Olympic links: 26 July, 2013


Gracie Gold asleep on bus

US figure skater Gracie Gold discovers it’s dangerous to fall asleep on the team bus – see below.

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As a torrent of one-year-on legacy stories rains down, the athletes who make events like London 2012 such a success are quietly going about their hard work.

Here’s to them this auspicious July weekend – and you, if you’re one of them – for giving me summat to write about each morning.

This Friday’s journalist #ff goes to my old favourites, without whom these links would be one-third the size: NBC’s Nick Zaccardi – @nzaccardi – and sports-reference.com’s Hilary Evans, aka @OlympicStatman. I plunder their timelines daily, so you can get ahead of the curve by following them yourself.

Athletics
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Jessica Ennis-Hill used Twitter to announce she was back in business last night, and will definitely compete at this weekend’s Anniversary Games:

Mo Farah is also back to relive the Olympic magic but long jumper Greg Rutherford, the third gold-medallist in that wondrous eight-o’clock hour on 4 August 2012, is missing with hamstring trouble.

James Dasaolu, Britain’s latest 100m discovery, up against Usain Bolt in the 100m promises to be a highlight of the Anniversary Games. Dasaolu says he “can’t wait” to race Bolt and take in the Olympic Stadium atmosphere. Dasaolu is faster than Bolt this year, having run a 2013 best of 9.91 seconds to Bolt’s 9.94.

In the wake of recent high-profile positive tests, Bolt himself acknowledged the weight of the sport on his shoulders at the pre-Diamond League press conference he shared with Dasaolu (the Anniversary Games are also a leg of the Diamond League). The Olympic champion said:

“I have to work even harder to help the country and the sport. Now I’m even more focussed and ready to go and do better and try to inspire people and to show people that it is possible.

“I’m clean but you have to be very careful as an athlete because right now there are a lot of things on the banned list. You have to keep up to date with this kind of thing. It’s kind of hard, but that’s why you have a team to make sure. I get tested all the while. I got tested the day before yesterday. It’s just part of the routine.

“I’ve broken every record there ever was to break since I was growing up. It’s not a surprise that I’m breaking world records because I’ve been doing it since I was a junior. I want to explain to people that ‘this is just me’. I run fast because I have a talent and was put on this Earth to inspire a lot of people.”

Bolt said he’d texted Asafa Powell, one of those implicated in Jamaica’s positive-test scandal, though he appeared to miss the irony in his message of support for Powell:

Here’s NBC’s preview of what to watch out for in London – and here are the BBC coverage details, beginning this evening.

Badminton
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The two Thai players filmed chasing each other around a Vancouver venue then fighting, in the middle of the Canada Open men’s doubles final, are unsurprisingly facing disciplinary proceedings from world governing body the BWF.

“The charges facing Issara consist of oral and physical abuse, inappropriate and unsportsmanlike conduct, and conduct contrary to the integrity of the game, while Jongjit is accused of oral abuse, and both inappropriate and unsportsmanlike conduct.”

Boxing
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World governing body the AIBA is the latest organisation to be told “no” by the IOC over plans for new events at Rio 2016. The AIBA had hoped for additional women’s categories at the 2016 Games, but its plans to double the number of women’s medals were rejected by Olympic officials, who have imposed a ban on existing Olympic sports creating additional medal events for Rio.

Lisa Whiteside, one of a new crop of British boxers coming through the ranks and picking up medals at major events, was unimpressed:

Anthony Joshua confirmed his move into boxing’s pro ranks on Thursday, a year after winning super-heavyweight gold for Britain at London 2012. Here’s some analysis of his move from Eurosport’s Pugilist blog.

Cycling
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The British government will sink £10m into Yorkshire’s hosting of the opening stages of the 2014 Tour de France.

CNN asks – retweeted by top cyclist Emma Pooley – are female cyclists second-class citizens? “The disparity in prize money is stark. Italy’s Giro Rosa, the longest race for women in 2013, lasts eight days with a distance of 778.5 kilometers and has a $608 top prize. The winner of the Tour pockets $595,000.”

Liam Phillips discusses his chances of bringing home a BMX world champion’s rainbow jersey from this month’s event in New Zealand.

Diving
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GB’s Sarah Barrow came fourth in her 10m platform final in Barcelona on Thursday evening, the highest individual finish ever achieved by a British woman in a world diving final. Tonia Couch, who had impressed by qualifying in second place for the final, finished ninth. China had a one-two on the podium, 14-year-old Yajie Si defeating team-mate and Olympic champion Ruolin Chen with the rest of the field a mile behind them.

Earlier, after an exceptional start in the men’s 3m springboard competition, Jack Laugher failed to make the final – as did team-mate Chris Mears.

Tom Daley has tried to play down any expectations of a world medal from him at this year’s 10m platform event. His competition begins on Saturday.

