Olympic links: 3 May, 2013

Ivan Basso
Ivan Basso may be the butt of a joke or two after a cyst on his backside ruled him out of the Giro d’Italia – see below.

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Athletics

The French and Japanese athletics federations have signed an agreement pledging to “share information and data on athlete development, organise events and joint training sessions, share training camps and also promote exchanges of coaches and junior athletes” as they build up to Rio 2016.

Cycling

A pain in the arse for Ivan Basso, seen as a potential rival to Bradley Wiggins for this year’s Giro d’Italia title, who has withdrawn from the race – which starts tomorrow – as a result of a buttock cyst.

And on the Giro front, here are a couple of BBC pieces previewing the Giro for Mark Cavendish and David Millar.

Fancy being the venue manager for the Lee Valley Velo Park? In case you’ve forgotten and that sounds dull, that’s the new name for the London 2012 Olympic velodrome and the surrounding bike facilities e.g. the BMX track.

Olympic women’s team pursuit champions Dani King, Joanna Rowsell and Laura Trott will ride in next month’s London Nocturne at Smithfield Market. (A nocturne being a night-time bike race, as explained here.)

Victoria Pendleton has been voted the “sexiest woman in sport” (and 39th-sexiest in the world, which is also commendable).

Equestrian

Pippa Funnell leads the BBC preview of Badminton, the eventing showpiece which begins today, calling it a “clash of the titans” as the hype for this edition continues to build. BBC coverage begins on Sunday and carries on into Monday’s finale – there’s a guide here (scroll down a bit).

The two names you most want to watch are William Fox-Pitt and Andrew Nicholson, either of whom could win the Grand Slam if they win Badminton. This could well be the only time, ever, that such a head-to-head contest for a Grand Slam comes to pass – the slam being wins at Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton in succession.

This face-off is made possible by the cancellation of last year’s Badminton, where Britain’s Fox-Pitt was already on course for a Grand Slam, and the subsequent offer of the sponsors to allow a “rollover” whereby Fox-Pitt could still earn his Grand Slam by winning Badminton this year.

However, New Zealand’s Nicholson has since won Burghley and Kentucky, meaning a win this week would complete the slam for either rider. Funnell, by the way, is the only rider in history to have successfully completed the Grand Slam, in 2003. The prize is $350,000.

If you’d care to inspect the horses and riders in glorious technicolour, here’s a gallery of Thursday’s “trot up” (essentially a presentation of the horses and inspection of their condition) from equestrian photographer Nico Morgan:

All horses passed the inspection – here’s the dressage schedule for Friday.

Figure skating

A thoughtful article by openly gay US skater Johnny Weir on the subject of “out” professional athletes, in the wake of Jason Collins’ experiences earlier in the week. I’ve excerpted the beginning and end to give you his basic premise, but read the whole thing if you have time:

Just a few weeks ago, Nike made the landmark announcement that they would financially back and feature an out member of the LGBT community throughout their universe.

I see Nike’s announcement as a huge step forward [but] while more companies like Nike should support the LGBT community – and more importantly, a non-discriminatory world – I hope they realize there is no price tag associated with this personal journey. The best rewards for coming out are the opportunity to live your life freely and to inspire the masses to live bravely and filled with love.

Golf

Rory McIlroy is “pro-choice” as regards who he might play for – GB or Ireland – at the inaugural Olympic golf tournament, at Rio 2016:

“I saw Rule 41 in the IOC states that I still have a choice. It’s not like they can take it away from me.”

Which brings us to Paragraph 2 of Rule 41, which frees a competitor to choose his team provided that at least three years have passed since he last represented a particular nation.

McIlroy last represented a country when he played for Ireland in the 2011 World Cup.

“If you play for a country and then you either change nationality or whatever or if you don’t play for that certain country for three years, you still have a choice,” McIlroy said. “I haven’t played for anyone, I guess, since 2011, end of 2011 World Cup. Obviously, going into the Olympics that will be five years, so I’ll still have a choice.”

Gymnastics

This tweet from Lynne Hutchison, part of the GB rhythmic gymnastics (RG) team at London 2012, caught my eye. The photo comes from a World Cup event staged in Pesaro, Italy, last weekend:

Handball

Much embarrassment at the draw for handball’s Champions League semi-finals, where one of the balls in the draw becomes jammed and needs smashing open with a kettle.

