TSX REPORT: Wasserman warns of college-sport implosion; Kiplimo & Chebet repeat in World Cross; Leon Marchand stars at NCAA swim!

Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda repeats as World Athletics Cross Country champion! (Photo: Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images for World Athletics)

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1. Wasserman: “if we lose that system, we don’t have Team USA any more”
2. France asks 46 countries for security help
3. Now a Paris poll showing Olympic interest split by politics
4. Kiplimo and Chebet repeat at World Cross Champs
5. France’s Marchand stars again at NCAA swim champs!

● LA28 Chair Casey Wasserman was on The Rich Eisen Show on the Roku Channel last Friday and explained that U.S. Olympic-sport development is in danger due to the continuing aggregation of money around college football, and suggested that the NFL could be a leader in finding a solution.

● France made the usual request of Olympic host countries and asked for security assistance from friends, in this case, 46 other countries for people, systems and things.

● A new poll in Paris showed a divide – of course – in the French population about the 2024 Olympic Games … by political affiliation!

● The 2024 World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Belgrade saw the same winners as in 2023: Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo and Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet. Kenya won both the men’s and women’s team titles.

● At the NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships, Arizona State won its first team title and French star Leon Marchand won three individual events, set three collegiate records, helped win two relays and two second-place finishes for 97 points  by himself! He’s on course to be the face of the Paris Games for France in the pool.

Panorama: Athletics (world leads at the Texas and Florida relay meets and a 37.67 men’s 4×1!) = Bobsled & Skeleton (Del Duca and Hoffman get two wins each at U.S. nationals) = Cycling (van der Poel solos, Longo Borghini sprints to Ronde van Vlaanderen wins) = Gymnastics (two wins for Turkey at FIG World Challenge Cup in Antalya) = Judo (five wins for Japan, three for France at Antalya Grand Slam) = Table Tennis (Liang and Sun win WTT Champions in Incheon) = Triathlon (indoor triathlon World Cup debuts inside an indoor track facility in France!) = Weightlifting (IWF Secretary-General creates the federation’s anthem!) ●

Wasserman: “if we lose that system, we don’t have
Team USA any more”

The crisis in collegiate athletics, created by the enormous financial control of football, needs to be fixed, in part to assure that all the other sports survive.

Casey Wasserman, the chair of the LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee, visited The Rich Eisen Show on the Roku Channel last Friday and had some clear ideas about not only what the stakes are, but how it might get worked out.

It’s complicated, but Wasserman, who as the founder of the Wasserman agency, is one of the power brokers in entertainment and sports representation, media and events. His take:

“The only entity with the ability – I’m not sure they’re capable or qualified – but the ability is the federal government. It takes national legislation, but here’s the part where miss, or underestimate.

“If you’re a senator from Mississippi, or Iowa, you kind of like the system the way it is [for the SEC and Big 10]. Are you really going to take away from yourselves to prop up the Big 12 and the ACC and these other conferences to lift everybody or do you like winning the national championship every year, or having the SEC and Big Ten get a disproportionate share of income? You’re asking people to be truly magnanimous for something that is truly local and parochial to their states and their environment.

“That’s a hard thing to do to get the two senators from Georgia to say, ‘yeah, we’re going to take money away from the University of Georgia, who wins national championships – the pride of the state – and we’re going to give it to Washington State.’”

Eisen volunteered, “That’s why the federal government can’t be involved.” But something has to happen. Explained Wasserman:

“I think we’re at this turning point which is, college is absolutely the second-most popular and valuable sport in America; it’s not even a question.

“The question is, do they monetize that opportunity and keep all the money in college football and don’t share it, so college football becomes its own entity, away from the NCAA? So, Michigan basketball and UCLA basketball are part of the Big 10, but college football is its own thing? Michigan is in that, but it’s not really a Big 10 thing, it’s really just a college football thing?

“And then Michigan basketball and UCLA softball are over because there’s no money. Because the money – 90% of the value and the economics – come from college football.