Doping
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Valerie Adams, who won shot-put gold for New Zealand at London 2012 – but only got the medal a day after the closing ceremony, having been upgraded from silver – has some choice words for Belarussian athlete Nadzeya Ostapchuk, the original victor who was stripped of the title after testing positive for steroids:

“She can stay in Belarus forever,” said Adams. “I was pissed off! I was really, really angry at the time towards her, I was quite sad and depressed and lots of emotions went through me but one thing that remains is that I will never forgive her. She tainted the sport and she tainted our event and it’s something that she shouldn’t have done.

“But the worst thing about it was that she took the moment away, that’s what hurts the most. At the time I was crying tears of disappointment for my country, for myself, for my coach and this thing was crying crocodile tears and embracing her moment that shouldn’t have been hers. She took that away from me and I have no sympathy whatsoever.”

Figure skating
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Picking up where he left off last week, openly gay skater Johnny Weir explains why his heart sinks at the mention of a possible US boycott of Sochi 2014.

An unfortunate moment for sleepy US figure skater Gracie Gold, captured by team-mate Alex Shibutani:

Football
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Norway’s women beat Denmark on penalties to set up a Euro 2013 final against Germany.

Gymnastics
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James Higgins, Britain’s former junior trampoline world champion who reached the heights of the world’s top 10 in his career, has retired.

The ribbon events at the World Games rhythmic gymnastics have been cancelled, because it’s too warm in Colombia and the air conditioning is messing with the ribbons in-flight:

The FIG Secretary General inspected the venue personally this morning and at midday. He confirmed that the temperature measured at both the training and the competition venues was too high, compared to the requirements outlined in the FIG technical regulations. Furthermore, strong air draughts caused by the air condition system affect the gymnasts and the handling of the ribbon, which makes the staging of competitions on this apparatus impossible. 

“I am very disappointed with the situation at El Pueblo Coliseum and I deeply regret to take this decision, but under the present circumstances, we cannot run a competition on ribbon here,” FIG Secretary General André Gueisbuhler said. 

Hockey (field)
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If we apply last-goal-wins rules, England’s men defeated the Netherlands on Thursday in a four-nations warm-up tournament ahead of next month’s European Championships. However, by any other measure, England lost 6-1 – Darren Cheesman got his side’s lone consolation goal late in the game.

Hockey (ice)
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Reports suggest London could once again have a major domestic team within two years, based at Wembley Arena:

The move would see the sport return to the venue many class as the spiritual home of British Ice Hockey after almost a twenty-year absence.

The last hockey to have been played at Wembley was prior to the start of the Superleague era, when the British Championships were held there in 1996.

Documents from the Competition Commission (available here) suggest that current Braehead Clan and Nottingham Panthers owner Neil Black is behind the move to bring back top flight ice hockey to the capital city.

Having a London team is considered a vital next step for domestic hockey in the UK, given the exposure it would bring the sport in the biggest-available market. However, previous attempts – such as the brief existence of the London Knights around the turn of the millennium – have fast run out of cash in what is also an expensive operating environment. Wembley played host to two teams in the first half of the 20th Century, when ice hockey was a reasonably popular sport in the capital. There’s Pathe footage of a 1946 game here.

London 2012
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London’s Olympic Stadium is getting a new roof, at the cost of £63m. They clearly read about Montreal and decided to just make sure.

A 300m indoor ski slope is to be built next to the Olympic Park, according to the Evening Standard – twice the size of the next-largest in Britain, and bound to catch the eye of cash-strapped British winter sports athletes looking for accessible, comparatively cheap training locations. The project is valued at £200m and being paid for by Westfield, whose shopping centre is already adjacent to the park.

“We’re pretty frickin’ stoked by the plans,” said British snowboard magazine Whitelines. “Admittedly because we live in London some of that stoke is self-interested (this will obviously revolutionise the capital’s shred scene) but it’s not just that. How much will it help snowboarding in the UK to have such a big slope so easily accessible to a ton of people? What’s the betting that there’s a next Billy Morgan, Jenny Jones or Jamie Nicholls somewhere out there in East London?”

A BBC survey published this morning says the British public feel London 2012 “was worth it”. Phew. 74% would welcome the Games back and 11% say they are more active as a direct result (which doesn’t sound like a big number but, if that 11% holds true for the population of the UK, that’s about six million more people doing sport, which is a big number).

Modern pentathlon
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Reigning world champion Mhairi Spence admits to being “apprehensive” ahead of next month’s 2013 Worlds in Taiwan – “I’ve never been in a situation where I’m defending a title”.

Rio 2016
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The architect of the Rio 2016 golf course, construction of which was much-delayed, says it’ll still be ready for a test event in 2015.

