TSX REPORT: T&F stars love World Athletics’ $50,000 pay for Paris gold; Olympic Torch Relay on in Greece; last major ticket drop for Paris 2024

Lighting of the Olympic Flame at Olympia (Photo: IOC/Greg Martin)

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1. T&F stars fully in support of $50,000 first prize for Paris
2. Olympic Flame lit at Olympia and torch relay starts
3. U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team roster leaked
4. Last major Paris 2024 ticket sale: 250,000 available Wednesday
5. Was something rotten at the Beijing Half Marathon?

● At the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Media Summit in New York, track & field athletes in two different panels were unanimous in their support of the new, $50,000 prize money to be paid to the winners in Paris this summer. So was Sanya Richards-Ross, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and long-time NBC track & field analyst.

● The Olympic Flame was lit by the sun during a Monday rehearsal and fired the Olympic Torch on an overcast Tuesday at Olympia, with the relay to continue for 11 days in Greece, then moving to France for a massive relay that will end at the Olympic opening in Paris on 26 July.

● A report listing eleven of the 12 members of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team was leaked on Tuesday, to be led by NBA – and Olympic – stars Kevin Durant and LeBron James, but also this time with Steph Curry, Joel Embiid and more. It’s a powerful team, but no shoo-in for another Olympic gold.

● The last big ticket sale for Paris 2024 opened on Wednesday, with 250,000 new tickets now available for the Games, including new tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies, athletics, basketball and so on. Paris 2024 has already sold more than 8.8 million of its projected 10 million tickets available for the Olympic Games.

● Inquiries are being made about the recent Beijing Half Marathon, where star Chinese marathoner Jie He was waved on to the win by one of the three African runners ahead of him less than 600 m from the finish. World Athletics is aware and is interested to know if there was some collusion on the results.

Panorama: Los Angeles 2028 (sponsor Salesforce leaves, but Guild signs on) = Artistic Swimming (Hu and Martinez win U.S. Nationals Solo titles) = Badminton (U.S. wins four of five titles at Pan Am Champs) = Ice Hockey (Edwards named Women’s World MVP) ●

Schedule: TSX will not appear on Thursday due to a scheduling conflict, and Friday’s post will be late. Apologies in advance. ●

T&F stars fully in support of $50,000 first prize for Paris

At the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Media Summit in New York, U.S. track & field stars were unanimously in favor of the newly-announced and first-ever $50,000 first-place prizes for the Paris Olympic Games to be paid by World Athletics.

Gabby Thomas, the Tokyo Olympic women’s 200 m bronze medalist, was the first to ring the bell:

“I do love it … I do love that track & field is pioneering this. So for this Olympic Games, the winner will be getting prize money – $50,000 – and then in the L.A. Olympics, all the medalists will be receiving a prize for their accomplishment.

“And I think this is amazing. We’ve been talking about paying athletes for their hard work, for being in the Olympic Games, for so long now, and the times are changing a little bit, and I like to see that athletes are really, really being appreciated for the hard work that they put into it.

“But it also just kind of levels the playing field a little bit, too. I mean Oksana [Masters, a Paralympic star] was just talking about how much the support is so helpful, and means so much to so many people.

“We don’t know every athlete’s story, we don’t know what it takes to get there, we don’t how many resources they need or what they don’t have access to, or need access to, to achieve their dreams. So anytime you can have any type of support for athletes – we’re not receiving a lot – this is really just done off of hopes and dreams and effort and a lot of people don’t have the same opportunities.

“So to see track & field make a difference in that way is remarkable and I can’t wait to see the other sports follow suit.”

A following all-track panel was also unanimous with praise.

“Cha-ching. It’s more money in my bank account,” said 2024 World Indoor long jump champ Tara Davis-Woodhall, a serious contender to win one of those prizes.

“That’s good. It’s evolving. We were talking about this earlier; World Athletics, it’s not their area, so to give money up like that, in an area they’re not even sponsoring and they’re just giving money to their athletes, that’s pretty cool.”