London 2012

London’s Olympic Stadium will host five games of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, it has been announced, with 12 other venues also in use across England and Wales.

Modern pentathlon

The Colorado Springs Gazette takes the unusual approach of interviewing a pentathlete – Margaux Isaksen, leading the US women’s team at 21 – on the subject of wrestling:

You can imagine Isaksen’s joy when she discovered in February the pentathlon had been spared. But her joy was not pure. 

“I was absolutely happy for myself,” Isaksen said, “but my other reaction was, ‘Wow, I can’t believe they’re taking wrestling out of the Olympics.’ It’s incredibly unfortunate.”

Isaksen’s coach, Janusz Peciak, sat beside her while she talked. Peciak competed in the Olympic pentathlon three times, winning gold at the 1976 Montreal Games.

He is angered, but not surprised, by the International Olympic Committee’s plans to discard wrestling.

“It’s all about the show,” Peciak said. “It’s all about money. If they had people compete in fencing naked, people would love it. That’s what they are doing now. It’s all about the sex, or whatever.”

Rowing

There’s a reasonably important regatta coming up in Essen, Germany next weekend. If you want to know which boats Britain’s men will be racing in, and when, then… good luck reading this.

Rugby sevens

Ben Ryan, England men’s head coach, previews his side’s chances at the weekend’s World Series leg in Glasgow (and the subsequent stage in London, a week later).

Skeleton

British Skeleton has appointed a new president, and the choice is certainly an interesting one: Michel de Carvalho, presently a fabulously wealthy investment banker married to the Heineken heiress, formerly an Olympian in luge and skiing, as well as a child actor in Lawrence of Arabia.

De Carvalho’s reported worth is £5.5bn, i.e. 1,500 times the £3.5m funding his new sport is receiving for the Sochi Olympic cycle.

Skiing

Bode Miller in Vanity Fair – an interview primarily about horseracing and the Kentucky Derby, Miller’s newest passion, but also featuring his incident-prone love life with a pro beach volleyball player, and the recent, tragic death of his snowboarding younger brother.

Sochi 2014

As anticipated, Georgia’s Olympic committee voted yesterday to attend the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, withdrawing all plans for a boycott of arch-rival nation Russia’s home Games.

Synchro swimming

The US synchro team has dubbed this month “Synchro de Mayo” (a play on Cinco de Mayo, a US-Mexican public holiday) in an effort to rebuild the sport in America, after surprisingly failing to qualify for last year’s London 2012 team event. The Wall Street Journal reports:

In an effort to pull synchronized swimming from the shower-drain of sports obscurity, a revamped governing body has declared May “Synchro de Mayo,” a push to expose newcomers to the sport through performances and free lessons. The hope is that expanded membership in USA Synchro will attract corporate sponsorship and build the U.S. team, said the national governing body’s new executive director Julie Swarts, a former gymnast and coach who also works as a gymnastics judge.

The task is daunting. While other nations fund their synchronized swimmers’ housing and training, the U.S. is relying on more modest tools to reach the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro—among them, the YMCA and Bingo.

Taekwondo

Lutalo Muhammad, who won a bronze medal at London 2012 after an acrimonious selection battle against world number one Aaron Cook, can at last return to action for the first time since the Games. Muhammad has been out injured since last summer but will take part in this weekend’s Spanish Open.

Volleyball

Beach volleyball’s AVP pro tour – featuring a number of Olympic medallists – has signed a TV deal with US network CBS, returning it to American screens for the first time since 2010.

Wrestling

Meet two of the athletes preparing to fight for wrestling’s Olympic future in front of the IOC at a meeting later this month.

Non-Olympic

BBC Sport won website of the year at the Sports Industry Awards last night. British Cycling took governing body of the year, Adidas collected a couple of gongs for its ubiquitous #takethestage campaign supporting Olympic athletes, and Tom Daley’s agents took the “best management of a sportsperson” award after a year fraught with question-marks over how the young diver spent his time.

A Welsh company tries a new approach to night shifts: flying some of the staff to New Zealand, to take over from 8pm till 8am UK time.

The NCAA, in other words the hallowed and much-followed world of US college sports, has outlawed hashtags on the field of play.

George Lucas and his fascination with the number 1138. If you’ve not come across this little nugget before, enjoy exploring all the places this number crops up. (My lucky number has long been 31,770 since, if you stick it in a calculator and turn the device upside down, it’s my name…)