“Or, do you keep them in the system, and use that money to solve the problem, because NIL [name-image-likeness] is not fixing the problem. NIL has made the problem worse. …

“NIL is just, truly pay-for-play, and where are you going to spend your money, you’re going to spend money where you drive revenue, and you drive revenue in football. So, you were just making the rich richer in that system.

“You know, I think the average NIL deal in the country is $500 … But Ohio State says it costs them $13 million a year to maintain their roster. I mean [Coach] Ryan Day says that publicly. That’s not a secret.

“I can assure you in terms of Title IX, he’s not spending $13 million – Ohio State’s not spending $13 million a year – on their women’s programs. So it’s just made college football way more outside the system, and the problem is that all of the Olympic sports, if you will, or basketball and all the Olympic sports only exist because football provides so much of the economics to subsidize those.”

Eisen asked how to keep connecting football to the other sports, which he called “absolutely necessary,” and asked about a commissioner to control football. It’s not the NCAA, right? Answered Wasserman:

“They’re not, they don’t have the control or purview clearly, because it’s very clear the conference commissioners at a minimum and the university presidents are running the system. You have to keep the money in the system.”

And the danger is obvious, Wasserman said:

“By the way, in this country, all of our American athletes who are Olympians, are trained in universities. So if we lose that system, we don’t have Team USA any more.

“Our government does not provide funding to the U.S. Olympic Movement. There’s zero federal dollars going to any part of the U.S. Olympic Movement. All of our athletes are trained in colleges, and that’s a great source of pride. And that’s going to evaporate.”

So where does the solution come from? Wasserman said there are two groups that can help move things in the right direction:

● “I think what you’re going to have to do is the conference commissioners, there’s really the Big 10, the SEC, the ACC and the Big 12, are going to have to say, look, football is great and we can make a lot of money organizing college football in a different kind of way, but if we’re doing that and it’s not benefitting all the other student-athletes, we’re actually missing the mark here, and we’re not doing our job, and we’re not actually serving the universities.

“I mean, UCLA, we’re proud of all those athletes and student-athletes who do incredible things. So, we’re going to miss that if they don’t take that ownership of that responsibility and embrace it, they’re going to be the ones who get blamed for it, and the system right now is totally screwed.”

● “I actually think the NFL can say, look, we can help solve the problem, not take control of college football, but sort of create the pathway, and use that as a means to save all these Olympic sports that are good for this country and by the way, think about the Paris Olympics this summer: there’ll be 100 athletes competing in Paris for countries not for the United States, who went to college for free and got their athletic training at American universities.

“We train our competitors. Talk about power and soft power … that’s a powerful thing. All those things are going to go away if we don’t fix this problem.

“To push the institutions to do what’s right to maintain the sanctity of non-football sports, I think the NFL has a real opportunity to be a leader in that movement.”

On the 2028 Olympic Games, Wasserman was asked how he got involved. Explaining that Los Angeles had bid and lost at the domestic level for 2012 and 2016, he said that then-Mayor Eric Garcetti asked him if he had any ideas on who could lead a bid for L.A. for 2024; Wasserman replied:

“By the way, this is a terrible idea, because we’re going to lose. The [International Olympic Committee] does not love America, generally speaking, just for the record, so – bad idea – but here are some people.

“Calls me back a few weeks later; you know, why don’t you do this? I said, well, first of all, in case you forgot, it’s a bad idea and second of all, I have a job, so I’m good.

“And a month later, he goes like, ‘I hate to do this to you, but I’m the Mayor, you have to do this.’

“And I said, well, in case you forgot, this is a terrible idea, and it just proves the old adage that you can’t win unless you play the game. … And so we started this process and the one thing we committed to each other was that we were going to do it our way, authentically. Basically, we weren’t going to try and pretend to be stuffy Europeans; we were two relatively young guys from L.A. We were going to be authentically L.A., embrace that we’re a different kind of American city, and just compete.

