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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. U.S. women win 30th straight FIBA World Cup game, fourth straight title
2. Bach looks to reinstate “anti-war” Russians?
3. Kremlev expects Russians to return to boxing soon
4. Chile and Peru continue World Cup push at Court of Arbitration
5. Track & field isn’t the only sport with marketing problems
One of the most dominant U.S. international-sport teams in history is in women’s basketball and the 2022 edition won all eight games, its fourth consecutive title and out-scored its opponents by a combined 790-464. The U.S. women have now won 30 straight FIBA Women’s World Cup games in a row and qualified for Paris 2024. Wow. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER) said a way should be found – eventually – to allow Russian who repudiate the war in Ukraine to be able to compete internationally again; this drew wide condemnation from Russian officials. International Boxing Association President Umar Kremlev (RUS) said, essentially, Russian athletes should be able to compete regardless of the war in Ukraine and does not seem overly concerned about losing Olympic status. Chile and Peru continues their push to disqualify an Ecuadorian player as ineligible and force their way into the 2022 FIFA World Cup, now at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. And while the track & field cognoscenti wail about the sport’s lack of public porfile, other sports feel the same pain, as demonstrated by Russian Short Track star Semen Elistratov.
U.S. women win 30th straight FIBA World Cup game, fourth straight title
It wasn’t easy, but the U.S. women won their 30th straight FIBA Women’s World Cup game to take their fourth straight title in a hard-fought, 83-61 win over China on Saturday before 15,895 at the Sydney Superdome in Australia.
Both teams struggled in a low-scoring first quarter, with the U.S. taking an 18-13 lead, the same score as in their group-stage game. But the game opened up in the second quarter with a 25-20 U.S. advantage and a 43-33 lead.
This felt similar to the group-stage game between the two, with the Americans then holding a 19-point lead, but China closing back to nine with a strong third quarter. Not this time. The U.S. out-scored China, 25-14, in the third and had a commanding, 21-point margin going into the fourth and added a point to the lead for the final margin of 22.
China’s 6-7 center, Yueru Li, had 19 and 12 rebounds, tied for scoring honors with U.S. forward A’ja Wilson. The U.S. had four in double figures, as instant-offense guard Kelsey Plum had 17, guard Jewell Loyd had 11 and Chelsea Gray had 10. While the Americans out-shot China by just 44.6-42.9%, the U.S. put up 74 shots to 56.
The U.S. finished 8-0 in the tournament and won its 30th straight FIBA World Cup match going back to 2006. Cheryl Reeve, the coach of the WNBA Minnesota Lynx, was an assistant on the winning 2014 and 2018 World Cup teams and now the head coach of a World Cup champion.
Wilson was named Most Valuable Player and Wilson and Breanna Stewart were named All-Tournament First Team, along with Canada’s Bridget Carleton, Australian guard Steph Talbot and Chinese center Han Xu.
American Alyssa Thomas was named Best Defender, and the U.S. held its eight opponents to an average of just 58.0 points a game, while averaging 98.8 points a game on offense.
The U.S. won its fourth straight title, six out of seven and eight of the last 11. It’s the 11th title overall for the U.S., with the USSR second with six; the American women have won a medal in this tournament in 12 straight editions. China won silver for the second time, also in 1994, also in Australia. The U.S. qualifies for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games with the victory in the final.
Home favorite Australia won the bronze medal in a 95-65 rout over Canada, with Lauren Jackson setting a record for the most career World Cup games played (43) and leading all scorers with 30 points.
Bach looks to reinstate “anti-war” Russians?
The President of the International Olympic Committee is trying to figure out how to bring Russian athletes out from the cold, where the IOC put them in February.
In a story published on Friday (30th), Thomas Bach (GER) said in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera:
“It is not about necessarily having Russia back. It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition.
