The Soak: Coronavirus Crisis Forces FINA To Cancel Chinese Leg Of Diving World Series

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Diving at the World Series - Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

The Soak – Swim News In Brief

Swimming World soaks up snippets from the realm of water sports around the world in a one-stop digest updated each day of every passing week.

If you have a snippet of news for us, let us know: editorial@swimmingworld.com

The Week of January 27-February 2, 2020

Saturday February 1

Tokyo 2020 Test Events & Other Competitions Knocked By Coronavirus Crisis

FINA has cancelled the Chinese leg of the Diving World Series, scheduled for March 7-9 in Beijing, and the World Series of synchronised swimming, scheduled for Suzhou from April 23-25 is also in question in response to the spread of the Coronavirus.

Swimming World questions to FINA about any precautionary measures it may have taken, including any recommendations for medical checks for swimmers, coaches and others who attended two rounds of the FINA Champions Swim Series in China as the virus started to spread, remain unanswered.

China has been forced to cancel or put off a host of sporting events due to the coronavirus epidemic, from suspending all football in the country to postponing the first badminton tournament of the 2020 world tour season.

The world’s most populous country has increasingly become a powerhouse in hosting international sport in recent years but with so many events due to take place there and in other parts of Asia, the sporting calendar for the yearn many sports has been thrown into chaos.

A wrap-up of others sports and events affected so far, courtesy of AFP and other news sources:

  • Football: China on Thursday suspended all domestic football and postponed indefinitely the top-flight Chinese Super League season kick-off due on February 22 in order to “carry out prevention and control of the pneumonia epidemic,” said the Chinese Football Association.
  • Athletics: The World Indoor Championships, scheduled for Nanjing from March 13-15, were postponed for a year. “It is with regret that we have agreed with the organisers … to postpone the event to March 2021,” the sport’s governing body said in a statement Wednesday.
  • Football: The Asian Football Confederation announced Wednesday that home Champions League group stage games featuring four Chinese clubs would be switched to away fixtures for the first three match days in February and March. A decision on venues for each club’s three home group matches will be made at a later date.
  • Women’s football: A women’s Olympics qualifying event between China, Taiwan, Thailand and Australia scheduled from February 3-9 in Wuhan, the disease epicentre, was moved initially to Nanjing then to Sydney. The China women’s football team were quarantined in a Brisbane hotel on Wednesday after arriving in Australia for the tournament.
  • Boxing: A qualification event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics initially scheduled from February 3-14 in Wuhan was rescheduled for Amman in Jordan from March 3-11.
  • Women’s basketball: Another Olympic qualifying tournament, a four-team battle for three Tokyo places between China, Great Britain, Spain and South Korea was moved on Monday from Foshan, in southern China, to Belgrade where it will run alongside another four-team group on February 6-9.
  • Cycling: The Tour of Hainan, due to be promoted to the second-tier ProSeries this year, was scheduled from February 23 to March 1 on the southern island of Hainan. It has been cancelled “due to the health situation in the country”, the International Cycling Union said on Monday but could be rescheduled later in 2020.
  • Skiing: Men’s World Cup races set for February 15 and 16 in the Chinese resort of Yanqing, the first test events for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, were cancelled and shifted Thursday to Saalbach-Hinterglemm in Austria on February 13 and 14.

Chad Le Clos Eases Into 2020 Race Season

Chad le Clos, who this week spoke about his anger over events in the 200m freestyle at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (see entry below: ‘I was too aggressive in my approach & I paid for it in the end’ – Chad le Clos), kicked off his 2020 race program with wins in the 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly on the first morning of finals at the second leg of the South African Grand Prix at the Stellenbosch University Swimming Pool. The morning after clocking 2mins over 200m butterfly before withdrawing from that final, he swam 50.76 in the 100m free, after 50.00 in heats, and 23.98 in the 50 ‘fly.

Erin Gallagher took the 100m butterfly and the 50m backstroke, in respective times of 59.40 and 30.12.

Michael Klim: today, swimming is ‘a mindfulness practice … health, wellness, wellbeing’

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Michael Klim – Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia

Aussie swim star Michael Klim, who will enter the International Swimming Hall of Fame this April, has admitted that he’s a bit of a fish out of water in open water.

Klim’s company Milk and Co is sponsored the World Swim Series event on Noosa’s Main Beach this week. He told reporters:

“I’ve had a bunch of 14 and 15-year-olds swim past me. I don’t try and pretend that I am going to be competitive. Aussies are swimming mad. Swimming is our favourite pastime.”

Just what that means was one of the topics of “Swimming Culture” research undertaken by Shane Gould on her way to becoming a Doctor of Philosophy.

For Klim, when it came to comparing the pool to open water, it was chalk and cheese:

“There are a lot more tactics involved. The course is different and people are drafting, so it has become similar to cycling.”