“Started against Rome, Hamburg, Budapest and Paris and lo and behold, Hamburg first, then Rome and then Budapest all dropped out for different reasons, left with L.A. and Paris. And I had come up with this idea in that time zone which was, like, one of two things was certain to happen in 2024 bidding: Paris would have lost four consecutive bids, or the three largest cities in America would have lost three consecutive bids. And if you’re the IOC, one of those two things happening is a bad result, and so I said, ‘just give us each a Games, like, it’s not like there’s a list of 100 people who want these things.’

“These are two incredible, global cities, this is a clear victory from the jaws of defeat, not how they normally do things, but lo and behold, the more you talk about it, the more they think about it, the more they understand it, and so what started with a crazy idea became a reality in September 2017, and here we are, some 1,570 days away from Opening Ceremonies in L.A. …

“And it was this dance of who was going to go when. We were always happy to go in 2028 because the risk of time if you’re building things is construction things escalate and expenses escalate. We have nothing to build permanently here. So, time just allowed us to generate more revenue, and think about what’s happened in the interim since we got the Games in 2017: SoFi [Stadium] opened, Intuit [Dome] opened, massive renovation of the Coliseum, massive renovation at Crypto [.com Arena], Dodgers obviously have [changed] … the Rose Bowl is doing some renovations; L.A. has changed dramatically.

“And so even by 2028, just on the non-facility side, all the infrastructure – airport – all those things, so we’re really lucky. And I didn’t know Covid was going to happen, so I’m glad I didn’t have to try and generate revenue during Covid, and lo and behold, 2028 is coming fast, and on October 11th, we’ll take the flag in Paris – literally take the Olympic flag – and then we’re next.

“We bring it home the next morning, we’ll hang it in City Hall and then when we’re done, we’ll give it Brisbane.”

Eisen asked about some of the events and their locations, a question Wasserman has been asked about a lot recently:

“The Opening Ceremonies, the traditional parade of athletes is at SoFi. We will go through the Coliseum because it’s important to recognize the history of that venue, but the technology you need to produce an Opening Ceremonies for television and infrastructure and sound and stuff, if you will, you can’t do it at the Coliseum without spending hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“The actual lighting of the torch will be at SoFi,” but Wasserman also noted that another cauldron may also be arranged during the Games in another, more central location.

● “Athletics will be at the Coliseum, so we will build a track at the Coliseum, and it’s going to be spectacular.”

“Rose Bowl will have soccer finals and semi-finals. The challenge is – and I remind people – the [FIFA] World Cup is coming to America in 2026 which is nice, but as I say that’s a little boutique event. We have 36 sports in the Olympics – right, 36 sports – we will produce a men’s and a women’s World Cup as one of our 36 events.

“So we can’t play, actually, more than the semi-finals and the finals because we’ve got semi-finals and finals – men’s and women’s – so you’ve got two games on each side, finals two games and you’ve got a bronze-medal game, so you go back and play it, so you’ve got [eight] games essentially in five days, it might be too much for the field.”

● On the Olympic Village, Wasserman replied that it will be at UCLA, but that the early start date of the Games – 14 July – is due to two calendars:

“If you just draw the line from when UCLA ends, and USC starts, it’s the only time we can fit the Olympics and the Paralympics and get in and out between those two universities, because they are the key to our delivery, USC and UCLA.”

Eisen asked about other venues and Wasserman explained that announcements are coming up soon on some moves:

“Things like soccer prelims we’ll play up and down the state for sure … you use most of the MLS stadiums in the state because there’s so many games that you’ll have to play.

“We’re going to move a couple events out of the state of California, which we’ll announce here in the next month or so. … There’s a few sports for which you have to build a temporary facility which is expensive and doesn’t have a lot of legacy use that other places in the country have world-class facilities, so to be able to go use those facilities as is [great].

“You know it sounds crazy because this country is so big – but we’re unique in L.A. – but think about Paris, you can’t sail in Paris, so sailing is in Marseille. Marseille is an hour-and-45-minute plane flight from Paris, so Paris is a small country relatively, but an hour-and-45 plane flight from L.A., you get to a lot of places to do another event. So it’s not a crazy thing, it just sounds crazy because you’re in a different state and it sounds different.”

