The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: Sweden sweeps Women’s World Cup group stage, U.S. next; hammer star Berry suspended for doping; Biles returns to mats Saturday

Back in action: the iconic Simone Biles! (Photo: USA Gymnastics)

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1. Sweden now 3-0 in Women’s World Cup, gets U.S. next
2. Hammer star Berry hit with 16-month doping suspension
3. Biles, Lee and more return to competition in CoreHydration Classic
4. Massive World Cycling Championships start in Glasgow
5. World University Games open, Russian copy coming 19 August

Sweden became only the third team to go through the group stage undefeated at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and finished off Argentina, 2-0, moving on to the elimination round to play the U.S. on Sunday in Melbourne. France won Group F, but shocking results advanced Jamaica – instead of Brazil – and South Africa, a 3-2 winner over Italy. The knock-outs begin on Saturday. Former American Record holder in the women’s hammer Gwen Berry was suspended by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for 16 months for a doping positive caused by a prescription medication for which she had not received a Therapeutic Use Exemption. The ban will keep her from competing for the U.S. team for the 2024 Olympic Games. The annual USA Gymnastics CoreHydration Classic in the Chicago area this weekend will feature the return of the iconic Simone Biles and Tokyo Olympic All-Around champ Suni Lee to competition, among other medal winners. The cycling world is all gathered in Glasgow for the first all-discipline World Cycling Championships, bringing together 13 disciplines in an attempt to see if a new mega-event can help expand cycling’s popularity. More than 200 individual world champions will be crowed at the senior and junior levels. The 31st World University Games has started in Chengdu, China, but will be followed by essentially a copycat event later this month hosted by Russia in Yekaterinburg, which was supposed to host in 2023, but had it withdrawn after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Panorama: Athletics (2: World Athletics and IOC supporting Ukraine for Budapest Worlds; Xiamen to replace Shenzhen on Diamond League calendar) = Cycling (new women’s cycling division formed by UCI) = Swimming (who won the most money at the Fukuoka Worlds?) ●

Sweden now 3-0 in Women’s World Cup, gets U.S. next

Third-ranked Sweden completed its run through Group G at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, joining no. 11 Japan and no. 4 England with perfect, 3-0 records in group play after a 2-0 win over Argentina on Wednesday.

But there also shockers like Jamaica’s scoreless draw that put the Reggae Girlz into the elimination round for the first time and sent Brazil home, and South Africa moving on with a huge upset that ended the tournament for Italy.

● Group F: France 6, Panama 3 After Panama took the lead in the second minute, fifth-ranked France roared back for a 4-1 lead by halftime on the way to a 6-3 win in Sydney and first place in their group.

Striker Marta Cox scored Panama’s first goal in their first Women’s World Cup appearance on a fabulous free kick from 10 yards above the box that flew straight into the top-left corner of the French net just 1:09 into the game for the 1-0 lead. But France got even in the 21st as defender’s Maelle Lakrar’s header from the middle of the box was struck by Panamanian midfielder Deysire Sakazar and flew into the goal.

The striker Kadidiatou Diani got to work, scoring in the 28th off a loose ball in front of the goal that she lifted over the keeper for a 2-1 lead, then after a Panama hand-ball in the box, she scored on a penalty in the 37th. When midfielder Lea Le Garrec’s free kick sailed over the head of both defenders and her teammates and bounced into the net at 45+5, it was 4-1 and the issue was decided.

Diani got a hat trick in the 52nd on another penalty kick following a Panama hand-ball, but the Panamanians got one back with defender Yomira Pinzon scoring on a penalty in the 64th following a French foul in the box. At 5-2, Panama mounted another attack with forward Lineth Cedeno scoring in the 87th – 5-3 – off a long Pinzon free kick that hit the crossbar on a bounced and was headed in!

Finally, French defender Eve Perrisset sent a perfect cross to the mount of goal for midfielder Vicki Becho, who volleyed it into the far side of the net at 90+10 to finish the game. France had 72% of possession and had 26 shots to six for Panama, and won its group to move on. Panama finished 0-3.

● Group F: Jamaica 0, Brazil 0 The Jamaicans (1-0-1) could advance with a draw, but eighth-ranked Brazil (1-1) needed win to move on … and they didn’t get it.

Of course, the Brazilians dominated possession by 72-28% and had 18 shots to three, but could not score. Jamaican keeper Rebecca Spencer stopped a drive by defender Tamires in the 39th, and substitute defender Geyse missed a promising opportunity in the 82nd as her shot went wide. A final, desperate corner saw striker Debinha head the ball towards goal at 90+4, but Spencer made the save again to preserve the draw, and send Jamaica (1-0-2: 5) on to the round-of-16.

