryoma Kimata (83.45) and American Chris Corning (82.18). It’s the third Worlds medal for Corning, who won the 2019 Worlds gold and the 2017 Worlds bronze.

Brock Crouch finished eighth for the U.S. (71.63) and Jake Canter was 11th (69.55).


● Paris 2024 ● The Paris organizers announced that the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic torches and cauldrons will be created by French designer Mathieu Lehanneur.

His work includes both the artistic and the commercial, including product design, interior design, transportation projects and architecture. He expects to be able to show the designs by the end of 2023.

● Athletics ● In addition to all of the World Indoor Tour hoopla, a slew of collegiate conference indoor meets produced outstanding marks and multiple records.

First was an American Record in the women’s 400 m from Florida’s Talitha Diggs, who won the Southeastern Conference title at 50.15, shattering the 50.34 best by USC’s Kendall Ellis from the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships. Diggs is now equal-8th all-time.

St. Lucia’s Julien Alfred (Texas) moved into a tie for the no. 2 spot on the women’s 60 m world list with a 7.03 win in her heat at the Big XII meet, then blew away the field in the final in a collegiate record of 6.97, moving to no. 8 all-time. She’s the 14th ever to dip under 7.00.

Alfred then came back to set a world-leading mark in the 200 m, winning in 22.26, making her the no. 4 indoor performer ever, with the equal-9th performance in history.

Jasmine Moore, Florida’s NCAA indoor and outdoor long jump and triple jump champ in 2022, zoomed to no. 2 on the 2023 world list in the long jump by winning the SEC at 6.91 m (22-8), now equal-7th all-time U.S.

In the men’s sprints, Texas Tech’s Terrance Jones (BAH) moved to no. 2 on the 2023 men’s 60 m year list with his 6.46 heats win at the Big XII meet, then won the final in 6.48. Teammate Courtney Lindsey (USA) won the men’s 200 m in 20.13, both the world and American leader. The winners of the ACC (Cameron Miller/USA: 20.27) and SEC (Jacory Patterson/USA: 20.29) moved to nos. 3-4.

The top two marks this year in the 400 m came from the SEC Championships, with Americans Elija Godwin (Georgia) and Patterson winning their sections in 44.75 and 45.50, now 1-2 on the 2023 world list. Godwin moved to no. 6 on the all-time indoor list.

In the men’s long jump, Cameron Crump (USA/Mississippi State) and Wayne Pinnock (JAM/Arkansas) went 1-2 in the SEC final and jumped to 2-3 on the 2023 world list at 8.39 m (27-6 1/2) and 8.31 m (27-3 1/4).

Now this should be fun. Hawaiian Airlines announced its agreement to be the Exclusive Airline Partner of the Los Angeles Marathon. Among its programs:

Hawaiian Airlines, which has been connecting Los Angeles and Hawai’i since 1985, will bring its signature Hawaiian hospitality to the marathon course with ‘The Hawaiian Mile.’ At the race’s 25-mile mark, participants will be welcomed with live music and refreshments, while the top elite runners will be presented with a haku lei.”

Those elites move pretty fast, so the airline will need to recruit some speedy runners to ensure the flower ceremony does not impede the race!

● Football ● FIFA named Argentina’s Lionel Messi its men’s Player of the Year, along with national team manager Lionel Scaloni as its Coach of the Year on Monday. Argentina’s keeper, Emiliano Martinez, won for Goalkeeper of the Year.

Spanish midfielder Alexis Putellas repeated for women’s Player of the Year and England’s Mary Earps won for best women’s keeper. Sarina Wiegman (NED) won for women’s Coach of the Year for her work with European Champion England.

The Puskas Award for the best goal was given to Marcin Oleksy of Poland, an amputee who plays with a left-leg prosthetic in a special league.

American striker Alex Morgan was the runner-up to Putellas in the women’s voting and was the only American selected to the Women’s World 11 for 2022. The voting results are here.