Eisen kept pushing, thinking about a 1:45 flight time: Colorado perhaps?

“Not quite Colorado, maybe a little further; but like in Paris, they’re doing surfing in Tahiti, French Polynesia.

“So we’re not surfing in Hawaii, no … funny enough, there’s not great waves in Hawaii in the summer, so we’ll be surfing in Southern California.”

Wasserman suggested that Eisen be the play-by-play announcer for NBC for flag football, an added sport for 2028. Eisen noted that decision will not be his to make. But Wasserman is ultra-enthusiastic:

“It’s going to be awesome for flag football … and you know, that 1932, it wasn’t flag football, it was American Football, they didn’t have other countries, but they had four – West, North, East and South – playing 11-on-11 football, and like Pop Warner was one of the coaches in the 1932 Olympics. It was a demonstration sport in 1932.

“It’s crazy how excited they are. … The NFL, there’s no way – and Roger [Goodell], the Commissioner has said this – there’s no way they’re not going to let their players play because they all want to do it.”

Observed: Wasserman’s comments were compelling and the college football problem is becoming more and more acute. The idea that the NFL could play a significant role in shaping the future is wholly logical and practical.

As for the LA28 venues, his comments are the latest indicators that the canoe slalom events are headed to Oklahoma City and the world-class Riversport Rapids venue. Reports indicate that LA28 is also looking for venues for equestrian, modern pentathlon and perhaps, shooting and others. And there are the added sports of baseball and softball, cricket, flag football, lacrosse and squash, whose venues are not yet determined.

Clarifications on the 1932 Olympic demonstration of American Football at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. It was an all-star game between two all-star teams – West and East – with USC’s Howard Jones as the West coach (assisted by Stanford’s Warner and others) and former Yale coach Tad Jones in charge of the East squad. Some 41,653 saw the West win, 7-6.

France asks 46 countries for security help

The French Interior Ministry said last week that it has asked the governments of 46 countries for assistance with security staffing and support for the Paris 2024 Games.

The requests were made in January for a total of 2,185 individuals for a variety of tasks, with Agence France Presse reporting an official commenting, “It’s a classic move for host countries ahead of the organisation of major events … for the spectators’ experience, to respond to the capacity challenge of the Games and to reinforce international cooperation.”

France is among multiple countries which sent officers to Qatar to assist with the 2022 FIFA World Cup, including with liaison with fans from French-speaking countries.

A Defense Ministry source told AFP, “Several foreign nations are going to reinforce us in certain critical areas, such as dog-handling capabilities where the needs are enormous.”

Poland and Germany have both said they would be assisting in Paris; Polish Defense Secretary Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz posted on X (ex-Twitter):

“The Polish Armed Forces will join the international coalition established by France to support the preparations and security of the 2024 Summer Olympics. A task force of our soldiers, including dog handlers, will be sent to Paris. Its main goal will be to undertake activities related to the detection of explosives and counteracting terrorist phenomena.”

France has been especially concerned with Islamic terrorist activity, and raised its readiness to an emergency level after the mass shooting at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow on 22 March.

U.S. intelligence and defense agencies routinely assist Olympic host countries with security issues at recent Olympic Games, although no comment on the Paris 2024 Games has been made.

Now a Paris poll showing Olympic interest split by politics

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER) has called today’s polarized world “aggressively divisive” and France is not immune, even on the Olympic front.

The newest poll numbers, from Paris-based CSA Research survey of 1,013 adults commissioned by Europe1, CNews France and Le Journal du Dimanche, found a split in views on the Paris 2024 Games based on political outlook.

Wow, what a surprise:

● Overall, 47% believed that France is ready to host the event and 52% did not. The leading concerns are over security, transportation and transit restrictions near Olympic sites.

● The age groups with more than 50% believing that the country is ready were in the 18-24 and over-65 cohorts.

● Interestingly, Socialists were optimistic about the Games – Socialist Anne Hidalgo is the Paris Mayor – with 66% in favor of the preparations. Taking into account all of the leftist parties, 57% say France will be ready, while 57% of right-wing parties say France is not prepared. The poll showed 58% of centrist-party respondents think France will be ready.

