Olympic links: 19 July, 2013


View from Rio 2016 athletes' village

The view from the Rio 2016 athletes’ village. Worth printing out and sticking somewhere if you’re an elite athlete in need of inspiration…

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Our journalist follow of the week is Bonnie D Ford, ESPN’s voice of considerable authority on all things cycling and an engaging tweeter on tour with the Tour.

Athletics
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Sally Pearson and Christian Taylor are among the headliners at tonight’s Monaco Diamond League, which is billed as a Worlds warm-up.

It’s going to cost somebody some time and money in new posters if Jess Ennis-Hill doesn’t regain her fitness in time for the Moscow World Championships:

Cycling
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Chris Froome increased his lead in Thursday’s punishing Tour de France stage, which saw riders ascend the iconic Alpe d’Huez climb not once but twice. Froome incurred a 20-second time penalty for an illegal feed – but, in the words of BBC summarisers Graham Jones, “Froome will accept his penalty because if he had not taken on board the extra energy, he would have lost more time than that”.

France’s Christophe Riblon won the stage, marking a first triumph for the host nation this year, at the 18th attempt. Froome came home seventh but ahead of closest overall rival Alberto Contador, who was 11th. Froome believes Friday’s stage will be even harder, dubbing it “the toughest day of the Tour de France”.

Away from the racing, Team Sky chief Dave Brailsford has offered the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) a look at Chris Froome’s Tour data, having already handed two years of data to French sports paper L’Equipe in a bid to prove the clean nature of Froome’s racing:

“I don’t know what the process is because we have never done this before but we are trying to react to a situation, trying to think creatively about a situation,” Brailsford said, after also confirming Sky have offered the performance data to Ukad (UK Anti-Doping agency).

“Nobody asked me to do this. I suggested it would be a good idea to contact them, they didn’t contact me. I could stand here and just say: ‘We’ve not failed any drug tests.’ You’ve heard it all before. It’s not going to get us anywhere. There is no point in going down that line. We need to be more creative.”

L’Equipe refrained from publishing the performance data on Froome’s 18 climbs over the last two years at Team Sky’s request, but confirmed it had been analysed by Frederic Grappe,  a cycling coach who is also a researcher in sports science.

Grappe said that there is nothing abnormal about Froome’s performances, after looking into various details, including power data which he suggested is coherent with the Kenyan-born Briton’s profile and consistent with that of a rider who is clean of drugs.

Laura Trott says the petition for a women’s Tour de France, which has enjoyed widespread support from a host of big names including Emma Pooley, Marianne Vos and Ironman superstar Chrissie Wellington, is flawed.

The double Olympic champion tweeted me yesterday to say she agreed with UCI presidential candidate Brian Cookson, who had said the petition’s demands were “unrealistic”. Trott said she’d prefer to see more done to boost the profile of existing races first, before eventually graduating to a full women’s Tour de France; Pooley later replied with a defence of the petition’s goals, arguing that a women’s Tour would not threaten smaller races. I’ve put all the relevant tweets on this Storify page.

Speaking of Cookson, he took a new pop at election rival (and incumbent) Pat McQuaid on his blog yesterday, regarding doping and suspicion in cycling:

What I find really frustrating is that in this latest episode it is the riders, teams and the press who are scrambling to find a solution. I’m pleased they are doing their best but it’s clear that it’s the UCI that should be front and centre in this.

The biggest issue at the biggest bike race in the world is an obvious instance where the UCI President ought to be showing credible leadership. Instead, Pat McQuaid is notable by his absence.

Diving
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Ripon diver Jack Laugher says the outdoor nature of this month’s Worlds in Barcelona may help his chances of a medal:

“I’ve always dived well outdoors,” Laugher said. “In diving you have points which you reference to in the air, but when you dive outside it’s all just blue. Some people really thrive on that. I love it. It’s good fun.”

Doping
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Four of the five Jamaicans reported to have failed drugs tests have now confirmed their identities with 21-year-old discus thrower Traves Smikle, who finished 11th in qualifying at London 2012, joining Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson and Allison Randall. Smikle says he “did not knowingly or wilfully ingest any banned substance”.

Sprinters Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Carmelita Jeter walked out of a pre-Monaco Diamond League press conference when faced with questions about Tyson Gay, Powell and doping. There’s video of it here, which makes it pretty clear that Jeter walked out and Fraser-Pryce just sort-of hung around awkwardly and then ambled off.

Strong comments from US 800m runner Nick Symmonds in this Runner’s World article on the use of supplements in elite sport:

“Daily I take 500mg vitamin C, 2000 IU vitamin D, and a One-A-Day multivitamin. This is all that I take. It’s all I have ever taken.

“In this era, it is almost assumed by the general public that every pro athlete is on something,” Symmonds wrote in an email. “If it’s not a banned substance, then it is playing in the grey area with inhalers, synthetic thyroid, etc. 

“When I hear an athlete say, ‘My trainer told me to take these supplements,’ I literally laugh out loud. There is so much wrong with this statement it crosses into the absurd.”

Justin Gatlin says he “still believes” in athletics despite the last week’s doping saga. It’s seven years since Gatlin himself failed a drugs test – at the time he shared the 100m world record with Powell, though Gatlin’s time of 9.77 seconds was later annulled.

Aquatics world governing body Fina says it will conduct more than 800 drugs tests at the forthcoming World Championships in Barcelona.

