Amber Hill

Olympic links: 16 December, 2013

Amber Hill
Teenager shooter Amber Hill was named the BBC’s Young Sports Personality of the Year last night – see below.

Here we go! One more week of Olympic links before our Christmas break.

Starting with today’s round-up, which – as usual after the weekend – is busy indeed. Lots of British success, too.

2014 Youth Olympics

British Athletics says it won’t send a team to next year’s Youth Olympics (good find by @OlympicStatman).

Athletics

French triple jump world champion Teddy Tamgho will now apparently miss the whole of 2014 after surgery on a fractured shin.

The Times (hence you must pay for this one) speaks to Jack Green, who recently announced he’s taking time away from the 400m hurdles and athletics, about his depression. “I had a nice house and a Nike contract but I felt suicidal.”

Haile Gebrselassie says Mo Farah should run at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games (Farah has sounded less-than-committed to the Games in the past).

In a video which struggles to justify the term ‘underwhelming’, Usain Bolt races a bus and wins.

Bobsleigh

Britain’s John Jackson posted the best result of his career – and the best by any Briton in 16 years – when he and his team finished second in the four-man World Cup race in Lake Placid last night. Jackson is still recovering from surgery on his Achilles tendon this summer and this result is a huge boost to the British campaign ahead of Sochi 2014, especially coupled with the weekend’s skeleton results (see below). GB performance director Gary Anderson:

Sean Olsson was Britain’s last four-man pilot on the World Cup podium, in 1997, before going on to win Olympic bronze at Nagano 1998. The hall of fame on British Bobsleigh’s website can supply some more historical context.

Sunday’s four-man race winner, 0.07 seconds ahead of Jackson, was America’s Steve Holcomb – recording his seventh victory of the season and further cementing his status as the Olympic front-runner.

Canada’s Kaillie Humphries continued to impress in the women’s event.

Boxing

Double Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes is hoping to turn pro:

Barnes, 26, is one of Ireland’s most successful amateurs ever, but he has admitted to casting envious glances towards his friend Carl Frampton.

“He is fighting in front of 9,000 people while I am fighting in front of 100,” said light-flyweight Barnes. “If someone offered the right contract I would be away in the morning.”

Canoeing

A new high-performance centre for GB’s slalom canoeists has been completed at the Olympic venue of Lee Valley.

Curling

The US men’s curling team joined the women at Sochi 2014 after coming through a final Olympic qualifier at the weekend. They beat the Czech Republic 8-5 in a play-off. The Germans were the other men’s team to qualify.

Cycling

An Italian cyclist has accused Lance Armstrong of ‘buying’ a race win 20 years ago by paying him $100,000.

British Cycling released its own Christmas video, featuring a buoyant GB women’s pursuit team and a slightly less festive Sir Dave Brailsford, though he does produce a “ho, ho, ho” as the video closes. (1min 21secs.)

This is an interesting article on the French nationalist history behind the inception of the Tour de France.

Remember the riders in the women’s Giro della Toscana a few months back, who refused to race over fears for their safety on the roads? The case brought against the striking cyclists by the organisers has been dismissed.

Equestrian

The year-ending Olympia horse show takes place in London this week, including top-level dressage and showjumping events. With British jumpers riding high at first and second in the world right now, here’s a profile from yours truly of Ben Maher – one half of that one-two, unprecedented in recent times. Interesting, the balance between being an elite athlete and an equestrian businessman (further complicated by the court case he’s currently contesting).

This Horse and Hound gallery previews some of the contenders heading to Olympia. Meanwhile, double Olympic dressage champion Charlotte Dujardin opens up about the perpetual question mark hovering over her horse Valegro, who has been semi-transfer-listed ever since London 2012 by the horse’s owners:

“Every competition I do I never know if it’s the last one,” says the 28-year-old. “It’s always trying to put that to the back of your mind and carry on … Coming into this year I really didn’t know what was going to happen, whether I would have the horse or not.” The day that Hester revealed the devastating news that he would be forced to sell Valegro, only weeks out from London 2012, is imprinted on her mind. “Yup,” says Dujardin, suddenly tight-lipped. How did she react? “It was very emotional,” she says. “Afterwards it was just really sad and really depressing.”