These days, the meaning of swimming for Klim, who retired from racing six years ago, is:

“A mindfulness practice. It’s part of my health and wellness and wellbeing.”

Friday January 31

 ‘I made French swim history – but I want people to remember me as a good person, simple and always myself.” – Jérémy Stravius 

Jérémy Stravius, 31, says he feels like a huge weight has been lifted from his shoulders in the wake of announcing his unexpected retirement from racing this week (see earlier entry in this week’s Soak).

Asked in an interview with Jean-Baptiste Renet at L’Equipe today, to sum up his emotions, Stravius said:

“Relieved. Sure of myself, certain of my decision and like a huge weight has been lifted. I was not in a hole but the situation weighed on me: I felt like I was in a bubble that imprisoned me and prevented me from being myself.”

The interview concludes with Renet asking the 2011 World 100m backstroke champion and Olympic 4x100m free champion if he feels “armed” for life after swimming? Says Stravius:

“I’m not trained in anything (else) and I’m sure I won’t be a coach but I think I have the weapons to build a solid project. I feel able to do interesting things as an entrepreneur.”

In swimming? “I always have one foot on the edge of the pool. At first I wanted to erase my past, I really did not want to hear [about swimming]. But I think that young people entering the sport still need help – and I’d love to help.”

The love for what he excelled in had abandoned him during the past year, Stravius tells Renet, spending time with his team-mates in the pool at Olympic Nice the thing that still “made me smile, not passion and pleasure of swimming”. He had “a weariness of the atmosphere, the mood of my sport. I did not feel particularly supported by the federation (French swimming federation, FFN).”

Pressed by Renet, Stravius explains: “Today, if you are world champion, it’s ‘we will support you 1000%’. ‘If you have to prove yourself, we’ll wait until you do before you get any support’.” He learned to rely on his own resources, said the swimmer, and had been “very disappointed by some individuals and clubs”, that driving him to move to Nice from Amiens after the Rio 2016 Olympic Games”, a move that “lost me a lot financially”.

Gian Mattia D'Alberto / lapresse 18-08-2014 Berlino sport 32mi Campionati Europei LEN di nuoto nella foto: Jeremy Stravius FRA Gian Mattia D'Alberto / lapresse 18-08-2014 Berlin 32rd LEN European Swimming In the photo: Jeremy Stravius FRA

Jeremy Stravius – Photo Courtesy: Gian Mattia Dalberto/Lapresse

Stravius said he had enjoyed his time at Olympic Nice with coach Fabrice Pellerin and described his experience and relationship with the coach as “very good”, Pellerin “a calm personality who speaks truth thoughtfully”.

The proudest moment of his career was the historic 2011 two-golds World-title triumph he shared with teammate Camille Lacourt but his most emotional moment was taking silver n the same event two years later because of the closeness he felt and support he received from the France team. “I was not alone and away from everyone on the team, like it was in Shanghai (2011)”.

Asked how he would like to be remembered, Stravius said: As an approachable person, strong, simple, someone who listens to people.” He had devoted his time to the French team, to the youth team and to parents and in helping France get to a better place in the pool. And none of what he did was at all costs:

“You can win and be an asshole! I want people to remember that I have made history in French swimming but that sounds a little boastful … I also want people to remember me as a good person, simple and always myself.”

Future Dolphins On Show in Aussie Event Camps

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Queensland teenager Thomas Neill is amongst a host of youngsters joining the Australian Dolphins National Event Camps. Photo: Swimming Australia.

Australia’s National Event Camps, starting in Brisbane this week will see a host of new faces joining the Dolphins elite squad members.

Brisbane teenage, Thomas Neill, who has been catching the eyes of senior coaches already this summer, has joined the likes of Rio Olympian Jack McLoughlin in Vince Raleigh’s Distance Group at Chandler.

Neil has been one of the stars of the Australian Age Championships who won silver in the 1500m at last year’s Junior World Championships.

The Damien Jones-trained sub-15min boy for 1500 will be just one of several up-and-comers including Bronte Job, Elizabeth Dekkers, Gabby Peiniger, Josh Edwards-Smith, Meg Harris, Mollie O’Callaghan and Natasha Ramsden amongst others who have been targeted by National Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren.

The Camps will continue in earnest through February on the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Adelaide and Canberra.

From the Olympic Realm:

Big EPO Bust – Bank Account Trail To ‘Large Number’ of Cheats, Say Spanish Police

A doping ring that sold EPO, the blood-booster, to athletes both locally and abroad has been smashed by Spanish police. Spain’s Civil Guard said the 850 syringes of EPO they confiscated from the raid is the largest haul of the substance in Europe. Police are investigating six people in Barcelona and Cádiz for suspected crimes against public health, money laundering, belonging to a criminal organization, theft and social security fraud.