Brazil (1-1-1: 4) had not been eliminated in the group stage of the Women’s World Cup since 1995.

● Group G: Sweden 2, Argentina 0 The Swedes had been thoroughly convincing in 2-1 and 5-0 wins so far and shut down Argentina in Hamilton, even with nine different starters.

Both sides failed to mount a serious challenge in the first half but a perfect cross from midfielder Sofia Jakobsson in the 66th was headed in by striker Rebecka Blomqvist for the 1-0 lead that looked quite secure.

Swedish keeper Jennifer Falk was more than equal to any Argentine offensive ideas and after Blomqvist was tackled in the box on a corner, substitute midfielder Elin Rubensson scored on a penalty in the 90th for the 2-0 final. Sweden had 59% of possession, but only a 7-6 edge on shots, but it was plenty.

The Swedes finished 3-0 in the group, with a 9-1 goals-against total and now move on play the U.S. on Sunday in Melbourne (AUS). These two squads have played some memorable games, with the U.S. leading the series 23-8, with 12 draws. In their last match, Sweden shut out the U.S., 3-0, in group play at the Tokyo Olympic Games. At the 2019 Women’s World Cup, the Americans scored a 2-0 win in the group stage.

● Group G: South Africa 3, Italy 2 The 16th-ranked Italians came in 1-0-1 (four points) and needed a win or draw to advance in Wellington, while no. 54 South Africans 0-1-1 (1) needed a win.

Italy looked good early as defender Karabo Dhlamini dragged down midfielder Chiara Beccari in the box in the 10th and midfielder Arianna Caruso converted in the 11th for a 1-0 lead. But a horrible back pass by defender Benedetta Orsi in the 32nd had Italian keeper Francesca Durante out of possession and it was an own goal in the 32nd and 1-1.

In the second half, midfielder Hildah Magaia got a lead pass in the box from striker Thembi Kgatlana in the 67th and slammed the ball past Durante for a 2-1 lead and an upset possibility. But Italy equalized in the 74th after a corner was headed, blocked and then bodied in by Caruso in front of the net.

Then at 90+2, Magaia got a lead pass in the box and sent a quick cross to a surging Kgatlana, who finished with authority to give South Africa the 3-2 lead, which they held for the remaining 15 minutes of stoppage time (!).

Italy had 62% of possession and an 18-12 lead on shots, but could not defend at the crucial moments, starting with Orsi’s own-goal.

The group stage finished on Thursday with Group H matches between Germany and South Korea and Morocco and Colombia.

The Round-of-16 bracket is almost complete, with the top half now set:

5 Aug.: Switzerland vs. Spain in Auckland
6 Aug.: Netherlands vs. South Africa in Sydney
5 Aug.: Japan vs. Norway in Wellington
6 Aug.: Sweden vs. U.S. in Melbourne

The bottom half still needs the Group H results, but:

7 Aug.: Australia vs. Denmark in Sydney
8 Aug.: France vs. Group H no. 2 in Adelaide
7 Aug.: England vs. Nigeria in Brisbane
8 Aug.: Jamaica vs. Group H winner in Melbourne

The championship match will be on 20 August in Sydney.

FIFA announced that ticket sales for the Women’s World Cup have passed the 1.7 million mark – the most ever – and that American Rebecca Sheely from Colorado was the 1,000,000th attendee, at the U.S.-Portugal match in Auckland.

Hammer star Berry hit with 16-month doping suspension

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced that hammer thrower Gwen Berry, a two-time Olympian and former American Record holder, has been suspended for 16 months for doping:

“Berry, 34, tested positive for canrenone, a metabolite of spironolactone as the result of an out-of-competition urine sample collected on March 23, 2023. Berry’s violation resulted from her use of a topical medication containing spironolactone for which she had a prescription. However, Berry failed to obtain a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for the medication.

“Spironolactone and canrenone are Specified Substances in the class of Diuretics and Masking Agents and are prohibited at all times.”

Berry’s suspension began on 28 April 2023 and runs through 27 August 2024, meaning she will not be able to pursue a third Olympic berth in 2024. She has not competed at all in 2023; her last competition was at the 2022 USATF Nationals in Eugene, Oregon, where she placed seventh.

Berry is one of the all-time greats of American women’s hammer throwing and helped usher in the current U.S. renaissance in the event. She set American Records of 76.77 m (251-10) in 2017 and 77.78 m (255-2) in 2018 and was the U.S. national champ in 2017 as well. She was the U.S. champ in the indoor Weight Throw in 2013-14-17 and set a world best for the Weight in 2017 at 25.60 m (84-0).