Gymnastics

World governing body the FIG has turned down an appeal by several high-profile rhythmic gymnastics officials who were suspended earlier this year following an investigation into how some of the sport’s judging courses were run.

There are interviews with GB gymnasts Gabby Jupp and Max Whitlock in the new edition of the Gymnast e-zine (i.e. online magazine), plus some good photos of former GB gymnast Jenni Pinches in an army-style training camp with the UCLA gymnastics squad.

Results from the weekend’s Toyota Cup in Japan: Dan Keatings was third on the pommel horse for GB on Saturday. Victoria Moors of Canada had a strong weekend.

Hockey (field)

The pools for the 2014 women’s World Cup next summer have been announced. England’s women, bronze medallists at the World League (which is lower-profile than the World Cup) in Argentina last week, are in a pool alongside world champions Argentina, European champions Germany, China, the US and South Africa.

Hockey (ice)

A strange few days for defending Olympic women’s champions Canada, whose coach abruptly resigned just hours before a game against fierce rivals the US, claiming the team “lacked confidence” in him. “I’m heartbroken, to be honest, about the whole situation. I’m sad I can’t finish this journey.” The US went on to win 5-1.

Rowing

Here’s a round-up of the GB winter trials held in Boston this weekend, focusing on the impressive form of Frances Houghton.

Sailing

Sir Ben Ainslie describes winning the America’s Cup as “the final hurdle” for British sailors in an excellent Guardian interview which discusses his own part in this year’s America’s Cup plus his Sports Personality of the Year nomination. “Ten years ago people looked down at sailing as one of those odd sports that no one really understood or cared about. Now, especially in the wake of the America’s Cup, sailing has become quite cool.”

Shooting

Teenager Amber Hill was awarded the BBC’s Young Sports Personality of the Year trophy last night. I wrote this article in September documenting the phenomenal, record-setting results which make her so special.

Short-track

This is a useful recap of the travails facing the US team in recent months – skate tampering, “rival factions and chronic mismanagement”. Worth noting that the article isn’t always massively clear on the distinction between short-track and long track: all the issues were on the short-track side, and the long-track team is the one expected to play a big part in Team USA’s hopes at Sochi 2014, but they are controlled by the same governing body.

Skeleton

Lizzy Yarnold finished third and first, respectively, in Saturday and Sunday’s World Cup races in Lake Placid, maintaining a stunning start to the Olympic campaign which now sees her leading the world rankings – just ahead of compatriot and world champion Shelley Rudman.

Latvia’s Martins Dukurs, one of the most consistent performers in world skeleton for many years, endured an uncharacteristically bad weekend:

Skiing

Ted Ligety and Bode Miller, together the toasts of Alpine skiing in recent weeks, both came back to earth with a bump at Val d’Isere this weekend. Both failed to finish their first runs in Saturday’s giant slalom; Miller skied out again in Sunday’s slalom while Ligety finished his run 39th. This after a one-two for Ligety and Miller respectively the week before.

Swiftly running through the weekend’s Alpine results – Tina Maze finally got back on the podium but Mikaela Shiffrin failed to finish at the St Moritz giant slalom as France’s Tessa Worley won (Worley has an Australian father, hence the name, and a French mother); Mario Matt won the World Cup slalom in Val d’Isere while, over in Italy, GB’s Dave Ryding won the second-tier Europa Cup equivalent. Ryding is defending last year’s overall Europa Cup title.

Earlier in the weekend, Tina Weirather had won the St Moritz super-G and Marcel Hirscher took his first giant slalom win this season.

James Woods finished sixth in the Dew Tour ski slopestyle, having qualified in first place:

The recent run of injuries in freeskiing continued with Jen Hudak and Torin Wallace the latest victims. Wallace’s pic is worth a look (not too gruesome, promise):

Hudak, a leading half-pipe skier, suffered ligament damage. “It’s important for me to set an example to others in my sport that you never give up on yourself. I’m approaching this optimistically but also understanding the realities.” Maddie Bowman won in her absence.

Speaking of injuries, Olympic ski jump champion Thomas Morgenstern was taken to hospital following a crash in Germany on Sunday.

The scoring in ski jump is not immediately obvious, relying as it does on marks for style alongside distance. This video from the IOC does a good job of explaining how the scoring system works. (2mins 2secs.)