Police are now analyzing the information from bank accounts located in Austria, Slovakia and Cyprus associated with the ring that they believe will lead them to “a large number of both Spanish and international athletes from different disciplines and all levels of competition who used these substances to improve their physical capabilities.”

According to police investigations, the ring is composed of citizens of Serbia and Spain who they say spent 10 years illegally trafficking EPO to athletes via various websites in different languages to athletes. One of the suspects worked for the clinic in the southern city of Cádiz, where the ring is alleged to have illegally obtained the EPO by falsifying legal orders for patients and then stealing them from the clinic.

Post-Nassar, USA Gymnastics Has A Phoenix Plan – Not Everyone’s Happy

USA Gymnastics has filed a plan to emerge from bankruptcy and provide $215 million in settlement funds for victims of the disgraced sports doctor. The national governing body says that it would also give victims the option of pursuing lawsuits and collecting any judgments from its insurance policies.

Hundreds of young athletes came forward with accusations that Larry Nassar, a doctor who worked in various capacities for USAG, Michigan State and the U.S. Olympic team, molested them under the guise of providing medical treatment. Nassar is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison after pleading guilty to charges of sexual assault and possession of child pornography.

Aly Raisman confronts Nassar in court and calls out her federation ‘guardians’:

 

The scandal prompted Michigan State to set aside $500 million for the settlement of existing and future claims and triggered additional litigation aimed at USAG and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC). Victims claim the amateur sports organizations ignored early indications of Nassar’s criminal acts over many years.

An overhaul at USAG saw the organisation file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2018 as a means of expediting lawsuits. It now says that its latest plan places athlete safety as “our top priority”.

John C, Manly, an Orange County attorney who represents more than 200 Nassar victims, was skeptical: “This proposed plan does not include the critical structural changes necessary to ensure the safety of girls moving forward, nor does it appropriately address the myriad physical and emotional challenges the victims face as a result of these crimes,” John C. Manly said. “Most disturbingly, this proposed plan attempts to absolve USOPC of any responsibility for these crimes which were committed under its watch.

“This plan from USAG is not just unworkable. It is unconscionable.”

The proposal must be voted on by creditors and has also to be approved by the bankruptcy court.

Athletes Call for IWF President to Stand Down and Submit to Full Investigation

Global Athlete issued the following statement (below video) on the scandal in weight lighting prompted by the ARD documentary Lords of the Lifters.

With English subtitles (press Cap ‘C’ to activate subtitles):

Weightlifting athletes have stood silent for too long, and we now demand change. Certain members of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) leadership continue to play games and attempt to interfere with executive decisions, jeopardizing our sport’s reputation and Olympic standing. And we will stand for it no longer.

Athletes are the number one stakeholders in this sport, as without us, there would be no sport. We demand that President Tamás Aján fully step aside–as he previously agreed to do but has not been carrying out–or face forced suspension until a complete and completely transparent independent investigation into allegations reported by the ARD documentary Secret Doping–The Lord of the Lifters is completed. Additionally, we call for the suspension of any other member of the IWF leadership who tries to interfere with or impede the investigative process in any way.

As leaders of the sport, you owe it to your athletes to listen to our demands. Weightlifting is on life support in the international sporting community, and the only way to bring it back into good standing is to allow these allegations to be addressed with a well-funded and fully-transparent independent investigation. Simply put, we do not trust the IWF leadership to investigate itself.

Any investigation and reforms that are recommended by an independent investigator must include an exhaustive, confidential interview process with the athletes, many of whom have experienced first-hand the types of behaviors alleged in the documentary. Furthermore, we will continually advocate for equal and collective athlete representation, and our voices can no longer be silenced.

Too many athletes do not trust the IWF as we stand today. Earning the trust of those who step on the platform starts with the above actions and can only be continued with an accountable and transparent organization that puts athletes, athlete representation at all levels, and fair play at its core going forward.

We ask all weightlifting athletes to join our call for change by filling out and submitting your information at our petition page. Names will be updated every evening.

Signed,

  • Travis COOPER, Pan American Games & World Championships, USA
  • Rachel CRASS, World Championships, USA
  • Christine GIRARD, Olympic Games, Canada
  • Cheryl HAWORTH, Olympic Games, USA
  • Fred LOWE, Olympic Games, USA
  • Fernando REIS, Olympic Games, Brazil
  • Jürgen SPIEß, Olympic Games, Germany
  • Csaba VERES (in memoriam: Győző VERES, Olympic Games, Hungary)
  • [anonymous], Olympic Games, Mexico

Thursday January 30

“The trolling side of things that affected my mental health’ – Adlington

Double Olympic champion Becky Adlington has described how online harassment affected her mental health to the point she still turns down invitations to red carpet events for fear of getting abusive comments.