“Here comes our dilemma – this war has not been started by the Russian athletes. But we saw that some governments did not want to respect anymore the autonomy of international sports. …
“This is why we’ve had to take these protective measures to be at least still a little bit in the driving seat and not lose all autonomy. And this is why, on the other hand, we also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”
But nothing is happening right now:
“There is no change in the recommendations … We are very grateful to the International Federations that they are following them. …
“Sport is increasingly becoming an occasion for political retribution. This is a world full of conflicts, in sports we are seeing divisions. The mission of the Olympic Movement is to promote peace while remaining politically neutral, now we need to understand how we can do this. The organization of the Olympic Games serves to bring people together, especially in difficult moments.”
The Russian reaction was immediate condemnation:
● Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Chernyshenko: “Russian athletes are patriots and do not sell their homeland, for several years our athletes have experienced the prejudiced attitude of international sports organizations, including the IOC, their removal from competitions has become the apogee. What have our opponents achieved? Deprived world sport of objectivity, healthy competition and entertainment.”
● Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov: “From today’s statement by IOC President Thomas Bach, we can conclude that Russian athletes are offered to exchange their nationality and civic position for the humiliating neutral status of performing on the international arena. In this situation, artificially created by the recommendations of the IOC Executive Board, our athletes are, in fact, forced to violate the laws of their country and the Olympic Charter.”
● Russian Wrestling Federation President, Mikhail Mamiashvili: “What does it mean to distance oneself from power? Strange wording. That is, we are offered to admit that each of us is a Judas, to renounce our state, our country, our president? And then what? I doubt that the Olympic principles are based on the principles of betrayal, we live in some kind of looking glass.”
● National gymnastics team coach Valentina Rodionenko: “None of the athletes will ever agree to betray their country. All of us will not compete under such conditions.”
The Olympic Games were canceled three times, all due to World Wars, vaporizing the 1916, 1940 and 1944 Games. Germany and Japan were not invited to the London 1948 Games, held three years after their 1945 surrenders at the end of World War II (remember, there was no treaty formally ending the war), but did compete at Helsinki 1952, seven years after.
With Russia’s aggression in Ukraine still ongoing, what’s the rush?
Kremlev expects Russians to return to boxing soon
Now fully confirmed as the President of the International Boxing Association through 2026, Russian Umar Kremlev told the “Russia – A Sports Power” conference in Siberia last week:
“As the president of the International Boxing Association, I want to say that managers should not deprive either the anthem or the flag, but should call for world peace. And today I would urge my colleagues to stop sabotaging, and join and help athletes participate in all international competitions and not to deprive them of either the anthem or the flag, this is the most important thing for an athlete. They are not coming for the sake of medals, but to represent their country, their people.
“I think that in the near future the International Boxing Association will have no right to deprive our beloved athletes of their achievements, their dreams, we must create conditions for them – this is our duty, we come to develop sports and help, create, not destroy or play political games.”
In the meantime, the IBA Board turned the politics of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on its head, stating that despite its – highly dubious – suspension of the Ukrainian Boxing Federation, it was allowing Ukrainian boxers to compete under their own flag at the European Junior Championships in Montesilvano (ITA), and paying for the team’s expenses. Said Kremlev:
“I reiterate that all boxers must be allowed to compete under their national flag, no matter what. … The time has now come to allow all the rest of the athletes of Russia and Belarus to participate in all the official competitions of their sports representing their countries.”
Observed: Will all this help the IBA’s return to the Olympic Movement? Probably not, but Kremlev does not appear too concerned:
At the close of the IBA Extraordinary Congress in Armenia on 25 September, he acknowledged the Olympic-inclusion issue but essentially told the delegates that boxing is more important to him than being part of the Olympic Games:
“I am working for you, not a side organization. … We are saying today that we are an independent organization, that we are here to protect our IBA that we all love. And we shouldn’t say ‘Olympic boxing,’ we should say ‘IBA boxing.’ We have to get to the point where boxing will be part of the Olympic Games in 2024 as well as 2028. We’ll do our best, with the team and with you, and no one can exclude us from anywhere. …
“The most important should be the World Series [of Boxing], however, because for the IBA and the boxers this is our house … this is what we will do; as an organization, should be the most important for us. …
“Today, I have heard in this hall, a couple of expressions, ‘what will happen with boxing when it comes to Olympic Games’? We will join our forces, we will do a great job and we will defend the name of boxing to be part of the Olympic program, but this will not be the only thing we will do. Most importantly, we have to protect the interests of the IBA, our own organization. … Our World Series must become the important competitions.”