Blick, Switzerland’s equivalent of the Sun, entertained itself with the news that GB cross-country skiers Andrew Musgrave and Andrew Young had been involved in a (minor) bus crash while travelling between World Cup stages. It didn’t seem to have too much effect, given Musgrave went on to beat a certain Petter Northug (the sport’s superstar Norwegian world and Olympic champion) in one of the weekend’s races.

Snowboard

Here’s Ski Sunday’s interview with Shaun White (video plus written piece), in which he says training for his third Olympics has given him ‘purpose':

“Today I woke up and I chose a healthy breakfast, rather than something else, because of the Olympics. I figured I’ll go take an ice bath so that my muscles will be great for the next day because of the Olympics. So everything has got this bigger goal.

“After my first Olympics, I didn’t know what to do with myself. You’re like ‘wow, I did it. All right. What do you do now?’ I got super depressed, I didn’t know what to do.”

Having been shocked by compatriot Greg Bretz in the half-pipe, White pulled out of the weekend’s Dew Tour slopestyle final with an ankle sprain:

That allowed Canada’s Mark McMorris to further stir the hype around his Olympic favourite status with victory on Sunday. Entertainingly named fellow Canadian Maxence Parrot was third.

Australia’s Torah Bright, who is trying to compete in an unprecedented treble at Sochi 2014 (snowboard half-pipe, slopestyle and cross), won the Dew Tour half-pipe event. Jamie Anderson won the slopestyle.

Swimming

The European Short-Course Championships (i.e. 25m pool, rather than 50m, which is long course) took place in Denmark over the weekend. Friday’s first day of racing brought three medals for GB – silver and bronze in the women’s 200m medley, and bronze in the women’s 200m fly.

Saturday saw Olympic silver medallist Michael Jamieson finish sixth in the 100m breaststroke having set a British record in qualifying. Siobhan-Marie O’Connor won 100m medley bronze, her second medal of the championships.

On Sunday, Jamieson and Jemma Lowe both won silver medals with Aimee Willmott and Chris Walker-Hebborn taking bronze. Fran Halsall finished fourth in her 50m free final on Sunday, having spent the build-up to her race following the taekwondo (about which more shortly) via Twitter while poolside:

Within days of British Swimming announcing a revised structure for coming seasons, Swimming Australia has unveiled a new network of “performance centres” designed to turn its fortunes around. This is a good review of the year in Australian swimming if you want more detail.

Chinese star Sun Yang, suspended recently after being detained for driving without a licence, has still not returned to training with the national team.

Taekwondo

Despite Fran Halsall’s long-distance support, Jade Jones missed out on a gold medal in her final at Sunday’s Grand Prix in Manchester. This was one of the year’s biggest events behind the World Championships, at which GB had struggled across the board. But Britain responded well in Manchester, Jones taking silver while Lutalo Muhammad and Mahama Cho both won gold. Jones said she had “fallen back in love” with the sport at the event.

Cho, born in the Ivory Coast and a former competitor for France before returning to the GB setup this year, won the men’s heavyweight gold medal via sudden death on Friday. Muhammad won the -80kg category a day later but Aaron Cook could only take bronze, depriving fans of a grudge-match final between the two characters at the centre of last year’s London 2012 selection controversy (Cook now fights for the Isle of Man while Muhammad, who went to the Olympics, remains with GB). Cook later said he was happy to continue going it alone for the Isle of Man.

Other news

Andy Murray was named the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, accepting the trophy via live link-up from his training base in Miami. “No matter how excited I try to sound, my voice is still boring,” he sheepishly admitted, to knowing applause from the arena audience. Mo Farah failed to make the top three.

Canada has announced a big increase in funding for its athletes from 2013 to 2016.

Tennis and football have both suffered sizeable drops in participation in England, according to new figures, and are being threatened with corresponding funding cuts:

Tennis, which earlier this year had a £530,000 funding cut imposed, could lose more of its £17.4m four-year award after participation fell from 423,400 in April to 406,000.

Football’s participation numbers are down to 1.83m, a drop of 100,000 since April. Its 2013-17 funding award was £30m.

The IOC is to invest £12m in the fight against doping and match-fixing.

The first South African to win an Olympic medal in the post-apartheid era says a future edition of the Games should go to South Africa to honour Nelson Mandela’s memory.

Make it so – the Star Trek Christmas song. (Video, 1min 12secs.)