Adlington won gold in the 400m and 800m freestyle at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, and found herself catapulted into the public eye.

Not all the attention she received, however, was positive and some of it was downright abusive, much of it focused on her appearance.

At the time Adlington was just 19-years-old and the abuse took its toll, as she told Huff Post UK.

“It was definitely the trolling side of things that affected my mental health more than other stuff. I was a teenage girl, and I had insecurities about my body and the way that I looked, but it just heightened everything.

“I was meeting the Queen, but the next day, seeing comments from people saying, ‘You’re too fat to wear that dress’, it tarnished such a brilliant day and something that I should have been so proud of.”

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Into the Hall of Fame – Photo Courtesy: ISHOF

Although she has learned not to look at comments she gets on social media, there is a sad legacy to the abuse dished out by cowards shrouded in their cloaks of anonymity and

“I don’t go to a lot of events now – I probably go to two awards shows a year – because I don’t want to have a load of comments where people say, ‘You look fat in that.’

“It’s made me not want to go to things, because I just don’t feel comfortable.”

Been there before…

Adlington had told journalists including Craig Lord and Liz Byrnes ahead of the 2012 Olympics:

“I used to read all the stuff about me but I’m one of those people who scroll down to the bottom and read the comments thing. I learned very quickly not to do that. It is awful and I get angry. even if there are 10 nice comments you get one idiot. I’ve now given up. It upsets me or gets me angry.

“I’m not an athlete who wants to do everything they can to raise their profile. It’s not about that – it’s about me swimming. It’s not about making lots of money. I want to let my swimming do the talking more than anything else.

“I love the block button on Twitter. I don’t know how people expect to send a nasty message and not get blocked. I won’t be checking it or going on it a lot during the Games. The messages of support are amazing but you do have the chance of someone saying something that is going to be annoying. You don’t want that added stress. You don’t want to be thinking about that. I think I will just tweet once it (the Olympics) is over.”

There were two bronze medals in London followed by retirement in February 2013.

Rebecca Adlington – Photo Courtesy: Heinz Klutetmeier

A new chapter beckoned and daughter Summer arrived in June 2015. However, without the regular support she had had from a sports psychologist while competing, her mental health deteriorated and she started suffering panic attacks. They would come on without warning leaving Adlington feeling breathless and in tears.

In January 2019 the 30-year-old embarked on therapy in which she learned techniques to control her panic and felt able to stop in the summer.

“I wanted explanations of why I felt that way,” she says. “I would accept if I was having a tired day, or if I was having a day when I felt energetic, but I wouldn’t accept if I was having a day when I was feeling panicky. But they’re all the same, it’s no different.

“So it was learning to say ‘I’m having a panicky day’ – acknowledging it, owning it and accepting it, rather than getting more worked up about it.”

Shortly after the interview was published, Adlington’s former Great Britain team-mate Lizzie Simmonds, who was fourth in the 200 back in London, tweeted her support, saying:

“When I get asked who inspired me as a youngster I say ‘Becky Adlington’ because you changed what I believed was possible in our sport.”

‘I was too aggressive in my approach & I paid for it in the end’ – Chad le Clos

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Chad le Clos – Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Chad le Clos has put the moment he shadow-boxed in Michael Phelps’ face at Rio 2016 and forgot two fundamental lessons of engagement with the G.O.A.T. – never pull the tiger’s tale; waste no energy, you’re going to need it – down to the anger he felt when emerging with silver in the 200m freestyle as the first man home with a clean record behind China’s Sun Yang, one of those booed and jeered to his blocks because of a doping sanction in tow.

As Phelps and Le Clos waited in the dressing room ahead of their semi-final of a peak-interest 200m butterfly, the South African was caught on camera shadow-boxing, jumping up and down and creating a bit of a stir in Phelps’ face.

The G.O.A.T. reacted with the full force of minimal energy: a death stare worthy of the occupants of the Death Star.

A quick timewarp trail: the 200m ‘fly final in Rio marked one of the most poignant moments in Olympic swimming history. It was the race that had persuaded Phelps to make a comeback: the American had unfinished business after being pipped in his signature event by Le Clos at what was supposed to be his swansong Olympics, in London.

If that turned the super-troupers on the Rio race long before the blow of whistle and sound of klaxon, then Le Clos’ shadow-box and Phelps’ death stare before the semi added hot spice to a boiling pot come the final. [you can search for the video online but the writer of this item – CL – couldn’t bring himself to include a link to any of them, so full of factual errors – Le Clos, The Australian/ Phelps took the silver in a semi, apparently etc – were they]

Much maelstrom under the bridge, Phelps takes gold to punch another ticket to his founding male membership of the triple-crown club in swimming (2004, 2008, 2016), the swim, the masterclass of what it means to get knocked down but stand back up again, the gap of years all contributing to a story of Olympic heights that has it all.