Rowing
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Olympic champion Mark Hunter successfully completed a gruelling 200-mile extreme endurance rowing race across the Mediterranean, from Barcelona to Ibiza. His hands have been in the w’oars:

Those hands ended up that way for charity, so you can donate of course.

Shooting
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Olympic double trap champion Peter Wilson talks to 2010 Olympic skeleton champion Amy Williams in an interview for BBC West, about the way his life has changed since winning gold:

“What I really enjoy talking about [when people stop him in the street] is what they were doing. I know what I was doing – what were they doing while they were watching? I’ve had some really weird and wonderful stories about what everyone was up to when I was going through agony.”

To which Williams replies: “That’s the bit I love, too. One lady said she was giving birth while I was winning gold in Vancouver.”

Swimming
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From yours truly, how a 16-year-old swimmer from Somerset defied her own wildest dreams to reach the London Olympics, and has since become one of the more potent weapons in the British squad for next week’s World Championships in Barcelona. Siobhan-Marie O’Connor snuck into the 2012 squad at the very last-possible moment:

O’Connor went to the Olympics wide-eyed and delighted to have snatched her last opportunity, only to find herself on the inside of a great British disappointment.

As GB swimmers’ medal hopes in many events evaporated, O’Connor’s performance in the 100m breaststroke merited barely a footnote amid the frenzy of other activity: neither she nor team-mate Kate Haywood made it out of the heats inside London’s Aquatics Centre.

While Haywood fought back tears at the poolside and retired on the spot, O’Connor – eight years younger – lapped up the atmosphere that had existed in her dreams for years. “I was happy with it. It’s such a great experience getting out there,” she told waiting journalists.

That breaststroke performance earned her a place, ahead of Haywood, in Britain’s 4x100m medley relay team. They came through their heat to reach the Olympic final on the evening of Saturday, 4 August 2012.

At 20:08, eight minutes into one of the finest hours in British sporting history – with long jumper Greg Rutherford in mid-air at the nearby Olympic Stadium, Jessica Ennis warming up to race the 800m heptathlon finale in 20 minutes’ time, and Mo Farah set to follow in the men’s 10,000m – O’Connor hit the pool for the breaststroke leg. The team finished last. It did not matter to her.

“When I missed out at the first trials, if someone had told me I would be swimming in an Olympic final, I would have said ‘no way’. But it all just fell into place,” she says.

“It was such a lesson. It taught me so much about sport, and disappointment, and how to bounce back. You need things like that; in swimming, the most valuable lessons are the ones which happen when you lose.”

World governing body Fina has given the go-ahead for mixed relays at major events from 2014 onwards, i.e. men and women competing on the same team, which is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Mixed relays are already a feature of some junior competitions, for example last week’s European Youth Olympic Festival, where GB picked up silver.

Not to give the boy Zaccardi over at NBC too big a head, but he quickly knocked together this handy comparison of how some mixed relay times might look, and which countries might win.

Mixed relays are unlikely to feature at the Olympics unless other swimming events are dropped to make way for them, given the sport’s already-crowded Olympic programme. Olympic bronze medallist and BBC pundit Steve Parry, replying to reporter Nick Hope in Barcelona:

The Associated Press speaks to Michael Phelps’ old coach, Bob Bowman, about life after London 2012. “There have been no secret training sessions,” says Bowman about the constant rumours of a Phelps comeback. “When I see it, then I’ll believe it.”

Synchro
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GB duo Jenna Randall and Olivia Federici finished ninth in their duet free final at the World Championships, capping a week in which the British team has felt frustrated by low scores awarded by judges.

Water polo
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At the World Championships, Britain’s women were rolled over 16-4 by Olympic champions the USA yesterday morning.

Non-Olympic
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Have you been introduced to The Pixar Theory?

First photos of new UK broadcaster BT Sport’s studios on the Olympic Park.

BBC News wonders why baseball isn’t more popular in the UK.

Lessons for every journalist in not blithely tweeting stuff until you’re absolutely sure it’s correct – courtesy of the New York Times, which examines the aftermath following a series of throwaway retweets that saw half the internet blaming entirely the wrong man for the Boston marathon bombings. He is now dead. A lengthy, excellent, thoroughly researched article. One small excerpt:

It helps to envision modern journalism as a kind of video game. If you’re part of the Internet media, everything you put out into the world comes with its own scoring system. Tweets are counted by retweets and favorites, stories are scored by page views and Facebook likes. A writer’s reach and influence is visible right there, in the number of his followers and the number of “influencers” who subscribe to his or her feed.

If you’re wondering why so many writers and journalists from such divergent backgrounds would feel the need to instantly tweet out unconfirmed information to their followers, all you have to do is think of the modern Internet reporter as some form of super Redditor — to be silent is to lose points. To be retweeted is to gain them. We do it for the “karma.”

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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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