★ 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’s Semmering sweep leaves her two short of Vonn
2. Bach confirms Russian sanctions must stay in place
3. Russia continues criticism of IOC; gymnastics fed likes Asiad idea
4. India will use upcoming IOC Session to showcase a 2036 bid
5. Brazil declares three days of mourning for Pele
American ski star Mikaela Shiffrin is making history again, winning four straight FIS Alpine World Cup races in a row, taking a commanding lead in the seasonal standings, but also on the verge of becoming the winningest World Cup racer in history … men or women! It could happen this season. In his year-end message, International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach (GER) confirmed no movement on sanctions for Russia and Belarus. A lengthy comment from the Russian news agency TASS strongly criticized the IOC for keeping Russian athletes out of competition, insisting that its “numerous statements concerning the suspension of Russia were dotted with contradictions and double standards.” India will host the annual meeting of the IOC late in 2023 and is readying a major push for the 2036 Olympic Games, possibly in the state of Gujarat in western India, with Ahmedabad as the center. A presidential proclamation called for three days of mourning for Brazil’s beloved football hero Pele, who died at 82 last week. He will be remembered with services on Monday and Tuesday at the stadium where he played for Santos FC for 19 seasons from 1956-74.
Our exclusive, updated, 929-event International Sports Calendar for 2023 and beyond is now available – by date and by sport – by clicking here!
Shiffrin’s Semmering sweep leaves her two short of Vonn
American skiing superstar Mikaela Shiffrin had a mixed start to 2022, winning the World Cup overall title, but no Olympic medals in Beijing, but she ended it with a roar.
With four straight wins at the end of the year – in a Super-G, two Giant Slaloms and a Slalom, with the last three in Semmering (AUT) – she not only is streaking away from the pack on the way to a possible fifth World Cup overall title, she also is closing in on the most wins in World Cup history.
Still just 27, Shiffrin now has 80 career victories, including 50 in Slalom, 16 in Giant Slalom, five Super-Gs, three Downhills and six in other formats. That puts her no. 3 all-time:
● 1. 86, Ingemar Stenmark (SWE: 1973-89)
● 2. 82, Lindsey Vonn (USA: 2001-19)
● 3. 80, Mikaela Shiffrin (USA: 2012-present)
There are 24 more races to go this season, including the next five in Slalom and Giant Slalom, her best events:
● 04-05 Jan.: Slalom x 2 in Zagreb (CRO)
● 07-08 Jan.: Giant Slalom x 2 in Kranjska Gora (SLO)
● 10 Jan.: Slalom in Flachau (AUT)
Shiffrin had a run like this before, in the 2017-18 season, winning eight races in 22 days, including victories at Zagreb, Kranjska Gora and Flachau; she won 12 races that season, and 17 the next.
This is Shiffrin’s 12th season on the World Cup tour, beginning in 2011-12, and she could take over the wins record quickly compared to the 19 seasons for Vonn and 17 for Stenmark. That’s incredible.
Moreover, Shiffrin is on target for the all-time record for most career World Cup medals, possibly next season:
● 1. 155, Stenmark
● 2. 138, Marcel Hirscher (AUT: 2007-19)
● 3. 137, Vonn
● 4. 127, Shiffrin
Shiffrin owns four overall World Cup titles and is now ahead in her race for a fifth, 875-506, over Slovakian Slalom star Petra Vlhova, who won that title in 2020-21. A fifth for Shiffrin would move her to no. 2 on the women’s all-time list behind Austrian star Annemarie Moser-Proell (1969-80), who won six. The all-time mark is eight for Hirscher, trailed by Marc Giradelli (LUX: 1980-96), who won five.
We’re seeing history here. Stenmark retired at 33, Vonn at 34, Giradelli at 33, Hirscher at 30, Moser-Proell at 27, the same as Shiffrin is now. She could – barring injury – set records that will stand for a long time.
Bach confirms Russian sanctions must stay in place
Just to avoid any doubt at all, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER) said in his year-end message that no change in the sanctions against Russia and Belarus are coming any time soon:
“Only three days after the Closing Ceremony of Beijing, Russia invaded Ukraine in a blatant violation of the Olympic Truce and the Olympic Charter.
“The IOC immediately condemned the war and sanctioned the Russian and Belarusian states and governments in an unprecedented way. These sanctions include:
“● No international sports events being organised or supported in Russia or Belarus.
“● No national symbols whatsoever of these countries being displayed at any sports event or meeting.
“These sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian states and governments must and will remain firmly in place. …
“On the other hand, following the outbreak of the war, many athletes, National Olympic Committees, International Federations and the IOC were exposed to political pressure and interference. Some governments started to decide which athletes would be allowed to participate in international sport competitions – and which athletes would not.