Observed: This is hardly a new phenomenon. Opinion in host cities on the Games is often split several months out in polls, even with overwhelming applications for volunteer positions and 8.8 million tickets sold in Paris so far.

A better idea will come after the Olympic Torch Relay gets going and the Games seem much more real; this is often the time that positive opinions of the Games take off.

Kiplimo and Chebet repeat at World Cross Champs

The 2024 World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Belgrade (SRB) had a very familiar look, as Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet and Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo repeated their 2023 championship runs, the first time since 2006 that both the men’s and women’s champions repeated.

The women’s race ran first – both over 10 km and featuring a 270 m start, then five loops of 1,887 m and a finishing straight of 320 m – with Kenya’s Emmaculate Achol leading after the first full lap, with 19 runners in the lead group. It was hot, at 78 F at the start at 12:47 p.m.

But the race broke open after that as the Kenyans took charge, with Achol leading and Kenya running 1-5 and 12 in contact. Only six were in contention after three laps and the five Kenyans were the lead pack after four laps and the race was between them.

Defending champ Chebet has the most left and powered down the final straight to win in 31:05, with Lilian Rengeruk second (31:08), Margaret Kipkemboi third (31:09), Achol fourth (31:24) and Agnes Ngetich fifth (31:27). Those five had a 33-second lead on Uganda’s Sarah Chelangat in sixth (33:00).

Weini Kelati was the top American, in 15th (32:53), followed by Allie Ostrander in 30th (34:11) and Abby Nichols in 33rd (34:27).

Kenya, of course, won the team scoring with the minimum of 10 points (top four score), followed by Ethiopia (41) and Uganda (44). The U.S. was fourth, but well back at 113.

The men’s race, at 1:33 p.m., saw temperatures of 79 F and a big group together through two laps. By the end of lap three, Gideon Rono (KEN) was out in front, but a mass of about 20 runners were running just 5-8 seconds behind.

The chase pack got busy and caught Rono, with 10 in contention by the end of the fourth lap. Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei, the 2019 World Cross Champion and 10,000 m world-record holder, had the lead, but not for long.

Kiplimo surged ahead on the final lap and strung out the field behind him, winning in 28:09, with Olympic 10,000 m champ Selemon Barega (ETH: 28:12) in second – as he was last year – and Benson Kiplangat in third (KEN: 28:14). Kenyans Nicholas Kipkorir (28:16) and Samwei Masai (28:18) helped with the team scoring, as Cheptegei fell back to sixth (28:24).

Anthony Rotich was the top American, in 22nd (29:22), while Emmanuel Bor was 25th (29:37) despite one of his shoes falling apart!

Kenya got the team title with 19 points, to 31 for Uganda and 40 for Ethiopia. The U.S. was seventh with 120.

Chebet is the eighth woman to win two or more titles back-to-back and Kiplimo is the eighth man.

Kenya won the four-loop (7.55 km) mixed relay, in 22:15, ahead of Ethiopia (22:43) and Great Britain (23:00). The U.S. – Kasey Knevelbaard, Ella Donaghu, Johnathan Reniewicki and Katie Izzo – was eighth in 23:21.

France’s Marchand stars again at NCAA swim champs!

If you haven’t heard of Leon Marchand, you will. The French swim star sent notice that he is in prime shape and getting ready to for his assault on the medal stand in Paris this summer after leading his Arizona State team to its first NCAA men’s swimming title in Indianapolis, Indiana.

In 2023, Marchand won his three NCAA individual events – the 200-yard Breaststroke, 200-yard Medley and 400-yard Medley – as a sophomore, all in collegiate-record times. He also collected two relay silvers and two relay bronzes as ASU finished second in the team standings.