For Le Clos, fourth, it was an Olympic low, he tells David Isaacson at the South African Sunday Times as he approaches his first race test of 2020:

“I was a tad emotional, I was a tad angry. There was a rivalry. It wasn’t healthy. I don’t hate anybody, I didn’t hate Phelps, but I was angry. I was angry at the situation, I was too aggressive in my approach [and] I paid for it in the end.”

Now, Le Clos approaches his third Games with renewed work ethic and confidence. He is “back to the big work” and believes he’ll make the podium for a third straight Olympic Games this July in Tokyo, he tells Isaacson.

At 27, Le Clos sees himself as an underdog preparing to achieve his greatest feat to date. Le Clos, his targets set at 100 and 200m butterfly and the 200m freestyle, says:

“I’m very confident I’ll get a medal. I look forward to those finals. I rise to the occasion.”

Where does the confidence come from heading into a third Games? Le Clos feels he needed to get back in touch with the work ethic and training philosophy he had when working with coach Graham Hill on the way to his first two Games. At times since Rio, he admits, he has taken his foot off the gas. Not this season. Back home from his base with Energy Standard and coach James Gibson in Turkey, he tells Isaacson:

“I’m back to the big work. I did a set last night that I haven’t done for eight years … I come from a work background, I’m a workhorse. I’ve had to go back to where it all began. I found myself again finally and I feel it’s coming all together nicely … I’m training fxxxing hard, excuse my language. My mind is clear, I’m focused on the right things.”

Foto Gian Mattia D'Alberto/LaPresse 21 Dicembre 2019 Las Vegas - USA sport nuoto 2019 ISL - International Swimming League. Nella foto: il team Energy Standar vincitore del trofeo e della manifestazione Photo Gian Mattia D'Alberto/LaPresse December 21, 2019 Las Vegas - USA sport swimming 2019 ISL - International Swimming League. In the picture: Energy Standard trophy victory

Energy Standard captain Chad Le Clos lifts the inaugural-season International Swimming League trophy in Las Vegas, December 2019 – Photo Courtesy: Gian Mattia D’Alberto/LaPresse

Along the way, there have been World and Commonwealth titles and medals galore but Le Clos points to the post-Olympic drain down which many get lost for a while:

“I made a hell of a lot of mistakes. I’ve taken things for granted. Everybody loses themselves after an Olympics. You get away with doing the minimum … 2013 and 2014 were absolute joke years. I was coming off those Olympics and I wasn’t sure what was going on. I had too much on my plate. I think I neglected the butterfly a little bit. I was doing freestyle, I was doing sprints, I wasn’t doing the hard butterfly yardage. I was always the hardest worker, I feel I lost that a little bit.”

Le Clos, who has struggled with injury since 2018, suffered a hernia on the right side of his groin last year. He still managed to take bronze in the 100 and 200m ‘fly finals at World titles in Gwangju last July.

Rehab followed – and has gone well, he tells Isaacson. Gold in Tokyo would top his 2012 triumph, says Le Clos, while noting the towering hurdles in the men who have taken down Phelps’ 100 and 200m World records, respectively American Caeleb Dressel and Hungarian Kristóf Milák. But you have to believe, says Le Clos ahead of his first race test of 2020, from Friday to Sunday this week in Stellenbosch at the South African Grand Prix:

“No one’s expecting me to win. My goal is to win … Do I believe I can win? Absolutely.”

Philip Heintz to Nurse Injury Ahead of Olympic Games

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Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

German swimmer Philip Heintz announced on social media on Wednesday that he will be taking a break from training to take care of an ailing hip problem that he has had on and off the last couple of years.

“During my session yesterday evening, I felt the same pain in my hip like I felt at the Worlds past summer. I went straight to the doctor and my hip is injured again,” Heintz wrote on Instagram.

Heintz was sixth in Rio in the 200 IM and also placed fourth in the last World Championships, just a tenth away from a medal.

“Fortunately the injury is not as worse as it was at the Worlds, but I’m forced to take a break! I don’t know how long it will take. Hopefully not longer than 2 Weeks, otherwise my belly will return. #fightthebelly” Heintz wrote.

Heintz, 28, has already secured his qualification for his third Olympic Games by his performances at last week’s Euro Meet in Luxembourg. He was a 1:58.9 in the 200 IM which put him fifth in the early days of the world rankings for 2020. He finished 27th in the 200 IM in London for his Olympic debut.

Rio Olympic Park Reopens

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The Olympic Park, Rio 2016 – Photo Courtesy: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Rio Olympic Park, venue for many sports, including swimming, at the 2016 Games, has reopened after a judge ordered its closure on safety grounds earlier this month.

