Olympic links: 22 August, 2013


US doubles luge competitors

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we shall begin. (US luge team members train at a wind tunnel earlier this week.)

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Athletics
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Promising sprint hurdler Orlando Ortega has apparently deserted the Cuban team and disappeared following the World Championships in Moscow.

An excellent blog from Jo Mersh, British former 800m runner (as Jo Fenn) and 2004 world indoor bronze medallist, on the sense of loss and confusion when giving up your career as an athlete:

When they handed me my world indoor bronze medal on the rostrum, why hadn’t they whispered in my ear “this is not going to last – enjoy it!”

The hardest thing to accept is to go from somebody to nobody. Adapting to civilian life is extremely stressful, depressing, and very mentally challenging. 

I began working for UK Athletics in the marketing and commercial department. I was now organising athlete shoots and sticking up signage and branding for events and on occasions, wiping the bottoms of spoilt athletes. Oh the irony.

I remember working at the Birmingham Indoor Grand Prix which was my favourite track (I broke the 1000m British record there). It was extremely difficult watching fellow competitors on the track in the 800 metres with admiring fans screaming out their names. I was now in the wings of the stage, and would have to get used to it. 

I remember going to the loo to sob for half an hour because I wanted to be out there, I realized that I hadn’t got over my career even after nearly three years. Was I ever going to move on?

Basketball
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Joe Prunty, not long into his post as head coach of the GB men’s basketball team, will also serve as assistant coach for NBA side the Brooklyn Nets this coming season.

Curling
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The season has begun for world champions Eve Muirhead and crew, who are widely expected to become the first Olympians named to Team GB for Sochi in the near future. They lost in the semi-finals of a 12-team event in Indiana last weekend.

Cycling
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Cycling events will remain unchanged – in number and format – at Rio 2016. The track cycling schedule was heavily tinkered-with in the run-up to London 2012, with some disciplines such as the individual pursuit being dropped. There is no room in Rio for the points race to return, nor for a BMX freestyle or mountain bike eliminator, as had been proposed.

Mark Cavendish returns to track cycling next month at an event in Belgium, possibly with one eye on an appearance in the velodrome at Rio 2016. It’s his first serious track cycling outing since 2009.

Pat McQuaid’s loss of the Swiss nomination for re-election as UCI president was confirmed yesterday. The BBC’s Matt Slater summarises McQuaid’s situation as follows:

“Rejected by his home federation by birth, and now dropped by his home federation by residence, Pat McQuaid has failed to do the electoral equivalent of bringing his bike to the race: he has not been nominated.

“The Irishman is, of course, claiming to hold nominations from the Moroccan and Thai federations, but they require a change to the rulebook. Win that argument and he is back in the race. Lose and challenger Brian Cookson goes to the polls next month unopposed.”

From the same author, five questions to McQuaid and Cookson (though only one is answered by both).

No matter the side you’re on, the presidential battle is not particularly pretty viewing – as neatly summed up in this piece, which asks what damage a protracted legal battle for the presidency might do to the sport.

You may have heard Sergio Henao’s name increasingly in recently weeks, particularly as he’s now Team Sky’s main man for the Vuelta a Espana. Hear more from the Colombian in this interview from the team. Meanwhile, Sky’s Joe Dombrowski has withdrawn from the USA Pro Challenge having suffered a succession of nosebleeds then woken with blood in his mouth.

Australian rider Matt Hayman has left Sky to join his country’s own team, Orica GreenEDGE.

Doping
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Following revelations this week of inadequacies in Jamaica’s drug-testing programme, the World Anti-Doping Agency has warned the country it ultimately risks expulsion from the next Olympics.

Come 2015, will penalties be reduced for the inadvertent consumption of banned substances in supplements?

Wang Jiali, a former winner of the Beijing Marathon, has been suspended after anomalies were discovered in her biological passport.

Equestrian
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Britain’s showjumpers hold the lead at the European Championships in Denmark. It’ll be their first victory in 24 years if they win the team title.

Gareth Hughes, who was a late replacement for Laura Tomlinson in GB’s Euro Dressage team, had a disaster with DV Stenkjers Nadonna as the competition began yesterday. Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin ride today, and Britain can drop their lowest score so remain in the medal hunt.