“This is why, in addition to the sanctions, we had to take protective measures to ensure the integrity of international sport competitions. This led the IOC to act against our mission to unify the entire world in peaceful competition, since we had to prohibit athletes from participation because of their passport only.”
Bach called 2022 “an Olympic year that was as successful as it was turbulent,” and also noted the success of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, the coming qualifying competitions for Paris 2024 and the new, Olympic Esports Week coming in Singapore in June.
Russia continues criticism of IOC; gymnastics fed likes Asiad idea
“The outgoing year saw Russian sports ending up caught between the grinding wheels of the geopolitical standoff with the West.
“Starting in March, national pro athletes were consistently deprived of their right to participate in international tournaments, and no one was spared, not even the top stars of the sports world. The Olympic Movement has throttled their careers while turning a blind eye to its own declarations on the inadmissibility of discrimination based on nationality.”
That’s the opening of a long commentary from the Russian TASS news agency, which reviewed the difficult year for Russian athletes, removed from international competition following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The comment also had some other, interesting points:
● “Russia’s executive sports management has no plans of pursuing a policy of isolation or to publicly boycott the Olympic Games.”
● “The owner of the rights to the Olympic Games [IOC] is in control of the majority of sports federations and they risk ceasing to exist without its financial support.”
● “While carrying on a balancing act between promoting Olympic values and gaining commercial benefits, the IOC came up with an original interpretation on the need to suspend athletes from Russia and Belarus. It issued a recommendation, which in fact turned out to be obligatory for many international federations, calling for imposing ‘protective measures’ regarding these countries’ athletes.”
● “The IOC’s numerous statements concerning the suspension of Russia were dotted with contradictions and double standards, particularly in view of the fact that the ‘protective measures’ were never enforced with regards to athletes representing countries involved in armed conflicts. Such rhetoric was handy to stall for time, which was necessary to solve the unfolding dilemma.”
● “Russian Paralympians were deprived of any chance to fight for the medals in China. Under a pressure on behest of Western politicians and previously voiced threats of imposing a boycott, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced on March 3, a day before the Paralympics, a decision to reverse its previously issued permission to clear athletes from Russia and Belarus to the Paralympics.”
The post also referred to the doping allegations against figure skater Kamila Valieva as “mysterious.”
The Russian Football Union has been investigating a move to the Asian Football Confederation from Europe (UEFA), but on Friday, the RFU Executive Committee decided to seek reinstatement within UEFA instead. A working group was formed to explore options with FIFA and UEFA, per ExComm member Leonid Fedun:
“I feel the same way about this decision as the entire Executive Committee. We decided to create a working group to look into this issue again and to decide how realistic a hypothetical transfer to Asia would be. Also, this is the last chance to negotiate with Europe. Trying to rush things would be wrong.”
However, Russian Gymnastics Federation chief Irina Viner continues to be highly interested in competing in Asia, saying on Wednesday:
“We can organize [competing at] the Asian Games, which should be viewed as an alternative to the Olympic Games… We can make history there as well, on par with the Olympic Games.”
India will use upcoming IOC Session to showcase a 2036 bid
Despite the governance issues plaguing the Indian Olympic Association – its National Olympic Committee – the country is readying a bid for the 2036 Olympic Games which it plans to showcase at the 140th IOC Session to be held in Mumbai next September or October.
Indian Sports Minister Anurag Thakur said in an interview:
“We have hopes and I am sure India will fully prepare and bid for the Olympics.
“Gujarat has several times expressed interest in hosting the Olympics. They have the infrastructure – from hotels, hostels, airports and sports complexes. They are serious about the bid. It’s also part of the state government’s manifesto to host the Olympics in Gujarat.”
Located on India’s west coast, the State of Gujarat features Ahmedabad – metropolitan population of 6.4 million – as its largest city and the hub of a proposed Games project.
India hosted the 1951 and 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi, but the 2010 Commonwealth Games held there was widely seen as a disaster, including corruption issues.
Attitudes towards an Olympic Games in India could be impacted by the Tokyo 2020 experience in Japan, where the final cost of the Olympic and Paralympic Games was listed at $10.8 billion U.S. by the organizing committee or $12.9 billion by the national Board of Audit, both much higher than the bid estimate of about $6.8 billion.
Prof. Yoko Tsukamoto of the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido said last week:
“Different generations think about it differently. When I talk to younger people and young parents with children, they are very much in favor as it gives us something to look forward to and encourages children to take part in sport. For them, the Winter Olympics would be a dream come true.
“But older people feel very differently. The high costs and the possible impact on their lives are their biggest fears.”
