TSX REPORT: USATF Indoors pits Lyles vs. Coleman; report claims “Olympic shift” from Colorado Springs? distance icon Rono passes at 72

Christian Coleman set the world 60 m indoor record in 2018. Can he beat Noah Lyles this weekend?

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1. Lyles vs. Coleman highlights USATF Indoors
2. Report: “Olympic shift” away from Colorado Springs? What?
3. Norway asks for prison time for ex-IBU chief Besseberg
4. Kenya’s five-time record setter Henry Rono passes at 72
5. British bobsled star Hall calls for better safety at tracks

● The USA Track & Field National Indoor Championships are in Albuquerque on Friday and Saturday, with world indoor 60 m record man Christian Coleman facing 2023 World 100 m champ Noah Lyles as the headliner. But there is a lot more, including qualifying for the World Indoors in Scotland in March.

● A wild television report from a Colorado Springs station, claiming a “shift” of U.S. athletes to North Carolina. Turns out there’s more to the story, mostly about a Colorado Springs effort to market itself as “Olympic City USA.”

● The corruption trial of former International Biathlon Union President Anders Besseberg, 77, concluded in Norway with the prosecution asking for 3 1/2 years in prison, a fine of NOK 1,000,000 and return of excessive gifts. Besseberg said taking a few gifts does not mean he was corrupted.

● Kenyan distance star Henry Rono, who set four world records in 81 days while a Washington State sophomore in 1978, and another world mark in 1981, passed away at age 72. Beyond his brilliant running, he suffered from alcoholism, but recovered to be a teacher and coach.

● The British four-man bob team led by Brad Hall withdrew from the IBSF World Cup races in Altenberg (GER) in protest of what they called unsatisfactory safety conditions that led to significant injuries to Swiss brakeman Sandro Michel during a Tuesday crash.

World Championships: Aquatics (2: Pan, Curzan win Doha titles; Italy vs. Croatia in men’s polo final) = Biathlon (France completes sweep of Mixed relays) ●

Panorama: Russia (Sadulaev turned away from Euros by Romania) = Cricket (ICC men’s U-19 World Cup ends quietly after initial protests against Teeger) = Cross Country Skiing (great FIS feature on U.S. star Jessie Diggins at home for a Minneapolis World Cup) = Gymnastics (FIG sets up pay-per-view for World Cups and World Challenge Cups) ●

Lyles vs. Coleman highlights USATF Indoors

Two men’s 100 m World Champions are expected to line up against each at high altitude in Albuquerque, New Mexico at this weekend’s USA Track & Field Indoor Championships: Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles.

Coleman won the outdoor Worlds 100 m in 2019 and owns the world indoor record for 60 m at 6.34 in Albuquerque in 2018. Lyles won the outdoor Worlds last season and is the world leader at 60 m this season at 6.44 from the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix.

Coleman holds an 8-4 edge on Lyles at 100 m and has won four of their last five meetings. Indoors, Coleman is 3-0 against Lyles at 60 m, including the heats and semis of the 2018 Nationals, where Coleman set the current world record.

The top two finishers in each event will be eligible to go on to the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow (GBR) from 1-3 March, and both Coleman and Lyles have their eyes on that prize.

That’s only one of the storylines for what should be an entertaining championships on Friday and Saturday, with online coverage by USATF on RunnerSpace.com (subscription required) on the first day and the Saturday events on NBC from 4 p.m. Eastern time.

There are seven American world leaders entered in the meet:

Men/60 m: 6.44, Noah Lyles
Men/1,500 m: 3:33.43, Yared Nuguse (entered in 3,000 m)
Men/60 m hurdles: 7.32, Grant Holloway
Men/High Jump: 2.33 m (7-7 3/4), Shelby McEwen (tied)
Men/Pole Vault: 6.01 m (19-8 1/2), Chris Nilsen

Women/Mile: 4:16.41, Elle St. Pierre (entered in 1,500 m)
Women/Weight: 25.26 m (82-10), Erin Reese

In addition, 2022 World Indoor gold medalist Sandi Morris will be trying to qualify to defend her title, men’s shot put world-record holder Ryan Crouser will open his season in Albuquerque, and 2023 women World Shot Champion Chase (Ealey) Jackson will try to win a fourth national indoor title, and her third in Albuquerque. St. Pierre will be trying for a 1,500-3,000 m double.