In 2024, Marchand was at it again, leading Arizona State to its first-ever men’s team title, with 523 1/2 points:

● 1st: 500-yard Freestyle (4:02.31 ~ collegiate record)
● 1st: 200-yard Breaststroke (1:46.35 ~ collegiate record)
● 1st: 400-yard Medley (3:32.12)
● 1st: 400-yard Freestyle Relay (lead-off)
● 1st: 400-yard Medley Relay (second leg)
● 2nd: 800-yard Freestyle Relay (lead-off)
● 2nd: 200-yard Medley Relay (second leg)

He set a third collegiate record with his lead-off leg of 1:28.97 for the 200-yard Free on the 800-yard Freestyle Relay. In the 400-yard Medley Relay, he clocked a 48.73 Breaststroke split, fastest ever recorded, and finished with a 40.28 leg on the 400-yard Freestyle Relay, the third-fastest ever by a collegian!

Marchand scored 60 points for his three individual event wins and 37 more on relays for 97 points by himself.

And his Arizona State coach, the legendary Bob Bowman – also the coach of Michael Phelps – will continue to coach him right through the summer.

Marchand won the 2023 World Championship golds in the 200 and 400 m Medleys and the 200 m Butterfly and looks ready to add the 200 m Breast to his event list. He will be the face of the Games for France during the first week.

Not to be overlooked was the great meet by Canada’s Josh Liendo. Swimming for Florida, he won the 50-yard Free in 18.07, the 100-yard Free in 40.20 and the 100 m Fly in 43.07. He also contributed legs on the winning 200-yard Free Relay (18.25 lead-off) and the 200-yard Medley Relay (third: 18.97 Fly) and second in the 400-yard Free Relay (41.28 lead-off).

Liendo, now 21, won the 2023 Worlds silver in the 100 m Fly and won two bronzes at the 2022 Worlds, in the 100 m Free and 100 m Fly. He appears poised to do more in Paris.


● Athletics ● U.S. action exploded over the weekend, with the Florida and Texas Relays, and multiple world-leading marks.

In Austin, 2023 NCAA decathlon champ Leo Neugebauer (GER) posted a tremendous score of 8,708 on his home track, his second-best score ever.

Jamaica’s O’Brien Wasome got the men’s world lead in the triple jump at 17.09 m (56-1), Gabby Thomas ran 22.08 for the women’s world 200 m lead, and the “USA Red” team of Celera Barnes, Thomas, Tamara Clark and Morolake Akinosun won the women’s 4×100 m relay in 42.25. On the infield, Tokyo 2020 Olympic champ Valarie Allman went to the top of the world list at 67.98 m (223-0).

Thomas also ran a fast 10.88 in the women’s 100 m final, but wind-aided at +2.2 m/s.

At the Florida Relays in Gainesville, the “Gainesville Elite” quartet of hurdles World Champion Grant Holloway, Pjai Austin, Worlds 200 m silver winner Erriyon Knighton and Liberia’s Joseph Fahnbulleh won the men’s invitational 4×100 m in a sizzling 37.67, well ahead of the “USA Blue” team (38.23). Fahnbulleh was just slightly ahead of the “USA Red” team of Brandon Carnes, Christian Coleman, Kendal Williams and Noah Lyles at the exchange but Lyles never got the stick and the team did not finish.

Holloway was impressive on lead-off and Knighton ran a brilliant turn to give his team the lead at the hand-off to Fahnbulleh. Remember that when relay time for Paris comes around.

Also in Gainesville, Grace Stark of the U.S. (and Florida) took the world lead in the women’s 100 m hurdles at 12.70.

At the Battle on the Bayou in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Texas A&M junior Sam Whitmarsh exploded in the men’s 800 m, taking his lifetime best from 1:46.09 in 2022 to 1:44.46! Whitmarsh won the SEC Indoor title this year, but is now suddenly the U.S. leader and no. 4 on the world list for 2024!

● Bobsled & Skeleton ● The American bob and skeleton season closed with the U.S. national championships in Lake Placid, New York, with double wins for Sylvia Hoffman and Frank Del Duca.

Hoffman won a Beijing 2022 Olympic bronze with driver Elana Meyers Taylor, but is now driving and took the Monobob title at 2:03.15, over Riley Tejcek (2:04.77). Hoffman then teamed with Sydney Milani to win the Two-Woman event in 1:57.16, with Tejcek and Macy Tarlton second (1:57.87).