Everyone was on the same page:

Fiona O’Keefe, the surprise winner of the women’s Olympic Marathon Trials race:

“I think it’s great that they’re doing it across all event groups, too, because I’m lucky that there’s a little bit more opportunity in distance running, but – for example – I have a friend who’s a hammer thrower. He’s one of the best in the world at his event and he has to work another job. And he shouldn’t have to, because he’s every bit as elite as I am, so I think it’s great that there’s some effort to equalize things.”

Kenny Bednarek, the Tokyo Olympic men’s 200 m silver winner:

I’m happy to see it, it’s a step forward for sport, and honestly, it’s about time, because you have athletes who work their butt off – blood, sweat and tears – every single day, every single year and some compensation is needed for them.

“There’s some cases where you might have somebody who’s at that level, but they’re not sponsored, so that would help them in the long run, for the next couple of months or the next couple of years. So I’m just happy to see improvement on that point.”

Keira D’Amato, the former U.S. women’s marathon record holder, who will try to make the Paris team in the 10,000 m:

“And I think it ensures that the athletes who are the top in the world have the funds to continue this and continue their passion and be able to compete at this levcl for longer time. I think that it’s awesome that they are doing it, and they contnue to move forward in that way.”

NBC track & field analyst Sanya Richards-Ross, the four–time Olympic gold winner in the women’s 400 m and relays, was the host of the panel and agreed emphatically:

“It’s nice to see World Athletics lead the way on something that I think is long overdue. I do believe that Olympic athletes deserve to be paid, deserve to have prize monies. Most of the athletes that compete in the Olympics nowadays are not amateur; the majority of athletes you see compete are professional.

“And just like any other profession, they should be rewarded for their efforts, so I’m really, really, really proud that World Athletics is doing something this huge and I hope that other sports will follow suit, including Paralympic organizations because every one of these athletes is the absolute best, the most elite. It takes so much to get to this level and it’s really almost impossible to think that athletes are doing this while having other jobs or having to do other things. So, I’m really, really proud of World Athletics and hope that they will do more in the future, and I hope other organizations will do the same.”

“We’re still rocking with it: Kung Fu Kenny.”

Bednarek also described how he acquired his nickname, not simply about the colorful headbands he wears during competitions:

“In 2021, I was pretty new to the scene, I came out pro in 2019, and the whole Covid thing happened, so actually being able to go overseas, then just compete on the regular [circuit], I wanted to stand out as an athlete because every time you watch a race you have Nike, adidas, whoever, all of us look the same with the same uniform.

“I said for women, it’s a little bit easier to differentiate them, because they can change the hair color, the nails and all that stuff. Guys can do it too, but it’s not the same, so I was like, ‘what can I do that would make me ‘me,’ like that wouldn’t make me go out of my comfort zone, so ‘Kung Fu Kenny’ – I like Kendrick Lamar, so he says ‘Kung Fu Kenny’ in some of his songs, and I also like anime.

“So I chose ‘Kung Fu Kenny’ because it has a set of values which pertain to me, which is humbleness, dedication, discipline and respect, so I just wanted to live those on and off the track daily and then, also, you know, we have the headband, so I do the little bow every single time before the race.

“That’s how ‘Kung Fu Kenny’ became a thing.”

Olympic Flame lit at Olympia and torch relay starts

It was cloudy at the Temple of Hera at ancient Olympia, so the Olympic Flame for Paris 2024 was lit by a standby flame, kindled by the sun on Monday. But with the ceremony, the formal movement of the torch towards Paris has begun.

A new High Priestess – Greek actress Mary Mina – led the ceremonial elements, followed by remarks, including from International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER), which included:

“This power of sport will make the Olympic Games Paris 2024 a great symbol of human excellence and unity of all humankind in all our diversity. These expectations are shared by billions of people around the world.

“In these difficult times we are living through, with wars and conflicts on the rise, people are fed up with all the hate, the aggression and negative news they are facing day in and day out. In their hearts – in all our hearts – we are longing for something which brings us together. We are longing for something that is unifying. We are longing for something that gives us hope.”

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, French sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo attended the ceremony.