There’s prize money in Albuquerque for the top five finishers: $6,000-4,000-2,500-1,500-1,000.

Report: “Olympic shift” away from Colorado Springs? What?

A Wednesday report from Colorado Springs television station KRDO13, an ABC affiliate, was headlined:

“Olympic City Identity Crisis: teams are leaving Colorado Springs for North Carolina”

The report, from Heather Skold, started this way:

“There’s a quiet, but significant, Olympic shift to North Carolina that’s gaining momentum — and it’s at the expense of an Olympic presence in Colorado Springs.

“So felt, that insiders describe the Springs-based Olympic and Paralympic Training Center, which now houses a fragment of Olympic hopefuls, as a ‘ghost town.’
“Three National Governing Bodies, which are divisions of each Olympic sport, that previously based their full-time training in Colorado Springs, have moved to train at the U.S. Performance Center, based in Charlotte: USA Archery, USA Field Hockey, and USA Taekwondo.”

And she reported that other NGBs are considering a move as well. What is all this about?

It centers around an agreement between the privately-developed U.S. Performance Center in Charlotte and the city of Kannapolis, North Carolina, a Charlotte suburb, which entered into a 2019 partnership to attract Olympic athletes to the area. The agreement was apparently ended due to the Covid pandemic in 2020, but in 2021, a national training center for USA Field Hockey was opened, followed by a 2022 opening for USA Taekwondo. The USA Archery National Elite Program is also there.

KRDO followed up with another story less than an hour later, headlined “City of Colorado Springs spends millions every year to be branded Olympic City USA,” and noting that the city agreed with the USOPC in 2009 to extend its economic development agreement, providing 80,881 sq. ft. of city-owned office space in a downtown building, fund improvements to the U.S. Olympic Training Center and provide 40,000 sq. ft. of office space for use by National Governing Bodies.

The cost of the 25-year agreement was listed as $42.336 million, with the City of Colorado Springs financing $33.461 million and the rest coming from various other partners, including $3.5 million from the El Pomar Foundation.

The City refinanced the project in 2022 to take advantage of better interest rates and will pay from $1.891 million in principal and interest in 2024 to $2.364 million at the end of the term in 2039.

There was every indication in the story that the City and the USOPC both expect to be together then and beyond. USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland said in a statement:

“The USOPC is proud to call Colorado Springs home, and proud that our presence here has grown so significantly over time. With more than 40 years at the Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, the headquarters in downtown, the world-class Olympic & Paralympic Museum, and as home to many NGBs, Colorado Springs truly is Olympic City USA.“

The KRDO story sparked a response posting on NBC affiliate KOAA, which pointed to the long history of the USOC/USOPC in Colorado Springs and that no one is planning a move.

Observed: This was a strange story by KRDO in that no cash payments are being made to the USOPC and the deal was essentially a marketing agreement to allow Colorado Springs to promote itself.

What got lost in all this is that Colorado Springs isn’t an isolated village at the edge of the Rocky Mountains. It’s the second-largest city in Colorado with a population of more than 486,000 and an annual budget of $1.018 billion (yes, billion).

Against that backdrop, $2 million a year to keep the USOPC in town as a marketing effort seems pretty reasonable.

Moreover, only half of the U.S. National Governing Bodies are headquartered in Colorado Springs and most of the highest-profile federations are elsewhere. USA Gymnastics and USA Track & Field have been in Indianapolis for decades and the U.S. Soccer Federation is in Chicago, on the way to Atlanta.

But it was a provocative headline.

Norway asks for prison time for ex-IBU chief Besseberg

The nearly six-week criminal corruption trial of former International Biathlon Union President Anders Besseberg concluded in Hokksund, Norway, with the prosecution asking for a prison sentence of three years and seven months, a fine of NOK 1 million (about $94,948 U.S.) and the return of gifts he received valued at NOK 1.45 million (~$137,743 U.S.), plus court costs.

Besseberg, now 77, the head of the IBU from 1993 until resigning in 2018, was charged with gross corruption dating back to 2009, accepting gifts such as expensive watches, a free car, hunting trips and more and in return, is accused of working to cover up doping violations by Russian athletes and the removal of IBU competitions from Russia.