She has also been a high-profile critic of racism in the U.S., raising her fist during the victory ceremony at the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru and turning away from the flag during the victory ceremony at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon, at which she placed third.

Biles, Lee and more return to competition
in CoreHydration Classic

They’re back.

The core of the U.S. silver medal team from the Tokyo Olympic Games, including the iconic Simone Biles, are slated to return to competition on Saturday at the 39th CoreHydration Classic (formerly the U.S. Classic) at the NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, outside of Chicago.

USA Gymnastics announced that Biles, 19-time World Champion four-time Olympic gold medalist, will return to competition for the first time since the Tokyo Games, where she won a Team silver and Beam bronze after suffering from a loss of spatial awareness during her routines (“the twisties”).

Biles is no stranger to the event, having won the All-Around in 2015-18-19-21. She will be joined by Tokyo Olympic All-Around gold medalist Suni Lee, who concentrated on collegiate gymnastics during the 2022 and 2023 seasons at Auburn, and Jade Carey, the Oregon State star who won the Tokyo Olympic Floor Exercise gold.

The line-up also includes Tokyo Olympic Team silver winner Jordan Chiles, who took World silvers in Vault and Floor, 2021 World Champs All-Around runner-up Leanne Wong – the defending All-Around champ – and 2021 Worlds All-Around bronze winner Kayla DiCello.

The women’s Saturday sessions will be shown live on CNBC at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Central, with a highlights package on NBC on Sunday.

The U.S. Classic had been a women’s-only competition for decades, but opened to men’s event last year; the men will compete on Sunday this time. Yul Moldauer, the 2017 Worlds Vault bronze medalist, leads the field, with 2014 Worlds Team bronze winner Donnell Whittenburg, 2021 World Pommel Horse Champion Stephen Nedoroscik and Tokyo Olympian Shane Wiskus.

The U.S. Classic has been an important ramp-up events for the USA Gymnastics nationals and Worlds selection meet, which will follow quickly from 24-27 August in San Jose, California.

Massive World Cycling Championships start in Glasgow

A closely-watched experiment in mega-event engineering begins Thursday in Scotland as the Union Cycliste Internationale opens its first Cycling World Championships, with 13 disciplines included from 3 to 13 August:

Olympic: BMX, BMX Freestyle (2 disciplines), Mountain Bike (1), Road, Track.

Non-Olympic: Gran Fondo, Indoor, Mountain Bike (2), Para-Cycling (2), Trials.

The track event finals begin on Thursday, with the women’s Team Sprint, Individual Pursuit and the men’s Scratch Race, and continues through 9 August.

The high-profile road races come this weekend, with the men’s and women’s Junior Road Races on Saturday and the men’s Elite Road Race on Sunday. The 271.1 km route from Edinburgh to Glasgow has one modest climb and downhill in the first third of the race and then a fairly flat, nine-lap route to the finish.

The favorites figure to be Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar, Belgium’s defending champion Remco Evenepoel, France’s 2020-21 winner Julian Alaphilippe, Denmark’s 2019 champion Mads Pedersen, Belgium’s 2020 silver medalist Wout van Aert and teammate Jasper Philipsen and France’s Christophe Laporte.

Television coverage, coordinated by Eurovision Sport, will reach 120 countries and is expected to surpass 240 hours of all the disciplines combined. In the U.S., coverage is planned on ESPN and FloSports.

The UCI has received significant assistance from the Scotland government and Glasgow tourism, making this new event an experiment to see if bigger is better. The all-disciplines Cycling Worlds is designed as a once-every-four-years event, with the next edition in 2027.

The Russian news agency TASS reported that 24 Russians are being allowed to compete as “neutrals,” with four rejected. Those allowed include 2019 European Games Team Pursuit gold medalist Gleb Syritsa on the track, and two-time European Mountain Bike champ Alexei Medvedev. A total of 21 Belarusian athletes were also approved by the UCI.

World University Games open, Russian copy coming 19 August

The 31st World University Games opened in Chengdu (CHN) last Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping opening the event and competition continuing through 8 August.

The event is somewhat scaled down compared to some recent editions, but still has about 6,500 athletes from 113 countries competing in 269 events across 18 sports. In addition to the 15 compulsory sports, the Chengdu organizers added rowing, shooting and wushu. China has, of course, the largest delegation at 411 athletes, competing in all 18 sports.