The first torchbearer was Greek Stefanos Ntouslos, the 20024 Olympic rowing gold medalist in Single Sculls. He passed to the first French torchbearer, swimmer Laure Manaudou, the Athens 2004 winner in the women’s 400 m Freestyle.

From this point, the Olympic Torch will move through Greece on a 5,000 km route that will reach 43 cities and towns and then be transferred to the Paris organizers at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.

It will sail on the French tall ship Belem, which will carry the torch to Marseille, where it will be welcomed on 8 May by a crowd projected at 150,000.

The Paris 2024 relay will comprise 69 days, about 10,000 torchbearers and 400 cities and towns, including to six overseas territories: Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Martinique, French Polynesia, Réunion and New Caledonia, before finally arriving for the Olympic opening on 26 July in Paris.

Observed: The importance of the Olympic Torch has especially been felt in the host country, not only as a reminder that the Games are coming, but has often been a turning point in local support for the event. Whether truly inspiring or simply sentimental, the Torch makes an impact and heightens the awareness that the event really is coming, and soon.

U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team roster leaked

A powerful and experienced U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team will arrive in Paris as overwhelming favorites, led by three-time gold medalist Kevin Durant and two-time winner LeBron James.

They are among 11 players leaked on Tuesday, of the 12 who will be selected by USA Basketball, with 1996 Olympic gold medalist Grant Hill leading the selection process. The 11 players said to be selected:

● C Bam Adebayo ~ 2020 gold
● G Devin Booker ~ 2020 gold
● SG Stephen Curry ~ first Olympic Games
● C Anthony Davis ~ 2012 gold
● PF Kevin Durant ~ 2012-2016-2020 gold
● SG Anthony Edwards ~ first Olympic Games
● C Joel Embiid ~ first Olympic Games
● PG Tyrese Haliburton ~ first Olympic Games
● G Jrue Holiday ~ 2020 gold
● PF LeBron James ~ 2008-2012 gold, 2004 bronze
● SF Jayson Tatum ~ 2020 gold

The U.S. will have a training camp in June and exhibition games against Canada on 10 July (in Las Vegas), and in London against South Sudan on 20 July and 2023 FIBA World Cup champs Germany on 22 July. The U.S. will open Olympic play on 28 July in Lille against Serbia and then play South Sudan on the 31st.

The American men are 143-6 all-time in Olympic play and have won four golds in a row, following a bronze in 2004. And although Durant willed the U.S. to another gold in Tokyo, it came after a pool-play loss to France, and the final was a tight, 87-72 rematch win against the French.

Last major Paris 2024 ticket sale: 250,000 available Wednesday

“More than 250,000 tickets for the Olympic Games will go on sale on this occasion, for all the sports on the Programme and all the sessions! This will be the last ticket sale before the Games for all the Olympic sports (31 sports out of the 32 on the Paris 2024 programme, as surfing is not ticketed) …

“More than half of the 250,000 new tickets will be offered for sale at €100 or less, which includes almost 20,000 tickets priced at €24, while sports previously advertised as sold out will one again be available.”

These are tickets which had been held for possible construction issues, possible television camera positions and other contingencies, but can now be sold as the planning is completed. Among the new releases:

● 35,000 for beach volleyball from €24 to €420 (€1 = $1.06 U.S.);
● 15,000 for swimming from €24 to €980;
● 12,000 for tennis from €24 to €420;
● 12,000 for table tennis €24 to €280.
● 9,000 for the equestrian in the gardens of the Château de Versailles, from €24 to €420.

Also new tickets for the Ceremonies will be sold, with Opening Ceremony at €90 and Closing Ceremony at €250. Tickets for athletics at the Stade de France are also available, from €24 to €980.

Paris 2024 has said more than 8.8 million out of 10 million Olympic tickets have already been sold, with 63% of buyers from France. The Associated Press reported the “top 10-selling sports in order: soccer, track and field, basketball, rugby sevens, volleyball, handball, beach volleyball, field hockey, tennis and water polo.”

Was something rotten at the Beijing Half Marathon?