“A fundamental rethink on course design” may be necessary in eventing after the death of New Zealand’s Tom Gadsby last week.

A British-bred horse won the latest eventing test event for next year’s World Equestrian Games in Caen, France. Merlots Magic, a bay gelding (translation: brown castrated stallion), was ridden to victory by Italian Air Force rider Vittoria Panizzon, who’s based in Gloucestershire.

Fencing
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British Fencing has appointed a new president, Hilary Philbin, whose role will largely be as the governing body’s international ambassador.

An obituary for Bill Hoskyns, Olympic silver medallist at Rome in 1960 and Tokyo four years later, and Britain’s first male world champion in fencing. (In which we learn, impressively, that Hoskyns secured a fourth from Oxford, a degree classification long-since abolished.)

Football
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Her 15-year spell as England women’s manager having ended two days ago, BBC Sport profiles Hope Powell:

As a manager, Powell readily admits she is “not easy” to deal with.

Privately, many players will endorse that view and given her unrivalled spell in charge, there are several who have fallen out with or not been selected by Powell who will now hope they can work their way into the England reckoning.

Although Euro 2013 marked a low point, it is important to recognise Powell’s overall contribution since she took the England’s manager’s role in 1998. It is no over-statement to say that the 47-year-old has been a pioneer.

Canada coach John Herdman – who is English – says he “would consider” taking the job, despite Canada preparing to host the women’s World Cup in 2015:

“If the English FA ring me up, it’s my homeland, and if they say ‘we need your help’ I’m going to consider that,” Herdman told BBC Sport. “But at the end of the day I have a big job here with some exciting players.”

Gymnastics
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Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas has split with coach Liang Chow, which could make her return to competition all the harder. She has relocated to California with family, having previously been based at Chow’s gym in Iowa.

As had been suggested earlier in the week, John Orozco has been appointed to the US team for the World Championships next month, replacing the injured Danell Leyva.

Handball
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London 2012 Olympian Chris McDermott has launched his own coaching company. Meanwhile, governing body England Handball is now producing a free quarterly handball coaching e-zine as the sport tries to maintain its momentum in Britain post-Games.

Hockey (field)
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EuroHockey 2013: Ireland’s men came back from two goals down to give England a major scare on Wednesday but could do no better than a 2-2 draw, which sent England through to the semi-finals and Ireland into the relegation pool. England’s women play the Dutch in their semi-final tonight.

Spare a thought for Poland, who did well to concede just one goal against the Dutch by half-time, yet somehow wound up losing 12-0. Eleven goals came in one 30-minute second-half spell, which is almost certainly an international record, at least for an event of this calibre.

Enjoy some ‘alternative’ match commentary from England goalkeeper George Pinner and team-mate Dan Fox as they watch England’s women take on Scotland at EuroHockey.

England women’s Alex Danson and Lily Owsley fight over the word game Articulate in this video.

Hockey (ice)
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Is the NHL considering a substantial expansion into Europe? (Thanks to Leia for the link.)

Modern pentathlon
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A typhoon ripped through the World Championships in Taiwan yesterday, calling a premature halt to women’s qualifying with only the fencing and swimming (which could be held indoors) completed. Organisers wisely decided that the showjumping was enough of a lottery without staging it in hurricane-force winds and rain. The women are returning today to complete their qualifying round, with Britain’s Samantha Murray leading her group.

Rio 2016
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Rio has launched a massive drive to clean up the city prior to next year’s World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. New measures include a wide range of fines for different levels of littering, plus the threat of being given a “dirty name” – information about your messiness being posted on your driver’s licence or appearing when you apply for credit cards, for example.

Critics say the penalties are disproportionately high, and that the infrastructure is lacking to allow citizens to dispose of rubbish easily. The fine for dropping a can is more than a fifth of the minimum monthly salary of 763.14 reais (£200).

To educate the public about the scale of the littering problem, Rio halted normal rubbish collections earlier this month on a stretch of beach in Ipanema, to show how much rubbish accumulates on the sand in a single weekend. Photographs of the stinking piles of rubbish were published in local newspapers.