The preparations include an interesting, four-page, English-language FISU Games Daily, with two pages on the results of the events and two pages about Chengdu and China. The 31 July edition included the medal table, with “P.R. China” at the top and included entries for “China’s Macao” and “China’s Hong Kong.”

The 2023 Universiade was originally scheduled for Yekaterinburg (RUS), but was removed by the International University Sport Federation (FISU) due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Instead, Chengdu – which could not host the 2021 WUG due to Covid – moved in as host.

However, the Russians were not interested in giving up the event and have organized a substitute program called the “University International Sports Festival” – in Yekaterinburg – to take place on 19-31 August.

The Russian news agency TASS reported that the Russian organizers expect athletes from 37 countries to compete, with perhaps 4,000 athletes in total.

Russian officials have made it clear that the Yekaterinburg award has not been canceled by FISU, but only suspended and expects to host the event in the future. They will have to wait, as FISU has already assigned the 2025 WUG to the Rhine-Ruhr region in Germany, to the Chungcheong mega-city bid in South Korea for 2017 and the North Carolina bid from the U.S. for 2029.

The Universiade is limited to athletes who are in college or a year out and between 17-25 years of age. But there are no qualifying standards, leading to a Tuesday situation in which 18-year-old Somali Nasro Abukar Ali was entered in the women’s 100 m and finished last in heat three in 21.81, essentially a casual run from start to finish. The next slowest was 13.64.

The Associated Press reported:

“Somalia’s sports minister publicly apologized Wednesday and ordered that the chairwoman of the national track and field federation be suspended after a seemingly untrained female sprinter represented the African country at the World University Games in China and took more than 20 seconds to finish a 100-meter race.”

The Somali sports ministry also instructed the Somalia Olympic Committee to suspend national athletics federation chair Khadija Aden Dahir on allegations that Abukar was a relative; the country’s FISU federation said it did not send any running athletes to Chengdu.


● Athletics ● World Athletics announced that a training camp for 40 Ukrainian athletes and officials is being funded by the federation and the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Solidarity.

The team is being Banska Bystrica, Slovakia in advance of the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest (HUN) from 19-27 August.

Ukrainian Athletic Association Secretary General Iolanta Khropach offered thanks:

“Your unwavering belief in us has made a profound impact on the life of our team and the opportunities to prepare for world-class competitions,” she said. “Thanks to your support, we have been able to provide the best athletes of the Ukrainian team with the necessary conditions on the final stage of the preparation to the World Athletic Championships in Budapest to achieve their sports goals. We are happy to see your willingness to lend a helping hand in difficult times for us during the war.”

World Athletics reported distributing more than $220,000 to support Ukrainian athletes in 2022 and $190,000 so far this year.

The Chinese port city of Xiamen will host the Diamond League stop scheduled for Shenzhen on 2 September and will host a Chinese stop on the circuit for 10 years, through 2032. Meets will be held at the new, 53,000-capacity Egret Stadium.

● Cycling ● The Union Cycliste Internationale’s Management Committee approved the introduction of a new class of women’s professional teams in road cycling:

“This means that UCI ProTeams for women will appear from 2025. The introduction of this division, positioned between the existing UCI Women’s WorldTeams (1st division) and UCI Women’s Continental Teams (to become 3rd division), was initially scheduled for the 2026 season. However, in view of the current boom in women’s cycling, and following consultation with stakeholders, the decision was taken to bring forward the launch by one year.

“This new initiative will also enable a greater number of female riders to benefit from a professional framework. With the introduction of the women’s UCI ProTeams, women’s teams are now structured according to the same model as men’s teams.”

● Swimming ● calculated – unofficially – the biggest money winners in the swimming sector of the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka (JPN), strongly influenced by world-record payouts.

World Aquatics paid event placers from 1-8 prizes of $20,000-15,000-10,000-6,000-5,000-4,000-3,000-2,000 or $65,000 per event. There were also world-record bonuses of $30,000 per event, awarded individually, or split amongst relay team members. SwimSwam’s calculations of the top individuals and teams:

1. $103,690: Mollie O’Callaghan (AUS)
2. $100,000: Ruta Meilutyte (LTU)
3. $95,000: Haiyang Qin (CHN)
4. $92,400: Leon Marchand (FRA)
5. $85,357: Ariarne Titmus (AUS)

The top American prize winner were Regan Smith and Katie Ledecky, tied for ninth with $57,500. Some 299 swimmers were shown to win $400 or more. The top-earning teams:

1. $657,833: United States
2. $637,000: Australia
3. $313,000: China
4. $177,000: France
5. $171,000: Great Britain

The calculations showed 38 teams with winnings of $2,000 or more.

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