Del Duca – eighth in the Two-Man IBSF World Cup this season – and Josh Williamson won the Two-Man in 1:54.24, in front of Kris Horn and Hakeen Abdul-Saboor at 1:54.84. Del Duca and Williamson added Adrian Adams and Manteo Mitchell to win the Four-Man in 1:51.39, with Hunter Church’s sled second in 1:51.54.

In the Skeleton races, 2012 World Champion Katie Uhlaender took the women’s title in 3:45.78, ahead of Sara Roderick (3:47.08), and Austin Florian won the men’s racing at 3:41.10, beating Dan Barefoot (3:41.82).

● Cycling ● The cycling world was focused on one of the “Monument” races in the sport, the 108th Ronde van Vlaanderen – the Tour of Flanders – with brilliant wins for World Road Champion Mathieu van der Poel (NED) and Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini.

Van der Poel had already won this race, with its hilly course and irritating cobblestone sections, in 2020 and 2022. This time, the 270.8 km route from Antwerp to Oudenaarde saw van der Poel assume the lead about 216 km with a group of five behind him, then saw Ivan Garcia (ESP) go past.

No matter, as Garcia fell back due to mechanical trouble and van der Poel re-assumed the lead with about 45 km left. American Matteo Jorgenson – winner of the Dwar Doors Vlaanderen during the week – was game, but van der Poel would not be challenged and sailed on to a 1:02 victory, in 6:05:17. Ten were in the chase group (+1:02), starting with Luca Mozzato (ITA), then Nils Politt (BEL), with Magnus Sheffield the top American in sixth. Jorgenson ended up 31st.

It’s the second win of the season for van der Poel, after the E3 Saxo Classic and he was second at Gent-Wevelgem. He’s one of the favorites for the Olympic road race in Paris.

The women’s race – the 21st – over 163 km and starting and finishing in Oudenaarde, came down to a three-way sprint between Longo Borghini, Kasia Niewiadoma (POL) and emerging Dutch star Shirin van Androoij.

Nine riders were in contention with 25 km left, but van Androoij attacked and had the lead on the way to the final climb of the day, the Paterberg, chased by countrywoman Puck Pieterse as the next eight riders were only a few seconds back. On the descent, Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma surged and caught van Androoij, with the Italian sprinting to the line first.

All three finished in 4:16:04, with Niewiadoma second and van Androoij third and Dutch star Marianne Vos in fourth, nine seconds back and in a group of four that included Pieterse in sixth.

It’s the second win in this race for Longo Borghini, also in 2015! Kristen Faulkner was the top American, in 21st (+1:46).

● Gymnastics ● Host Turkey scored two wins at the FIG World Challenge Cup in Antalya, by Adem Asil and Ibrahim Colak.

Asil, the 2023 European All-Around champ, won on Floor at 14.400, over Joel Plata (ESP: 14.250), while Colak – the 2019 World Champion on Rings – won that event, scoring 14.650 to edge Asil – the 2022 Worlds Rings winner – at 14.600.

Jordan’s two-time Worlds Pommel Horse medalist, Ahmad Abu Al-Soud won that event at 14.900, just ahead of 2022 Worlds bronze winner Nariman Kurbanov (KAZ: 14.850). Kazakhstan got a win from Assan Salimov in Vault (14.300) and Spain’s Nicolau Mir took the Parallel Bars at 14.800.

Plata, the 2022 European bronze winner on Horizontal Bar, won that event with a 14.000 score.

The four women’s events each went to a different winner, with Tjasa Kysselef (SLO) taking the vault over the amazing, 48-year-old Oksana Chusovitina (UKR), 13.017 to 12.917. French star Melanie de Jesus dos Santos won the Uneven Bars, 14.567 to 14.067, over Brazil’s Tokyo Olympic All-Around runner-up Rebeca Andrade.

China’s Xinyi Sun took the Beam at 14.267 and three-time Worlds medal winner Jade Barbosa (BRA) won on Floor at 13.833.