Chile and Peru continue World Cup push at Court of Arbitration
In the South American qualification tournament for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Ecuador finished fourth with 26 points (7-6-5 W-L-T) to advance to Qatar.
But Chile and Peru are both protesting that Ecuador used an ineligible player – right back Byron Castillo – for eight of the qualifying games and is asking for a forfeit of these games. The FIFA Disciplinary Committee cleared Castillo, as did the FIFA Appeal Committee, so the matter is now with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Per the announcement of the separate appeals by the two football federations:
“The appeal filed by the Peruvian Football Federation (FPF) is directed at the FEF and FIFA. The FPF requests that Ecuador be excluded from the FIFA World Cup 2022 and replaced by Peru, which is the best runner-up. The appeal filed by the Chilean Football Association (FFCH) is directed at the FEF, the player Byron David Castillo Segura, and FIFA. The FFCH requests CAS to rule that the Player was ineligible for the 8 matches played in the Qualifiers, declaring those matches as forfeited and placing Chile in the 4th position in the South America 2022 World Cup Qualifiers. Both appellants request that CAS issue its final award on or before 10 November 2022 at the latest.”
The Chileans have complained that Castillo was actually born in Colombia and should be ineligible to play for Ecuador and the eight games he played in should be forfeited. That would move Chile up to fourth and into a qualifying position for Qatar. Peru finished fifth and lost a play-in game against Australia to go to Qatar, but says now that Ecuador should be disqualified altogether for using an ineligible player and it should be advance to fourth and qualify.
The World Cup begins on 10 November, Ecuador is in Group A with host Qatar, Netherlands and Senegal.
Track & field isn’t the only sport with marketing problems
The Russian news agency TASS conducted an interesting interview with 2015 World Short Track 1,500 m champ Semen Elistratov, who won an Olympic gold in Sochi in 2014 on the men’s 5,000 m relay. It turns out he feels the lack of attention to his sport just as much as it heard in the U.S. from many Olympic sports, such as track & field.
Asked about his sport continuing to lag behind football, figure skating and hockey, he replied:
“Many athletes are closed [to promoting themselves and their sport]. I am also against getting into some things, I don’t post photos with my wife and son on social networks, this is too important for me, I don’t want other people’s eyes to see it. But since we are public people, communication is our job. This is necessary to popularize your sport, this is an absolutely normal thing.
“I can say that in Ufa [in Russia]. it is after Beijing that they recognize me, this was not the case either after Sochi or after Pyeongchang, but for some reason after Beijing. Once in a taxi they asked me if I knew Semen Elistratov, I modestly said that I knew him.
“If we take the promotion and media component of our sport, I can say that everything is hard. Before the competition, there should be press conferences, to gather athletes to communicate with the press – this is normal. Here we will have the championship of Russia, but will it be shown, for example, on Match TV? It is unlikely, but the Russian Figure Skating Championship is broadcast on Channel One. But it’s hard to compare, if you go to girls figure skaters on Instagram [banned in Russia as it is owned by Meta, considered ‘extremist’], they all have a million subscribers, which means people are watching, they like it.
“I do what I can, you can give an informational reason, go drunk to swim in the fountain – ‘Olympic champion Semyon Elistratov bathes in the fountain.’ Is it a good piece of information? But, on the other hand, for me it is immoral.
