★ The Sports Examiner: Chronicling the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement.★
★ Enjoying our coverage? If so, please consider a donation to help cover technical costs for 2023. Thank you for your support. ★
★ To get The Sports Examiner by e-mail: sign up here! ★
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Shiffrin takes 78th World Cup win in Semmering
2. Takahashi allowed ¥80 million bail in Tokyo 2020 scandal
3. Belarus sentences Olympic medalist Herasimenia to prison
4. Int’l Testing Agency reports 30,000 tests in 2022
5. Remembering Olympic broadcast giant Manolo Romero
American skiing superstar Mikaela Shiffrin took her 78th career World Cup win in a Giant Slalom in Semmering, Austria on Tuesday and enters a stretch of seven straight races in her specialties, the Slalom and Giant Slalom. She’s closing in on former teammate Lindsey Vonn’s women’s career record of 82 World Cup wins. In Tokyo, bribery suspect Haruyuki Takahashi was granted bail as the Tokyo 2020 sponsorship-selection scandal continues. In Belarus, a criminal court in Minsk sentenced three-time Olympic swimming medalist Aliaksandra Herasimenia to 12 years in prison, in absentia, and ordered his apartment, car and bank accounts confiscated. She and Aleksander Opeykin campaigned against the Lukashenko regime in 2020 and 2021 through the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, which supported athletes who alleged widespread fraud in the 2020 election for President. The International Testing Agency reported that it carried out more than 30,000 tests in 2022, and followed up on more than 1,000 “whereabouts” failures; some 280 doping positives were noted. One of the most influential executives in Olympic television production, Spain’s Manolo Romero, passed away at 81 on Saturday, just 11 days after being inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Shiffrin takes 78th World Cup win in Semmering
Already the leader in the women’s Alpine World Cup standings, American star Mikaela Shiffrin entered a potentially historic two weeks in which she could set herself up for a fifth seasonal World Cup title and even pass Lindsey Vonn for the most women’s World Cup wins.
And she delivered in the first of three events in Semmering (AUT), winning Tuesday’s Giant Slalom in 2:07:18, just ahead of 2021 World Cup champ Petra Vlhova (SVK: 2:07.31) and Italian star Marta Bassino (2:07.49).
Shiffrin led after the first run, 1:05.49 to 1:06.21 over Vlhova and while Vlhova had the fastest second run, Shiffrin was close enough (-0.59) to maintain a winning margin. She knew it was going to be tight:
“I was pushing really hard. Sometimes when I start bib 1, I am holding back on my skiing but today I said ‘no, we are not doing that, I am going full gas every time. I don’t care how it feels, every turn I am pushing’.
“The second run a little bit wild sometimes but I felt like the skis were running. I really enjoy racing here. I was being pushed around sometimes but overall my skiing felt good.”
It’s World Cup win no. 78 for Shiffrin – still just 27 – which brings her within four wins of fellow American Vonn (82) with the next seven races in her favored events: Slalom and Giant Slalom:
● 28 Dec.: Giant Slalom in Semmering
● 29 Dec.: Slalom in Semmering
● 04 Jan.: Slalom in Zagreb (CRO)
● 05 Jan.: Slalom in Zagreb (CRO)
● 07 Jan.: Giant Slalom in Kranjska Gora (SLO)
● 08 Jan.: Giant Slalom in Kranjska Gora (SLO)
● 10 Jan.: Slalom in Flachau (AUT)
Shiffrin has won in all these places before: Tuesday was her fifth career win in Semmering, and she has won four times in Zagreb, twice at Kranjska Gora and four times in Flachau. And she won all three races in Semmering once before, in 2016!
After 13 of 39 races on the women’s World Cup circuit for 2022-23, Shiffrin now leads speed superstar Sofia Goggia (ITA) by 675-470, with Vlhova third at 420.
Takahashi allowed ¥80 million bail in Tokyo 2020 scandal
The man at the center of the Tokyo 2020 sponsorship scandal, former organizing committee Executive Board member Haruyuki Takahashi, was granted bail – at ¥80 million, or about $599,000 U.S. – on Monday by a Tokyo District Court.