Judge Sergio Schwaitzer, of the Federal Regional Court of Region 2 (TRF2), ruled that there was a “danger of serious damage” being done to the municipality of Rio if the original injunction were to stand. The Park was closed on the basis that safety certificates for the various facilities at the park were invalid.

However, Schwaitzer backed the municipality’s argument that each Temporary Authorization Document (DATF) issued by the fire department for each of the facilities at the park was valid.

One matter related directly to the purpose of the park swayed what the judge called a “difficult and complex issue”: an assessment of the likely damage to the training of athletes using the facility to prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games that get underway in July.

According to city officials, elite athletes from canoeing, slalom, basketball, badminton, and wrestling use the sports centres, while swimmers, basketball and volleyball players from the Flamengo, Minas Tennis Club, Marina Club Bar and SESC Rio clubs, as well as 2,725 sports-school athletes use facilities at the park.

They are not alone. One of the documents highlighted in the appeal referred to the ‘notorious routine use of some facilities located in the Deodoro complex by the Brazilian Army’.

Kenyans ‘Will Race’ In Pool At Tokyo 2020 despite FINA ban

Kenyan swimmers will compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics despite their suspension by FINA, according to Francis Mutuku, the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) secretary general.

The International Swimming Federation suspended Kenya Swimming Federation (KSF) last month. The sanction will remain in place until the Kenyan federation holds elections. The last time it did that was September, 2014 – and continuous warnings from FINA have fallen on deaf ears.

Kenya has two wild cards in swimming for Tokyo 2020. Those places can be taken up if the KSF manages to hold elections and appoint officers. Pressure is now being brought to bear by the NOC-K, Mutuku telling reporters in Nairobi: “If that doesn’t happen, we shall engage them before entering the two swimmers. We shall also help them to prepare.”

Hopefully, athletic preparation for an Olympic Games is not being left until swimmers enter. Meanwhile, Mutuku believes that “the KSF will be able to meet the requirement put in place way before the Olympics.”

Bar Raised For Refugee Team Heading To Tokyo 2020

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Hope Through Sport – The Refugee Team – Photo Courtesy: Twitter, @TeamRefugees

Qualification standards have been raised for the Refugee Team heading to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, according to Tegla Loroupe, the refugee team Chef de Mission for the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Loroupe told reporters that the IOC would not compromise on talent and standard even in the difficult circumstances the refugee athletes find themselves.

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The refugee Team enters the stadium at Rio 2016 Photo Courtesy: Twitter, @TeamRefugees

The IOC has given out 49 refugee athlete scholarships to refugee-team athletes. The recipients include the 10 athletes who were part of the first IOC Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016 from Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia and South Sudan.

Also in the support group are 19 athletes preparing at the Tegla Loroupe Refugee Training Centre in Kenya.

Loroupe, the Kenyan long-distance track and road runner who became a global spokeswoman for peace, women’s rights and education, still holds distance world records (25 and 30 kilometres) and between 1998 and 2001 held the world marathon record as the first African woman to achieve that accolade. A three-time World Half-Marathon champion, Loroupe was also the first woman from Africa to win the New York City Marathon, which she won twice. She has won marathons in London, Rotterdam, Hong Kong, Berlin and Rome.

In Rio 2016, the refugee team competed in athletics, judo and swimming. In Tokyo, there may also be refugee athletes in badminton, boxing, karate, taekwondo and weightlifting, too. Prospective athletes are expected from Afghanistan, Cameroon, DRC, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria.

Said Loroupe:

“In Nairobi, we train 25 refugees and 5 Kenyan athletes. Compared to 2016, the expectations of the Refugee athletes for the Tokyo Olympic Games are higher. Without compromising on standards, the sportsman selection will be based on highest performance – and will be highly competitive. We focus on methods to help these athletes achieve high requirements by entering them to participate in local, regional and international competitions for exposure.”

The final refugee Olympic Team is expected to be announced in June to coincide with World Refugee Day.

Wednesday January 29

‘ I have come to the end of the adventure’ – Jeremy Stravius

Jeremy Stravius – Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

Jeremy Stravius, the Frenchman who claimed the World 100m backstroke title in 2011 and in 2012 helped France defeat the USA with Olympic 4x100m free gold in London, has retired.

An odd time and way to go: three months shy of Olympic trials for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Stravius had recently moved to Nice and the program of Fabrice Pellerin. Only last weekend, he was in action at the Luxembourg Euro Meet, where his times were relatively modest, in-training efforts: 50 and 100m butterfly (24.20, 53.09) and 100m freestyle (50.87).

His heart was just not in it anymore, he told the French media yesterday when home from his last meet:

“When I got out of the water, I knew it was my last. I have come to the end of the adventure and I am relieved to have made this decision. I did not take it lightly. I am sure of myself. I had reached a point where I had to stop. When it’s time, it’s time.”