Inquiries are being made about last Sunday’s Beijing Half Marathon, won by 2023 Asian Games Marathon winner Jie He of China, who crossed first in 1:03:44 after being waved on by three African runners who were in position to win.

A statement by the race organizers to the Chinese digital site, The Paper, included: “The situation is still being confirmed and verified by multiple parties. Further information will be communicated as soon as possible.”

He is no slouch, having set a national record of 2:05:49 for the marathon on 24 March, finishing fourth at the Wuxi Marathon. He is sponsored by the Chinese sports apparel company Xstep, which is also a sponsor of the Beijing Half. The Paper reported (computer translation from the original Chinese):

“[T]he broadcast footage showed that in the last few hundred meters, He Jie was originally lagging behind. Some of the three foreign athletes looked back and waved their hands. Later, He Jie completed the overtake and finally won the championship with a one-second advantage.”

In fact, the video shows Kenyan Willy Mnangat gesturing to the other two runners at the front of the race to slow down in the final straightaway and let He go by and win the race. Mnangat told the BBC, “I was not there to compete. My job was to set the pace and help the guy win but unfortunately, he did not achieve the target, which was to break the national record.”

Kenyan Robert Keter and Ethiopian Dejene Hailu Bikila were the other two runners at the front, with He trying for the national Half mark of 1:02:33, but well behind.

A statement from World Athletics to BBC Sport said: “We are aware of the footage circulating online from the Beijing half marathon this weekend and understand an investigation is currently being conducted by the relevant local authorities.

“The integrity of our sport is the highest priority at World Athletics, while this investigation is ongoing we are unable to provide further comment.”


● Olympic Games 2028: Los Angeles ● The LA28 organizers have “decided to amicably parted ways” with Salesforce, one of its three top-tier sponsors, announced in a Los Angeles Times story on Tuesday. It retains deals with Comcast and Delta Airlines at its high sponsorship level – “Founding Partners” – those agreements were announced in 2020 and 2021.

LA28 and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced a new deal with Guild, which provides “curated education and learning programs designed for the success of working adults.” According to the statement:

Guild will serve as an Official Education, Skilling & Career Mobility Provider of Team USA and LA28, providing a first-of-its-kind opportunity for Team USA athletes to receive education and career development opportunities with personalized one-on-one coaching to support athletes in building competitive careers alongside their athletic achievements.”

● Artistic Swimming ● At the USA Artistic Swimming national championships in Houston, Texas, Angel Hu won the women’s Solo Technical final and Ana Martinez took the Solo Free, while Olivia Perez and Haley Chu won the Duet Technical final and Sophie Schroeder and Mona Schweikert won the women’s Duet Free Final. Chris Leahy won the men’s Solo Final.

● Badminton ● The U.S. claimed four titles in five divisions at the XXVII Pan American Championships, held in Guatemala City (GUA), that finished last Saturday.

Top-seeded Beiwin Zhang won the women’s Singles over Canada’s Michelle Li by 21-18, 18-21, 21-17, for her second career Pan Am title, also in 2021.

Allison Lee won two golds, first in the women’s Doubles with Presley Smith in the all-American Mixed Doubles final over Vinson Chiu and Jennie Gal: 15-21, 21-15, 21-14. Lee than won the women’s Doubles with Francesca Corbett, against Annie Xu and Karen Xu of the U.S., 21-1, 21-15.

In the men’s Doubles, Zhi Yi Chen and Smith won in straight sets against Canada’s Dong Adam and Nuyl Yakura, 21-14, 21-11.

Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon took the men’s Singles with a 21-16, 21-15 triumph against El Salvador’s Uriel Francisco Canjura.

● Ice Hockey ● The U.S. lost to Canada in the final of the IIHF Women’s World Championship held in Utica, New York, but did pick up an honor for scoring star Laila Edwards, named Most Valuable Player in the tournament.

Edwards had six goals, tied for the lead with teammate Alex Carpenter, and Carpenter and teammates Hilary Knight and Caroline Harvey tied for the points lead with 10.

The Tournament Directorate Awards included Carpenter as Best Forward, Canada’s Renata Fast as Best Defender and Germany’s Sandra Abstreiter as the best goalie.

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