Indicted four different times, Takahashi is alleged by Tokyo prosecutors to have taken bribes from companies wanting to be selected as Tokyo 2020 official sponsors, supporters or licensees, or from advertising agencies wanting to be the campaign managers for existing sponsors. Funds were either paid directly, or through third parties, and may have totaled as much as ¥198 million (~$1.48 million U.S.).
Takahashi, 78, a former senior director of the ad giant Dentsu, Inc., has acknowledged receiving money from companies such as business-suit retailer Aoki Holdings, Kadokawa Publishing, toy manufacturer Sun Arrow and an advertising agency, but maintains these were legitimate payments for consulting services.
Three executives from Aoki Holdings have pled guilty to bribery and indictments were made of 12 others, including Takahashi.
A separate inquiry is continuing into the rigging of bids to produce test events for Tokyo 2020 that led to venue management contracts for four firms, including Dentsu.
Belarus sentences Olympic medalist Herasimenia to prison
While Russia has taken most of the headlines as a pariah in international sport for its February invasion of Ukraine, its ally Belarus has also had its athletes banned and the regime sentenced one of its former athletic stars in a long prison term – in absentia – on Monday.
Aliaksandra Herasimenia was the women’s World 100 m Freestyle Champion in 2011 and won three Olympic Freestyle medals, in London (50-100 m silvers) and Rio (50 m bronze). She has been a critic of the regime which faced mass protests since a controversial election of Alexander Lukashenko to a sixth term in 2020.
She, along with Aleksander Opeykin, the head of the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation that has helped athletes who have spoken out against Lukashenko, were both sentenced to 12 years in prison. Neither is in Belarus now; Herasimenia lives in Lithuania.
Reuters reported that the state news agency BelTA stated:
“From August, 2020 to May 20, 2022, through the media and the Internet, they disseminated deliberately false information and fabrications about the events that took place on the territory of Belarus, about the course and results of the election campaign 2020. …
“They were found guilty of public calls to commit actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of Belarus, including the use of restrictive measures (sanctions) against Belarus, individuals and legal entities of the republic.
“Such actions entailed grave consequences.”
The court ordered the seizure of assets Herasimenia left behind, including her apartment, car and bank accounts.
Int’l Testing Agency reports 30,000 tests in 2022
The International Testing Agency, now working with 50 international federations, posted a short report on its 2022 activities, with a busy testing program and athlete tracking program:
“The ITA Board also took note of the high operational volumes the various departments of the agency have delivered in 2022, with a forecast of around 30’000 collected samples until the end of the year (46% of which in-competition at almost 500 international sporting events), over 500 Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) processed and over 32’000 Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) notifications received.
“ITA’s legal affairs department has processed almost 1’000 potential Whereabouts Failures in 2022 and has handled over 280 new potential cases of Anti-Doping Rule Violations next to continuously handling cases from previous time frames such as the Moscow Laboratory LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) cases for 11 of its IF partners, as well as cases stemming from re-analysis projects.”
Organized in 2016, the ITA has grown to a staff of 80 and is accelerating its activities, importantly including anti-doping education sessions at 50 major events, serving 35 of the international federations.
And the ITA has a busy future ahead of it, already contracted to handle the doping-control programs at the 2023 Asian Games and European Games, the Olympic Games Paris 2024, the Olympic Winter Games Milano-Cortina 2026 and the Winter and Summer Youth Olympics Gangwon 2024 and Dakar 2026.
Remembering Olympic broadcast giant Manolo Romero
One of the pioneers in Olympic television, Spaniard Manolo Romero passed away on Saturday at his home in Segovia (ESP) at age 81 after a long battle with cancer.
Romero was one of those people who helped make history, but was relatively little known outside of the Olympic world or the television production business. He was innovative, insightful, curious, practical and a dreamer all at the same time.