Stravius goes with three Olympic medals in his pantheon, London 2012 relay gold backed up by 2012 silver in the 4x200m and silver in the Rio 2016 4x100m free. On backstroke and in relays, he has four world titles to his name, as well and 12 European crowns, four of them long-course.

Stravius had all his major successes in the pool while under the guidance of coach Michel Chrétien in Amiens.

The swimmer’s decision came as a surprise to Richard Papazian, the CEO of Olympic Nice Natation. He told Nice Matin that he had received the news on Tuesday at a meeting with Pellerin. Papazian said:

“He made a career choice, a life choice. This is not due to injury or disagreement with Fabrice. This is swimming, a very difficult sport in which everything goes faster and faster. Maybe the efforts he would have to make for qualification for the Games (at trials and championships in Chartres from 14 to 19 April) are a price too high; maybe that feeling was stronger than the fun he’s been having early in the season. I’m surprised but we can only respect his choice. He’s a charming boy and a man of great honesty.”

Tuesday, January 28

Aussie Paralympic Swim Team Suits Up With Speedo For 2020 Tokyo Assault

Monique Murphy AUS Women's 100m Backstroke - S10 - Heat 2 Swimming - September 10, 2017 Olympic Aquatic Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil (Brazil) Courtney Crow / Sport the library

Photo Courtesy: Courtney Crow / Explorer Media

Iconic Australian swimwear company Speedo has today announced a fourth consecutive sponsorship deal with Australia’s Paralympic Team for Tokyo 2020.

The agreement will see the company supplying exclusive high performance competition and training gear to the Australian Paralympic Swimming Team.

Since their establishment in 1990, Paralympics Australia has helped Australians with disabilities to participate in sport and compete at the Paralympic Games.

Brand Manager at Speedo Australia, Graham Eyres said his copmpany was thrilled to extend its exclusive partnership with Paralympics Australia that will see them supply the green and gold swimmers to Australia’s National team for Tokyo.

“Speedo is passionate about life in and around the water, and our aim is to inspire people to swim. We are sure the Paralympic athletes in Tokyo will inspire all Australians to get involved in sport & swimming,” Ayres said.

Paralympics Australia Chief Executive said Lynne Anderson said it was a huge boost for Para-swimmers aiming for glory against the world’s best.

“Speedo is an iconic leader in their field and what better way to showcase our nation’s colours of green and gold than with a brand that is so well known and loved by Australians. Our team will wear being wearing their Paralympic swim gear with pride in Tokyo next year,”Anderson said.

Lakeisha Patterson and Tiffany Thomas Kane

AUSTRALIAN PARA SWIMMERS OF THE YEAR:  Lakeisha “Lucky” Patterson and Tiffany Thomas Kane. Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia (Delly Carr).

Rio Paralympic golden girls Tiffany Thomas Kane and Lakeisha “Lucky” Patterson and a team of exciting rookies provided Australian Head Coach and Paralympic legend Brendan Burkett with plenty to smile at last year’s Para World’s in London.

Thomas Kane and Patterson mixed it with the best of the best and while they were Australia’s only gold medallists from the seven-day World Para Swimming Championships in London in September – there was plenty to look forward to for this year’s London Paralympics.

Burkett’s team, with nine new faces, will be so much better in seven months time, finishing with two gold, seven silver and 14 bronze medals – for an encouraging seventh on the overall total medal count with 23.

Brenden Hall AUS wins Silver in the Men's 100m Freestyle S9 Final. Swimming - September 12, 2017 Olympic Aquatic Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil (Brazil) Courtney Crow / Sport the library

HALL OF FLAME: Three-time Paralympic champion Brenden Hall, who has his sights set on a third Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Photo Courtesy: Courtney Crow (Explorer Media).

New comers Rick Betar, Col Pearse and Ruby Storm all returned home with medals while Betar, Pearse and Jake Michel all set Oceania records – to place them in good stead for 2020 in a team that will also see the experience of London and Rio Paralaympic gold medallists Brenden Hall and Ellie Cole.

The Caribbean Olympic push is on

Many of the best Caribbean swimmers will converge this weekend on Jamaica for the Jetcon Y Speedos Karl Dalhouse Invitational, and stakeholders in Jamaica have taken the chance to increase the emphasis on the meet. It’s the 25th annual Dalhouse Invitational, the 100th anniversary of the Y Speedos Swim Club and this year has the added emphasis of being a FINA accreditation as an Olympic qualifying meet.

Jul 10, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; The delegation from Jamaica walks in the parade of nations during the opening ceremony for the 2015 Pan Am Games at Pan Am Ceremonies Venue. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports Images

Jamaica Olympic Association president Christopher Samuda used the opening press conference last week to advocate for greater investment in promising young Jamaican athletes.