(Thanks to reader Phil Minshull for catching the typo on the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi: 2010, not 2020!).
Brazil declares three days of mourning for Pele
The greatest player in the history of football, Brazil’s Pele, was remembered with three days of mourning from last Friday through Sunday, according to a decree signed by outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
It’s a tribute to not only how beloved Pele was as a player, but as a Brazilian icon, who remained immensely popular throughout his life, which ended last Thursday (29th) at age 82 after a long battle with cancer.
Funeral services are being held at the Estadio Urbano Caldeira – the Santos FC stadium where Pele played from 1956-74 – on Monday and Tuesday.
Pele played in Brazil – for Santos – until he retired (more or less) in 1974, then came out of retirement to sign with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League in 1975 and played there through 1977. His presence created enormous momentum for soccer in the U.S., the first time that the game drew a national following, although it took another 19 years – and the hosting of the 1994 FIFA World Cup – for the start of Major League Soccer in 1996 that created a permanent, top-level league in the U.S.
But it was Pele’s play in the World Cup that made him an icon. He played on winning Brazilian teams in 1958, 1962 and 1970, scoring 12 goals in just 14 matches. At just 17, he scored twice in the 1958 final against Sweden, but played only one game in 1962 before suffering an injury.
Fouled repeatedly in 1966, Brazil was eliminated in the group stage, but in 1970, he scored four goals in the tournament as the Brazilians outscored their opponents, 19-7 on the way to its third title with Pele. He is the only man to play on three World Cup champions.
Following his football career, Pele was deeply involved with humanitarian causes, and in 1992, he was appointed a United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Cross Country Skiing ● Norway continued its domination of the FIS World Cup circuit over New Year’s, as the prestigious, seven-stage Tour de Ski started in Val Mustair (SUI) with wins for five-time Olympic gold medalist Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo.
Klaebo won his fifth and sixth races of the season in the men’s 1.5 km Freestyle Sprint (over Italian star Federico Pellegrino, 3:00.98 to 3:01.16) and the 10 km Classical Pursuit, over teammate (and seasonal World Cup leader) Pal Golberg, with Pellegrino third, 25:55.0-25:28.2-27:05.2.
Swiss Nadine Faehndrich won her fourth career World Cup race in the women’s 1.5 km Freestyle Sprint in 3:23.56, with Swede Maja Dahlqvist second (3:24.03). Norway’s Tiril Undes Weng took the 10 km Classical Pursuit for he first win (and fifth medal) of the season in 28:51.3, ahead of Kerttu Niskanen (FIN: 28:51.7).
Golberg and Weng maintained their seasonal leads, with the next two legs of the Tour de Ski in Obertsdorf (GER) on 3-4 January.
● Ice Hockey ● The IIHF men’s World U20 Championship has concluded pool play in Halifax and Moncton (CAN), with Czechia (3-1, with an overtime loss) and the U.S. (3-1) winning the two pools.
The American team beat Latvia and Finland, but lost to Slovakia. In the playoff quarterfinals on Monday, the U.S. will face Germany (1-3) and will play the winner of Canada (3-1) and Slovakia (2-2 with one overtime loss).
● Ski Jumping ● The 71st edition of the famous Four Hills Tournament started on Thursday (29th) in Obertsdorf (GER) with jumping off of the 137 m hill and a win for Halvor Egner Granerud of Norway, 312.4-299.0-294.9 over Poles Piotr Zyla and Dawid Kubacki.
Granerud, the 2021 Worlds fourth-placer on the Normal Hill, won again on New Year’s in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER: 142 m), scoring 303.7 to best Anze Lanisek (SLO: 297.3) and Kubacki (294.4). The show moves to Austria, for jumping on Wednesday in Innsbruck (128 m) and then Bischofshofen (142 m) on Friday night. The last man to win all four stages: Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi in 2018-19.
In women’s jumping, a similarly-styled program to the Four Hills – the Sylvester Tournament, in Austria and Slovenia – completed its second edition on New Year’s, with Austrian star Eva Pinkelnig winning three of the four stages to take the crown.
Pinkelnig won the first two competitions at home in Villach (98 m hill), over Norway’s Anna Odine Strom on 28 December and Katharina Althaus (GER) on the 29th. Strom took Saturday’s event at Ljubno (SLO) off the 94 m hill over Pinkelnig and then the Austrian star won on Sunday, with Strom second.
Pinkelnig, a two-time Worlds Team silver winner, took the Sylvester overall title with 1,030.3 points to 1,004.0 for Strom, and Nika Kriznar (SLO: 980.3) third.
For our updated, 929-event International Sports Calendar for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!