His television production career began in 1965 at TVE in Sevilla and while he began his Olympic career in Mexico City in 1968, he emerged as a key figure in mega-event television production with his work in coordinating the broadcast coverage of the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. Two years later, he came to Los Angeles and was Director of the International Broadcast Center at the Sunset-Gower Studios in Hollywood, working for ABC Sports, which was both the U.S. domestic rights holder and the host broadcaster for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
The Olympic television production model began to change, especially when the Olympic and Winter Games went to separate cycles beginning in 1994 with the Lillehammer Winter Games. Romero was deeply involved in the broadcast operations for Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996, then formed International Sports Broadcasting (ISB) in 1997, which provided host broadcast services for Salt Lake City’s 2002 Winter Games and Athens in 2004.
Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) was formed in 2003 – headquartered in Madrid – and Romero was the obvious choice to head it, leading the planning and operations for Beijing in 2008, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and London 2012, after which he retired.
Under his direction, sports that had barely been covered, like archery, sailing and shooting, were covered live, often in new formats which he helped develop. More familiar sports saw new technologies, such as the rail-cam alongside the final straightaway in track & field, on-field point-of-view cameras and much improved sound. The pictures became more compelling and Romero worked to deliver new visions of the Games for use by broadcasters worldwide.
Romero was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in a ceremony in New York on 13 December of this year.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Russia ● The move of the Russian Football Union from the European confederation (UEFA) to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is hardly a done deal and might not happened at all.
Looking for a way to compete, away from the UEFA-imposed sanctions, the RFU saw an opening in Asia, but a vote by the RFU Executive Committee on Tuesday was postponed to Saturday (31st). According to RFU Honorary President Vyacheslav Koloskov:
“The voting was postponed once; the executive committee failed to arrive at any decision and took a couple more days. Now it was postponed because there were too many questions and no answers to them.
“It is quite logical that the RFU management has taken several more days to look at the possible consequences of a transfer to the Asian confederation. The most important thing is to be sure we will be accepted there.
“I think we need a 100-percent guarantee that we will be accepted in Asia and then begin these changes. So far, we don’t have such guarantees and may find ourselves on the fringe of world football.”
FIFA and UEFA have both banned Russia from their tournament as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
● Athletics ● An amended complaint in the Huntington University cross-country abuse case has alleged that former coach Nick Johnson doped runners with Erythropoietin (EPO) and testosterone cream, without their knowledge.
David Woods, writing for DyeStat.com, reported:
“Nick Johnson was fired in December 2020 after being charged with four felony counts. The university promoted his wife, Lauren Johnson, to replace him. Lauren Johnson was placed on administrative leave in October and has left the program.
“Nick Johnson accepted a plea deal in February 2022 and was sentenced to 30 days in jail after pleading guilty to identity deception.”
The case continues in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.
● Bobsled & Skeleton ● After a two-year wait due to the pandemic, USA Bobsled & Skeleton inducted its Hall of Fame Class of 2020 that included Steve Mesler, Tristan Gale Geisler, Randy Jones, Vonetta Flowers, James “Nitro” Morgan, and Geoff Bodine, on 17 December in Lake Placid, New York.
Mesler was a push star on the famed “Night Train” sled driven by the late Steve Holcomb that won the Olympic Four-Man gold in Vancouver in 2010. Gale Geisler won the first Olympic women’s Skeleton gold in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Flowers was the brakeman with Jill Bakken as they won the first women’s Bobsled gold in Salt Lake City.
Jones was also a push star, helping the U.S. Four-Man squad to a 2002 Olympic silver, the first U.S. Olympic medal in bobsled in 56 years. Morgan was a driver, finishing seventh in the Two-Man in the 1975 Worlds, the best American finish of the decade; a 1976 Olympian, he was killed in a crash at Cortina d’Ampezzo (ITA) in 1981.
Bodine is best known for his racing in NASCAR and was the Daytona 500 champ in 1986. He co-founded the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project to build made-in-America sleds for the U.S. team. Holcomb’s “Night Train” sled in 2010 was Bo-Dyn built.
For our updated, 951-event International Sports Calendar for 2022-23 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!