“Competition is a critical element of excellence and achieving, and what ‘Y’ Speedos Swim Club has done is to make sure that it provides an environment of competition that will make our athletes acclimatized to competition on the international stage,” Samuda told the Jamaica Observer. “And this behooves clubs to ensure they put on swim meets that are accredited and approved by FINA, so they can give young people that environment of healthy competition, so that when they go abroad and go on the international stage, it will not be an entirely different experience. … So my charge to the other clubs is to stage your competition of international standards and do not just stage a meet that is routine; look at international best practices and ensure that your meets mirror those practices.”

A concrete step in that direction came via Andrew Jackson, the principal of the Jetcon Corporation, who urged Jamaica’s sporting bodies to add swimming to the ISSA Athletic Championships, the annual event that crowns champions of the island nation’s world-renowned track and field program. The increased visibility, Jackson argued, would increase swimming’s profile in the country, using the example of how pairing girls track with the boys championships has done wonders for that program. ‘

“I think that that kind of energy will come to swimming once it becomes a part of it…so the schools will realize that we can’t win Champs unless we do well at swimming, and I truly believe that would aid in the development and growth of the sport,” Jackson said.

Monday, January 27

Mireia Belmonte’s Message to Spain – Make It A Woman Flag-Bearer At Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Mireia Belmonte, the first Spanish woman to claim gold in the Olympic pool when she won the 200m butterfly at Rio 2016, is urging Spain to follow through. The country has had just two women flag-bearers at the Olympic Games.

Now, Belmonte tells EFE, the news agency, that she would “love” to be flag-bearer for Spain but whoever is chosen, she would like it to be a woman because:

“That would be a recognition of all women’s sport, all the successes [Spanish women] have had in recent years … it was long ago that a woman carried the flag for Spain [at the Olympic Opening Ceremony]. There have only been two in history.”

It was time to get the ball rolling, she indicated, while revealing that among her six goals for Tokyo 2020 is the inaugural 1500m freestyle. The rest remains the same as Rio 2016, including the defence of her 200m butterfly crown.

Meanwhile, Belmonte has completed her first half-marathon in running. She completed the Supermedalla del Circuito Nacional de Running Plátano de Canarias (sponsored by the Canaries banana company that sponsors the swimmer) in 1 hour 39:21sec and said: “It was a great race and I really enjoyed participating in the first round of the [competition, with 11,000 participants]. It was my first half marathon and didn’t know how it would go.”

Lewis Pugh’s Progress & Talks In Russia Over Marine Protected Areas

After completing his most perilous swim to date, Lewis Pugh, the UN Patron of the Oceans, is meeting Russian authorities to try to persuade the country to sign a Marine Protected Areas (MPA) agreement as part of his Antarctica 2020 Campaign.

lewispughiceswim

Lewis Pugh swims a meltwater channel – Photo Courtesy: Lewis Pugh Foundation

Pugh writes: “Under international law, 25 nations and the EU have to agree all measures to protect Antarctica. Currently there are three MPA proposals under consideration in the waters of East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea and around the Antarctic Peninsula. To date, all countries and the EU have agreed to the protection of the next MPA in East Antarctica, with the exception of Russia and China. Straight after his swim, Lewis will head to Moscow to hold talks with Russia’s political leadership.

“We are living in a time of very fast change. I have been swimming in the ocean for over 30 years and I have seen them change dramatically. I have no doubt that we are now facing a Climate Emergency. Ice is melting at an unprecedented rate at both ends of the earth.”

lewispughandteam

Lewis Pugh and Team on Antarctica 2020 Mission – Photo Courtesy: Lewis Pugh Foundation

Pugh is now in Moscow to take part in Russia’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica. He will hold talks with key decision makers within Russia’s political leadership before travelling to London for a series of media interviews and official meetings.

During his East Antarctica swim, Pugh was flanked by a multi-national support team. Integral to this was Slava Fetisov, the UN Patron of the Polar Regions, ice-hockey legend and former Russian Sports Minister.

More information:

  • Follow his journey on Twitter:

Italian Marathon Team In Good Shape During “Psycho-Physical Stress”

Italy’s Open Water team, including Olympic silver medallist Rachele Bruni, Arianna Bridi, the European 25km champion, and Dario Varani, are faring well on “psycho-physical stress” camp at altitude with national head coach Fabrizio Antonelli in Livigno. The camp runs until February 7 and will lead into the squad’s first test, in Doha at the FINA World Cup on February 15.

National team performance director Massimo Giuliani told the Italian media that the group is enduring “high volume and quality workouts” with emphasis placed on “the efficiency of the stroke in relation to the heart rate in altitude conditions”. The squad is in “excellent” shape, he said, despite “psycho-physical stress” test, which is helping to build “mutual respect and trust”.

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