USA Today explores testing for marijuana in elite sport.

Equestrian
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Zara Phillips, who is taking a break from eventing while pregnant with her first child, says she will return in time to fight for her place at the 2014 World Equestrian Games – horsesport’s equivalent of the World Cup.

Equestrian Team GBR, the elite wing of British equestrian sport, has launched a redesigned website.

Figure skating
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The second time Johnny Weir has cropped up this week – this time, the openly gay US skater deals with Russia’s approach to equality and gay rights:

It is no secret that I am a very public cheerleader of Russia, U.S.-Russia relations, and Russia’s continued growth as a democracy. I have been gifted and worn Russian uniforms and clothes for years. I collect Russian porcelain, Fabergé eggs, and photos of Red Square and Saint Basil’s Cathedral. I speak, read, and write in the Russian language. 

I have performed many times in Russia, walked down the street, and kissed my husband in Red Square. I have worn flamboyant costumes there, and I have met with Russian LGBT citizens and support groups.

The fact that I may never be issued a visa to the Russian Federation again in my lifetime; that I may never be able to take my children to a place I love so much; and of course the fact that I could be publicly humiliated, beaten up, arrested, charged, and expelled is a crushing blow. 

Despite my heartache, I will fight for my right to go to Russia. I will fight to perform there. I will fight to show the government how strong my community is. I will proudly go to Russia – God willing I slip through the cracks and get a visa – and hold my head high. Should I get arrested, I will be arrested with the pride that I am myself, never flinching, and I will be strong for the oppressed community of beautiful people who I can call brothers. I will be strong for the country, not for the government.

Football
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England’s campaign at the women’s Euro 2013 campaign is over, beaten comfortably by France in their final group game to end any hope of progressing to the knockout stages.

Hope Powell called the 3-0 defeat a “gallant performance” and said she wanted to continue as coach, but BBC pundit Michael Gray, back in the studio, implied Powell’s position was now untenable.

Gymnastics
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Louis Smith hasn’t entirely ruled out a bid for Rio 2016 selection, but says he won’t do it simply “to please the public”. The 24-year-old has spent most of 2013 as a TV personality rather than a gymnast, so it would be a long, Shawn Johnson-esque road back (and that one did not end well).

Hockey (field)
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World governing body the FIH has announced changes to indoor hockey – teams will go from six down to five players starting this September. Indoor hockey plays a reasonably large role in the British domestic calendar and the preparation of national sides.

Hockey (ice)
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The schedule for the new NHL season is being held up by continued negotiations over the participation of the league’s players in Sochi 2014.

Judo
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Olympic silver medallist Gemma Gibbons is back from injury for this weekend’s Moscow Grand Slam. The World Championships are in Rio at the end of next month.

Rio 2016
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ESPN’s Olympics desk has been tweeting photos from the Rio athletes’ village:

https://twitter.com/ESPNOlympics/status/357910244787118081

https://twitter.com/ESPNOlympics/status/357910283563446273

Skeleton
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An example of the sacrifices made by British winter sports athletes – here’s skeleton team member Kristan Bromley, partner of women’s world champion Shelley Rudman:

Taekwondo
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Behind the scenes at this week’s World Championships in Mexico, with former world champion Sarah Stevenson.

More heartache for a Briton last night as Bianca Walkden went out in the last 16 at Worlds. Here’s the audio of her post-fight interview, in which she said: “I just feel so lost. What am I going to do? I train my arse off and every time I come to a major, it comes back in my face. I don’t know what to do.”

Asked if some time away from the sport like a holiday might help right now, she sobbed: “I don’t even feel like I deserve one.”

Aaron Cook, the former world number one now fighting for the Isle of Man after being overlooked for Team GB at London 2012, fights on the last day of the tournament. He spent the Olympics being physically sick with anguish, he tells BBC Sport, and lost £150,000 in sponsorship after the Games.

Volleyball
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Canada’s men came from two sets behind to beat Olympic champions Russia in their World League Final opener, an upset of vast proportions given this is Russia’s 73rd appearance at this level and Canada’s first. Despite the name, the final is a series of pool games between six teams followed by a knockout contest, so there is still a long way to go. Brazil are the top seeds with Russia ranked second in the world. Argentina, Italy and Bulgaria are the other teams involved.

Non-Olympic
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What Niagara Falls looks like through a tiny camera fixed to an almost-as-tiny helicopter.

Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn sent a wayward shot straight into a camera on the first day of the Open Championship – here’s his shot as seen from the camera itself. The camera is said to be worth a five-figure sum.

Did Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher and a New York Times reporter have a secret child together?

Several German football clubs have come together to sign the “Berlin declaration” against homophobia in their sport.

Detroit has become the largest city in history to file for bankruptcy.

In the latest example of what is now known in the trade as “snowfalling” – creating beautiful, multimedia-laden pages that take users hours to fully explore, so named in honour of the New York Times’ Snow Fall, seen as the genesis of the genre – Canada’s Sportsnet magazine has put its “beauty of sport” special online. Sumptuous photography of elite athletes ensues.

What kind of ad would inspire you to watch local council sessions on TV? How about this one?

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Written by Ollie Williams

Ollie has covered four Olympic Games for BBC Sport on TV, radio and web, and is the owner of Frontier Sports. More about Ollie >>

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