● Judo ● A huge field of 628 judoka, from 93 countries, showed up at the IJF World Tour Antalya Grand Slam in Turkey, with another memorable brother-sister victory for Hifumi and Uta Abe of Japan.

They memorably both won Tokyo Olympic golds in 2021 on the same day and did it again this time – on Saturday– with Hifumi taking the men’s 66 kg class and Uta winning the women’s 52 kg class over Tokyo bronze winner Chelsie Giles.

Japan’s three-time World Champion Tsunoda Natsumi won the women’s 48 kg class over Sila Ersin (TUR), and Japan also got wins in the men’s 81 kg final from Tokyo Olympic champion Takanori Nagase and at 90 kg from Sanshiro Murao, his second win this season. That’s five in all.

France scored three golds on Sunday, led by three-time Olympic gold medalist and 12-time World Championships gold winner Teddy Riner, who defeated Tatsuru Saito (JPN) in the final. Madeleine Malonga, the 2019 World Champion, won the women’s 78 kg class and Julia Tolofua, the 2023 Worlds runner-up, won the +78 class over Xin Su (CHN).

Two-time Worlds winner Christa Deguchi (CAN) took the 57 kg class against 2022 Pan American champ Jessica Lima (BRA), and Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Michaela Polleres (AUT) won the women’s 70 kg final, defeating Tais Pina (POR).

● Table Tennis ● The first World Team Tennis Champions tournament of the season was held in Incheon (KOR), with familiar winners from China.

World no. 3 Jingkun Liang took the men’s title, disposing of two-time Olympic champ Long Ma (CHN) in the semis in seven sets, 4-3, then zipped past Brazil’s Hugo Calderono in the final by 4-1: 11-6, 6-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-5.

Yingsha Sun, ranked no. 1 and reigning World Champion, won the women’s title over no. 2 Manyu Wang (CHN) in straight sets: 11-7, 11-5, 11-4, 11-4. Sun steamed through her five matches, winning 17 games out of 20!

● Triathlon ● Can’t get enough triathlon and the weather outside is bad? No problem: go for an indoor tri!

The first World Triathlon Indoor Cup was held in Lievin (FRA), with a 150 m swim, 3,000 m bike phase and 1,000 m run; the formula: “build a 25m pool inside an indoor track, and have the athletes swimming, biking in the outer lanes of the track and running on the inner lanes.”

Norway’s Vetle Thorn, the 2023 European Games winner, won the men’s final, as he and teammate Casper Stornes dashed for the line at the end of the run, with Thorn finishing in 9:24, France’s two-time World Champion Vincent Luis coming up for second (9:25) and Stornes third (9:26).

The women’s final was even closer, with German Laura Lindemann, the 2023 World Sprint bronze medalist, attacking on the final lap of the 200 m indoor track to win at the line in 10:19, from 2020 World Champion Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) and Rio 2016 Olympic winner Gwen Jorgensen of the U.S., both given the same time.

It was an exciting debut for the concept; it will be interesting to see how World Triathlon manages this new format with its in-place Olympic and Sprint-distance programs.

● Weightlifting ● “It all started last November, when we were in Guadalajara for the IWF World Junior Championships. After listening to the Mexican anthem at the opening ceremony, our IWF Communications Manager [Pedro Adrega/POR] approached me and said: ‘We need an IWF anthem. You could be the person doing it.’ I immediately liked the concept and many ideas started to flow in my head. But, one day in December, the melody came naturally. In no more than 30 minutes, I had it written down.”

That’s International Weightlifting Federation Secretary General Antonio Urso (ITA), not only an administrator, but also a musician! He wrote the first-ever IWF anthem, then found Maltese musician Aidan Zammit to create the arrangement and the recording, now complete and available.

The piece is just 1:21 in length, and Zammit recalled the sound of marching bands from his youth, remembering, “They weren’t usually in tune, but they conveyed an air of happiness and power, and were very captivating.”

So the federation has its own anthem, with a light beginning that builds to the finish. Which federation will be next?

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