Co-prosecutor Marianne Djupesland told the court (computer translation from the original Norwegian), “It is because if it is the case that the person who has received a bribe has actually been influenced in the way that person carries out their position of trust, then it is clearly a point that the court can look into in connection with sentencing.”

Co-prosecutor Marthe Stomner Smestad further explained, “Then we have taken particular account of what we have visited. His fixed and long-term intention of corruption over twelve years. And even if the value of individual benefits is not great or it is difficult to value, these violations, when they form part of a pattern like here, are to be considered gross overall.”

Defense attorney Christian Hjolt said the case “is complicated because the decisive legal questions are based on discretionary assessments, and the line between right and wrong is unclear. And complicated because the legal assessments must then be applied to an extensive and complex fact which partly took place far back in time and under conditions that are foreign to most people.”

And Hjolt told the judges:

“You don’t have to go far back in time, where partly-exclusive travel, events and gifts in a representational context were something that took place to a large extent and were seen as legal and an important part of a company’s relationship building.”

The attorney insisted that even if such practices are considered improper today, events and gifts are still part of relationship building, not bribery.

Djupesland said in reply:

“We wouldn’t be standing here with this case if it was the case that Besseberg had had three dinners with [friend] Volker Schmid. We wouldn’t be standing here if someone in the Russian federation had given Besseberg an advantage on one occasion. Our case is in a completely different range.”

Besseberg was given the final chance to comment and told the court he will always be known as a scandalous President:

“Although I received expensive gifts and was invited hunting by many, I must emphasize that I have never allowed myself to be corrupted. …

“After having devoted more or less my whole life to this sport, and doing what I thought was right, it is bitter to feel like the wild boar in Norway. An unwanted species in our fauna, and can be freely shot all year round.”

The verdict is expected to be read on 12 April.

Kenya’s five-time record setter Henry Rono passes at 72

“Athletics Kenya is saddened to announce and notify the public of the demise of former Athlete Mr. Henry Rono which occurred today at 10.30am. He had been hospitalized at the Nairobi South Hospital for the past 10 days.”

Thursday’s sad news is balanced against the memory of one of the most astonishing athletes in history, who rewrote the distance record books in 81 memorable days in 1978, while at Washington State:

08 Apr.: 13:08.4 world record for 5,000 m at Berkeley
13 May: 8:05.4 world record for the 3,000 m Steeple at Seattle
11 Jun.: 27:22.47 world record for 10,000 m at Vienna
27 Jun.: 7:32.1 world record for 3,000 m at London

As a Washington State sophomore, Rono won the NCAA Steeple, the Commonwealth Games Steeple and 5,000 m and All-Africa Games Steeple and 10,000 m. Amazing wasn’t the word for it.

In Bruce Blizard’s 2023 biography of Washington State coach John Chaplin, Man of the Oval, it was explained that Chaplin was the architect of Rono’s record season after seeing him crush fellow Cougar (and Kenyan) and 10,000 m world-record holder Samson Kimombwa in a training session:

“After watching him demolish Samson on the Snake River Canyon run, Chaplin remembered, ‘I brought Henry into my office and said, ‘Henry, I think that you could be the first man in history to hold the world record in all three Olympic distance races.’ …

“’But,’ Chaplin remembered, ‘Henry replied, ‘Do you really think I can do this?’ Chaplin, in his inimitable style, didn’t hesitate because he’d already had a vision, and he had formed a plan.

“’I suck myself up, like any coach would, to answer that question and said, ‘Yes. But we will have to first look at the schedule, then work out a program where you run a race to prepare, and, in the second race at that distance, correct any problems, and then you’ll run for the record.’ And that’s what he did!’”

Rono was denied Olympic glory due to the African boycott at the 1976 Montreal Games and as Kenya was part of the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games. He had already faded from the scene by the time the 1984 Los Angeles Games came around, although he set a fifth world record in 1981, breaking his own 5,000 m mark at 13:06.20.

After his running career ended, Rono fell victim to alcoholism, but rebounded to become a high school coach in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and later returned to his native Kenya.

Chaplin and Washington State have a statue of Rono in the works for the Mooberry Track & Field Complex to remember him and his achievements.

British bobsled star Hall calls for better safety at tracks

“As we all know there was a terrible accident this week in training resulting in one of our best athletes getting badly injured. This was an avoidable accident based on sub-par safety protocols at the Altenberg [GER] track.