“I’m 100% in favour of this programme,” said Pedro Gomes, an engineer who works in the Centro district. “Brazilians are pigs, they throw rubbish on the floor all the time. It’s really unacceptable. What’s worse is that the upper classes, even ‘educated’ people, do this too.”

Rowing
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Andrew Hodge called this the “best rowing advert ever” in a tweet this morning from Chungju, South Korea, where the World Championships are about to begin. Here is the organisers’ ad in full (video). He is not wrong.

A few tweaks have been made to the GB team ahead of Worlds – British Rowing has that news and an event preview.

Rugby sevens
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New Zealand continues to throw money at rugby sevens in the build-up to Rio 2016, where they will surely be a considerable force.

Meanwhile, after Ben Ryan left the role of England Sevens head coach…

Sailing
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It looks like the Emirates Team New Zealand boat will go on to face Oracle in the America’s Cup – the Kiwis have a 4-1 lead in the Louis Vuitton Cup against Italy’s Luna Rossa, with the winner – the first to seven – going on to the main event.

Ski jump
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Women’s world champion Sarah Hendrickson suffered an injury while training in Oberstdorf, in the German Alps, yesterday morning. The news was first reported by Italian media, who suggested the US teenager – being hyped across the States as a potential star of the 2014 Games – may have ligament damage. She is heading back to Utah for further medical evaluation.

Skiing
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GB’s Dave Ryding, who won slalom’s second-tier Europa Cup last season, finished sixth in his opening event of 2013-14 in New Zealand.

Snowboard
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A simple objective for GB’s Dom Harington heading into this season: he’s currently 41st in the world. To reach Sochi, he needs to be 40th or better.

Sochi 2014
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Details of Sochi 2014′s slopestyle course have been released.

The head of Sweden’s Olympic committee has warned the nation’s athletes that there can be no political statements at next year’s Winter Olympics in Russia, regardless of what they think about the nation’s anti-gay legislation. Two Swedish athletes wore rainbow-coloured nail varnish at last week’s Worlds in Moscow, causing considerable consternation.

“You can have views about how a country is run as an individual, but we can’t have athletes using sporting arenas to demonstrate these perceptions,” he told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

Swimming
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The results of the Australian Olympic Committee’s investigation into last year’s swimming shenanigans at London 2012 will be made public on Friday, including expected punishments for six swimmers – possibly involving loss of funding.

The New York Times interviews Yannick Agnel, the French Olympic and world champion now working with Michael Phelps’ former coach, Bob Bowman:

The Frenchman’s swimming is characterized by long strokes, thanks to his towering height of 2.03 meters, or 6 feet, 8 inches. Because of his exploits in the pool, and the subsequent media attention, it is not unnatural for fans to compare him to Phelps and Lochte. But he shrugs them off.

“I am Yannick Agnel,” he said. “I am neither Lochte nor Phelps. I don’t swim as much as Lochte does. Those two are phenomenal swimmers. They are Olympic legends. While I am happy I did well against some all-time swimming greats, I cannot compare myself to them.”

Bowman sees a lot of similarity between Phelps and Agnel. “They are very similar, particularly in the way they approach competition and training from a mental standpoint,” Bowman said in a telephone interview. “They are very strong mentally. They know exactly how much energy to put into a certain swim depending on how important it is. They both have immense physical talent. The mental aspect is where they are most alike.”

Table tennis
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English 14-year-old Tin-Tin Ho has been selected for next month’s Europe Youth Top 10 tournament, the first GB woman to make the grade since 2005.

Triathlon
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The latest leg of the World Series is almost upon us. The penultimate stop before next month’s Grand Final in London takes the Brownlee brothers, among others, to Stockholm. Jodie Stimpson and Non Stanford will represent GB in the women’s race.

Wrestling
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If you have the time, this is a lengthy and fascinating study of Dan Gable, 1972 Olympic wrestling champion for the US – his life in the sport and his part in the fight to save it as the threat of Olympic expulsion looms. Very rare, but admirable, to include an entire section on a cat vomiting in an article of this nature.

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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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