“I think that broadcasting requires a lot of money, but I don’t know where to get it. This is probably the work of experts. I have never had the task of making everyone around me find out, I take this calmly. The history of short track skating isn’t that big, so I don’t have any resentment.”
Elistratov, now 32, would like to go to the Milan Cortina 2026 Winter Games – which would be his fourth – but with one condition:
“It is imperative to go to the next Games, but if there is a requirement to sign a declaration that I actually renounce my country, then there can be no question of a trip.”
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡
● Shooting ● The ISSF World Championships in Shotgun continue, with the Trap events concluding with the men’s and women’s Team events.
Great Britain took the men’s title, out-scoring the Czech Republic by 7-1 in the final. Italy and Finland had go to a shoot-off in the women’s title match, with Italy scoring a 3-0 win after a 5-5 tie in regulation.
Britain’s Nathan Hales, 26, scored three medals in his three events: gold in the Men’s Team, and silvers in the Mixed Team and men’s Trap final.
● Volleyball ● The FIVB Women’s World Championship in the Netherlands and Poland continues, with the first round of group play completed. Italy (5-0) won Group A; Turkey (4-1) took Group B, Serbia (5-0) and the U.S. (4-1) were 1-2 in Group C and China, Japan and Brazil (all 4-1) were 1-2-3 in Group D.
The U.S. won its first four matches against Kazakhstan, Canada, Bulgaria and Germany, but was swept aside by Serbia in the final group match, 25-20, 25-23, 25-15.
The next set of matches will be held from 4-9 October, with the top four teams from each group assigned into new pools, and the top four from these second-round groups qualifying to the quarterfinals. The results against teams already played are counted, and games are played only against teams from other groups.
The U.S. is in Pool F in Lodz (POL), and is “2–1″ with Serbia (3-0) and Canada (1-2) also advancing. The American women – the Tokyo Olympic gold medalists – will play the Dominican Republic, Poland, Turkey and Thailand.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2028: Los Angeles ● The LA28-sponsored bill to assist athletes – California Assembly Bill AB-2747 – was signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom, providing in-state tuition rates across a 10-year period, into 2032.
Athletes training for a sport under the supervision of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and attending a California Community College, Cal State University or University of California campus will pay in-state tuition rates, which are considerably less than those for out-of-state attendees. Beginning 1 July 2032, the in-state tuition rates would apply to athletes training at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center.
● Athletics ● Kenya’s Amos Kipruto and Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw ran away with victories at the 42nd London Marathon on Sunday in speedy times of 2:04:39 and 2:17:26.
Kipruto, who had set a lifetime best of 2:03:13 while placing second at the Tokyo Marathon in March, was part of a seven-man lead group at the half (1:02:14) and held together past 35 km. Kipruto attacked late and built a 17-second lead by the 40 km mark and cruised home to win by 33 seconds over Leul Gebresilase (ETH: 2:05:12) and Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Bashir Abdi (BEL: 2:05:19).
Ethiopian great Kenenisa Bekele was with the lead group through 35 km, but faded to fifth in 2:05:53. Andrew McCann was the top American, in 17th (2:21:39).
Yehualaw won in her marathon debut in Hamburg (GER) in April in 2:17:23 and claimed her second victory of the year after passing the halfway mark in 1:08:46 as part of a lead group of eight. Five were in contention at 35 km, but Yehualaw broke away and led by 16 seconds at 40 km on the way to a 41-second win over defending champ Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN: 2:18:07) and Alemu Megertu (ETH: 2:18:32). Marci Klimek was the top U.S. finisher, in 11th (2:37:56).
American agent and manager Dan Lilot tweeted “$800M for a new football stadium, yet still no M/W T&F and M XC” in reply to the announcement that Northwestern University will be renovating Ryan Field.
There is one difference worth noting. Northwestern’s football project will be privately funded, with – per the announcement – “NO taxpayer financing.”