“This needs to change. There are tracks like Whistler [CAN] and Sigulda [LAT] who have exceptional staffing to make sure sleds are caught and athlete safety is adhered to insofar as it is possible to do so. Why is this not the case at every track?

“This is not a witch-hunt or finger pointing exercise. It is simply to show how seriously we take it, and how necessary an overhaul of safety protocols is.

“As far as we’re concerned, Team Vogt and other Swiss sliding members cannot race this weekend due to factors outside of their control. As such, we are uncomfortable competing in, and potentially benefitting from their absence this weekend. Most importantly, our withdrawal seeks to show solidarity with our Swiss Sliding family whilst they process this difficult moment.”

That’s from British driver Brad Hall, whose sled won the 2023 European Four-Man title and the 2023 World Championships silver, in response to the training crash of the Michael Vogt (SUI) sled that badly injured brakeman Sandro Michel.

The Telegraph (GBR) reported that Michel, 27 – a former shot putter – “had to undergo emergency hip and thigh surgery and remains in hospital” after the Tuesday crash as Vogt’s four-man sled slide back down the track and injure him. Vogt suffered a concussion and the other two brakemen, Dominik Hufschmid and Andreas Haas, suffered only minor injuries.

The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation said the Altenberg races will be held as scheduled, but that an inquiry into the incident is being undertaken. Hall said that an athlete’s meeting was being organized for Friday to consider safety measures that should be adopted by the IBSF.

Jens Morgenstern (GER), the head of the Altenberg World Cup event, said in a statement:

“Unfortunately, crashes are part of this sport, and all athletes are aware of that. The fact that the Swiss bobsleigh team’s training crash resulted in such serious injuries is a tragedy that leaves us deeply shocked and saddened.

“But I must emphasize, as World Cup organisers and track operators, we have always done everything in our power to ensure the safety of the athletes – and will continue to do so in the future.

“We firmly reject the accusation that there were inadequate safety precautions. All safety measures taken and adhered to in Altenberg comply with the regulations of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation.”


● Aquatics ● The 21st World Aquatics Championships will roar to its close on Sunday, with the conclusion of the swimming and water polo competitions, with China looking secure to finish with the most total medals.

In the pool, China’s new world-record holder in the men’s 100 m Freestyle, Zhanle Pan, took the individual title in 47.53, well off from his record lead-off (46.80) in the 4×100 Free relay. But he touched clear of Italy’s Alessandro Miressi (47.72) and Nandor Nemeth (HUN: 47.78) for the other medals. American Matt King faded late and tied for seventh at 48.06.

Claire Curzan, 19, of the U.S. doubled up on her 100 m Backstroke win and took the 50 m Back in 27.43 from Australian teen Iona Anderson (27.45) and Canada’s Ingrid Wilm (27.61), repeating the 100 Back medal winners exactly! Curzan now owns a career total of nine Worlds medals (5-1-3), four in Doha (3-1-0).

American Carson Foster won the men’s 200 m Medley Worlds silver last year and looked to be well positioned to win this time, but was passed by Canada’s Finlay Knox, who won his first-ever Worlds medal with a gold in 1:56.64 to Foster’s 1:56.97. Alberto Razzettli took his second medal – he won the 200 m Fly silver – with a bronze in 1:57.42. Shaine Casas of the U.S. faded on the final lap and ended up fifth in 1:57.73.

Laura Stephens (GBR: 2:07.35), Helena Rosendahl Bach (DEN: 2:07.44) and Lana Pudar (BIH: 2:07.92) pulled away to win their first career Worlds medals in the women’s 200 m Butterfly final, with American Rachel Klinker fading on the final lap and finishing fourth (2:08.19).

China won the women’s 4×200 m Free relay in 7:47.26, ahead of Great Britain (7:50.90) and Australia (7:51.41). The U.S. did not qualify for the final.

Three more days remaining in the pool, with the U.S. leading the swimming medal count with 12 (6-3-3) to 10 for Australia (1-6-3).

The men’s water polo final will pit Italy and Croatia after two tight semifinals. The Italians, five-time Worlds winners (last in 2019), edged returning bronze medalists Spain by 8-6, with a 3-1 second period for a 4-2 halftime lead that proved to be enough.