Canada’s Victor Montagliani was re-elected, unopposed, as CONCACAF President last week during the 38th CONCACAF Congress, for the term of 2023-27. He has been the confederation head since 2016.

The CONCACAF men’s U-17 tournament in Guatemala concluded with the same result as the last four, with Mexico hoisting the trophy after a 3-1 win against the U.S. in Guatemala City.

Both pitched shut-outs in the semifinals, with Mexico stomping Panama, 5-0, and the U.S. blanking Canada, 2-0 last Friday.

In Sunday’s final, Mexico’s Stephano Carrillo got the only first-half goal on a penalty to give Mexico a 1-0 lead, extended to 2-0 in the 51st via a Luis Navarette header. The U.S. counter-attacked furiously and got close with a 69th-minute header for a goal from Pedro Soma, but Mexico got the final score at 90+2 from Isaac Martinez on a penalty. It’s the ninth title in this tournament for Mexico, the most by any country.

Dissension inside the French women’s national team has led to three of its stars renouncing their positions, including skipping this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The first to leave was center-back and captain Wendie Renard, 32, who wrote on Instagram last week ( translation):

“I have defended the blue white and red jersey 142 times with passion, respect, commitment and professionalism. I love France more than anything. I am not perfect, far from it, but I can no longer support the current system which is far from the requirements of the highest level.

“It is a sad day but necessary to preserve my mental health.

“It is with a heavy heart that I come to inform you of my decision to step back from the French team. Unfortunately, I will not make this World Cup in such conditions.

“My face can hide the pain but my heart is suffering… and I don’t want to suffer anymore.

“Thank you for your support and respect for my decision.”

She was quickly joined by forwards Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto, who also asked for unspecified changes at the national-team level. Katoto explained that she felt “no longer aligned with the management of the France team and the values transmitted” and “I therefore make the decision to put my international career on hold until the necessary changes are applied.”

Fifth-ranked France, eliminated by the U.S. in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinals, was expected to be a contender in Australia and New Zealand next summer. The French will face Canada next, in April.

The sixth-ranked Canadian women threatened a strike for better funding ahead of the SheBelieves Cup in the U.S., but played under protest as the Canadian federation indicated legal action would be taken against them if they did not play.

On Monday, Canada Soccer President Nick Bontis resigned, saying “I acknowledge that this moment requires change,” with both the men’s and women’s national teams exceedingly unhappy with their contractual arrangements with the federation.

Bontis has said that the federation does not have the financial resources to meet the demands of the two national teams.

● Gymnastics ● At the USA Gymnastics Winter Cup in Louisville, Kentucky, Tokyo Olympian Yul Moldauer won the men’s All-Around and qualified for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Moldauer scored 85.342 points, competing consistently, and finished comfortably ahead of Fred Richard (Michigan: 84.602), Asher Hong (Stanford: 81.948), Ian Lasic-Ellis (Stanford: 81.905) and veteran Shane Wiskus (81.200). The top five finishers were named to the National Team,

In the apparatus finals, Ohio State’s Kameron Nelson and Stanford’s Curran Phillips both won two events and were named to the National Team, along with four others.

Nelson won on Floor and Vault and Phillips took wins on the Parallel Bars and Horizontal Bar, with Illinois’ Ian Skirkey winning on Pommel Horse and veteran Alex Diab getting the Rings victory.

Taylor Christopulos (Nebraska), Joshua Karnes (Penn State) and Riley Loos (Stanford) were named to the National Team, along with Skirkey, off of their standing on a 10-point grading from both days of the Winter Cup.

The women’s Winter Cup winners included Lexi Zeiss in the All-Around (53.200), ahead of Ashlee Sullivan (52.750) and Nola Matthews (52.600). The apparatus winners included Joscelyn Robinson on Vault (13.750 average), Zoe Miller on Uneven Bars (13.900), Skye Blakely on Beam (13.400) and Kallya Lincoln on Floor (13.600).

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