If track & field-specific funds can be raised, it will get new facilities too. And, no, the new plan for Ryan Field does not include a track.
● Beach Volleyball ● Norway’s World and Olympic champions Anders Mol and Christian Sorum were again the best, this time at the Beach Pro Tour Elite 16 in Paris (FRA).
Seeded second, the Norwegians swept the final, defeating 2013 World Champions Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen (NED) in tightly-contested sets, 21-19, 21-18. It’s the second Elite 16 win this season for Mol and Sorum, in addition to their World Championships gold.
Paolo Nicolai and Samuele Cottafava (ITA) won the bronze-medal match against Marco and Esteban Grimalt (CHI), 21-16, 21-16.
Dutch stars Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon (NED) won the women’s tournament with a 21-16, 22-20 sweep of Anastasija Samoilova and Tina Graudina (LAT). It’s the second Elite 16 victory of the season for the Dutch pair.
Brazil’s 2022 World Champions Ana Patricia Ramos and Duda Lisboa edged Americans Betsi Flint and Kelly Cheng for the bronze, 21-12, 13-21, 15-8.
● Cycling ● The UCI BMX World Cup concluded for 2022 with rounds 7-8 in Bogota (COL), with France’s two-time World Champion Joris Daudet sweeping the weekend series.
Daudet won a tight battle with Britain’s Tokyo silver medalist Kye White, 32.037-32.646 on Saturday and then came back with a 31.956-32.440 win over Izaac Kennedy (AUS) on Sunday, with American Cameron Wood third (33.393). In the seasonal series, France’s 2018 World Champion Sylvain Andre was the winner with 2,537 points, comfortably ahead of Wood (2,249) and Kennedy (2,117).
The women’s round 7 race saw a familiar 1-2 with four-time World Cup champ Laura Smulders (NED) winning at 35.757, ahead of American Anne Willoughby (36.065). But defending World Cup champ – and home favorite – Mariana Pajon, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist – won Sunday’s final race in 35.199, ahead of Merel Smulders (NED: 36.175) and Swiss Zoe Claeesens (36.289). For the season, Laura Smulders won her fifth World Cup title with 3,608 points to 2,858 for Claessens and Tokyo Olympic champ Beth Shriever (GBR: 2,181).
● Equestrian ● Belgium won its third-ever title at the FEI Nations Cup Final in jumping in Barcelona (ESP), with a faultless performance in the championship round.
The team of Koen Verecke (aboard Kasanova de la Pomme), Giles Thomas (Calleryama) and Jerone Guery (Quel Homme de Hus) each had no penalties, while Gregory Wathelet (Iron Man de la Padenborre) had one, but with only the top three scores counting, the Belgians looked perfect on the scoresheet.
France suffered single penalties on two runs and ended up second with four faults. Switzerland also had single faults by two riders and were third with a slower time than the French.
Belgium previously won in 2015 and 2018 and took home €417,000 for the victory. France received €251,000 for silver and the Swiss earned €167,000 in third.
● Football ● An Iranian women’s rights group called “OpenStadiums” has asked FIFA to remove Iran from the 2022 FIFA World Cup because of its abuse of women.
“The Iranian FA is not only an accomplice of the crimes of the regime. It is a direct threat to the security of female fans in Iran and wherever our national team plays in the world. Football should be a safe space for us all. …
“That is why, as Iranian football fans, it is with an extremely heavy heart that we have to raise our deepest concern about Iran’s participation in the upcoming FIFA World Cup.
“Why would FIFA give the Iranian state and its representatives a global stage, while it not only refuses to respect basic human rights and dignities, but is currently torturing and killing its own people? Where are the principles of FIFA’s statues in this regard?
“Therefore, we ask FIFA, based on Articles 3 and 4 of its statutes, to immediately expel Iran from the World Cup 2022 in Qatar. …
“[We] call for action and punishment for years of oppression of women and fans in Iranian sport. The Islamic Republic’s authorities and its football federation must not be given the honour of participating in football’s finest tournament while it is killing its citizens on our streets.”