The Croatia-France semifinal was tied at 11 after the French made a big comeback with a 5-2 final-period surge. But Croatia won the tense shoot-out at 6-5 and will be looking for its third title after 2007 and 2017.

The medal matches will be played Saturday (17th). The U.S. eliminated in the quarterfinals, finished ninth after a 13-9 win against Romania.

● Biathlon ● France ruled Thursday’s Single Mixed Relay at the 2024 IBU World Championships in Nove Mesto (CZE), winning by more than 24 seconds in 36:21.7 for a sweep of the mixed relays.

This time it was twice Olympic gold medalist Quentin Fillon Maillet and Lou Jeanmonnot who stormed to the lead and had only three penalties between them to win easily, after Fillon Maillet had also contributed to the Mixed 4×6 km victory.

Italy, with Tommaso Giacomel and 15 km Individual winner Lisa Vittozzi, managed to beat Norway for the silver by 36:46.3 (5) to 35:49.1 (7). The U.S., with Campbell Wright and Deedra Irwin, finished seventh at 37:29.0 (4).

Friday is a rest day, then more relays on Saturday and the Mass Start races on Sunday to conclude the championships.


● Russia ● Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and especially since the International Olympic Committee recommended allowing some Russian and Belarusian individual to compete as “neutrals” last year Russian athletes have sometimes been in limbo as to whether they can participate in an event.

For Olympic 97 kg Freestyle wrestling gold medalist Abdulrashid Sadulaev, trying to compete at the European Championships in Bucharest (ROU), it was out, then in and finally, out. According to Russian Wrestling Federation chief Mikhail Mamiashvili:

“Abdulrashid flew from the country for which he received a visa. He flew to Barcelona, from there to Bucharest, but in Romania the customs officers did not let him in, they had doubts about him, and a decision was made to deny him entry. It’s hard to imagine what motivates this.”

It’s actually pretty clear and everyone knows it.

● Cricket ● The ICC men’s U-19 World Cup finished in South Africa last Sunday, with Australia defeating India, 253-174, in the final. Pakistan (5-1) finished third and South Africa, the tournament host and center of controversy in fourth (4-2).

The protests against David Teeger, removed as the captain of the South African team in response to his support for Israel at an awards events last October – he is Jewish – subsided after a modest gathering of protesters at the team’s opening match. He scored 107 runs in six matches.

Cricket has been added to the program for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

● Cross Country Skiing ● Terrific feature by the International Ski & Snowboard Federation on on U.S. star Jessie Diggins, whose Olympic and World Cup heroics led to the FIS Cross Country World Cup coming back to the U.S. for the first time since the 10-14 January 2001 races at Soldier Hollow, Utah, in advance of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

A Freestyle Sprint and Freestyle 10 km race for men and women are scheduled in Minneapolis on Saturday and Sunday – Diggins is from St. Paul – with the hometown hero leading the seasonal World Cup standings with nine events left.

She was especially brilliant in a come-from-behind win in Goms (SUI) in late January in a 20 km Mass Start, one of her most memorable races:

“It’s funny because I’m an athlete who makes the sport look really hard.

“I don’t always have the most graceful technique, I’m usually in a lot of pain and it usually looks like I’m falling apart even if there’s still some energy buried deep down that I’m ready to dig up.

“I’ve been working for a very long time to work up a strong-enough brain to override a tired body. So when you see a sprint finish like at the end in Goms, I am tired. I couldn’t feel my legs and I felt like I was going to throw up. And at the same time, I’m just so focused on crossing the finish line with every little bit of power that I have.”

And she is on the road, of course, for months at a time. Now 32 and married, she misses home:

“But at the same time, I could retire whenever I want, but I’m still here and still racing because I love what I do, so clearly the love for the sport outweighs the inconveniences of being on the road.”

● Gymnastics ● The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) unveiled a new, pay-per-view live streaming service for its World Cup and World Challenge Cup events in Artistic, Rhythmic and Trampoline gymnastics beginning with this weekend’s Artistic Apparatus World Cup in Cairo (EGY).

This project allows FIG to open its events to viewers in countries without a rights agreement on a pay-per-view basis. For example, the Saturday session of the Cairo Artistic Apparatus World Cup is listed at $5.50 U.S. Prices were not yet listed for future events; the list of countries in which this service will not be available was, unfortunately, also not listed.

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