Iran is competing in Group B at the World Cup in Qatar, with Wales, the U.S. and England.
● Gymnastics ● Americans won two of the four women’s events at the penultimate FIG Artistic World Challenge Cup in Szombathely (HUN).
Addison Fatta, 10th at the U.S. nationals All-Around, won on Vault, scoring an average of 13.366 on her two trials, out-pointing Slovenia’s Teja Belak (13.216). On Floor, Katelyn Jong topped the field at 13.500, ahead of Greta Mayer (HUN), who scored 13.033; fellow American Levi Jung-Ruivivar was sixth (12.666).
Hungary’s Zoja Szekely won the Uneven Bars at 13.733, with Fatta third (13.600) and Jong fifth (13.133). Finland’s Maisa Kuusiko won on Beam, scoring 12.866.
Ukraine’s Ilia Kovtun, the 2021 Worlds All-Around bronze medalist, won the men’s Floor and Parallel Bars events. Nariman Korbanov (KAZ) won on Pommel Horse, Austria’s Vinzenz Hock took the Rings gold, Chinese Taipei’s Wei-sheng Tseng was the Vault winner and Hungary went 1-2 on the Horizontal Bar with Krisztofer Meszaros (14.166) and Krisztian Balazs (14.133).
● Ice Hockey ● The International Ice Hockey Federation’s Semi-Annual Congress in Belek (TUR) approved a “re-entry plan” for Russian and Belarusian teams whenever the situation in Ukraine is resolved:
“Russia and Belarus would return to the categories and divisions in which they were originally placed prior to the Council decision [to remove them].”
This does not means Russian or Belarusian teams are coming back any time soon:
● “Following the IIHF Council decision from 28 February 2022, Russia and Belarus are not allowed to participate in IIHF competitions until further notice. The upcoming 2022/2023 IIHF Championship season will proceed without the participation of these countries.”
● “The deadline for a decision concerning Russia and Belarus is after the last preliminary-round game of the respective IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in the men’s senior category to prepare the championship program for the IIHF Annual Congress.”
Olympic Statman Hilary Evans (GBR) tweeted that only Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Great Britain voted against this. Additional reporting showed that 98 of 119 IIHF members voted in favor, 10 were against – five countries with two votes each – and 11 did not vote.
IIHF President Luc Tardif (FRA) underscored that the decisions were meant for future planning only:
“To be clear, this decision does not indicate a return of the Russian and Belarusian teams to IIHF competition. Congress needed to take this decision so that the IIHF members understand the terms of a future reintegration of these countries into the IIHF program. The IIHF Council will continue to monitor the war in Ukraine.”
But the decision was welcomed in Russia; said former Russian team coach and 1998-92 gold medalist as a center, Vyacheslav Bykov:
“Reason has prevailed, most leaders of the hockey community are well aware that the development of our sport cannot do without the participation of a great nation in it, which does a lot for it. There is already a positive note, we remain in the top division, let’s hope that this is the first positive reaction before the complete lifting of all sanctions against our athletes. Everything largely depends on the international situation.”
The IIHF Congress also approved the plan to – more or less – sell the Women’s World Championship Division I Group A (second tier) to China for three years in return for $3 million per year for 2023, 2024 and 2025, contingent on China being qualified for Division I play. The tournaments would be held in Shenzhen.
Why the deal? According to the announcement:
“As part of the legacy program of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and to further develop ice hockey in the country, the Chinese Ice Hockey Association wants to be more active in hosting IIHF events and organize the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A in front of its home audience.”
Tardif has said that this is the first marketing agreement ever made by the IIHF for women’s hockey. Initially, the money will be used to support each participating team traveling to China with $100,000 in support fees.
The 2023 tournament, featuring China, Denmark, Norway, Slovakia, Austria and the Netherlands, is scheduled for 17-23 April.
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