The Week That Was: IOC Bosses Squash Olympic Cancellation Rumors, Canada & Great Britain Make Early Selections For Games

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Photo Courtesy: Sydney International Regatta Centre Visitpenrith.com.au

The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

Conflicting reports about the status of the upcoming Olympic Games surfaced last week, with The Times reporting that Japan was privately conceding the Olympics and would be focusing on a bid at 2032. However, many senior members of the International Olympic Committee, and various members of national Olympic Committees, squashed these rumors and insisted the Games were still on.

With the Games still on, Swimming Canada and British Swimming made early selections for their Olympic Teams.

Read below the five biggest stories in The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

The Week That Was #1: Olympic Committee Heads Squash Olympic Cancellation Rumors

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By Andy Ross

Conflicting reports have surfaced over the status of the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo scheduled for this summer, after they were delayed a full year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Times of London on Thursday produced a report, citing a senior member of the Japan’s ruling coalition that, “The Japanese government has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus.” For stakeholders in Japan, the focus would shift to securing the next available Olympics, in 2032, as some compensation for the money spent on these Games.

From the The Times’ report:

The aim now is to find a face-saving way of announcing the cancellation that leaves open the possibility of Tokyo playing host at a later date. “No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult,” the un-named source said. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Earlier on Jan. 21, IOC President Thomas Bach insisted there is no “Plan B” with full confidence the Games will go forward as scheduled despite huge cost overruns because of the delay.

The Australian and United States Olympic Committee have published statements that refute these reports, indicating that any cancellation would come from the International Olympic Committee.

The USOPC wrote:

“Any official communication on the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 will come from the IOC, Tokyo Organizing Committee and the Japanese government.

“We have not received any information suggesting the Games will not happen as planned, and our focus remains on the health and preparedness of Team USA athletes ahead of the Games this summer.”

Australian Olympic Committee chef de mission for the 2021 Games Ian Chesterman also insisted the report was nothing more than a rumor when speaking on radio Friday in Australia, according to news.com.au. The AOC released the statement below:

“Both Japanese Prime Minister (YoshihideSuga and IOC President Bach have this week strongly reaffirmed their commitment to the Tokyo Olympic Games going ahead in July this year,” the statement read.

“The AOC is continuing its planning to ensuring the Australian Olympic Team arrives in Tokyo, competes and returns home safe and COVID-free.

“The AOC, Federal Government, Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council are continuing to progress the candidature for the Olympic Games to be held in Queensland in 2032  – and that process continues.”

#2: Canada & Great Britain Make Early Selections For Tokyo

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Maggie MacNeil & Penny Oleksiak. Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

By Matthew De George & Liz Byrnes

Swimming Canada on Friday postponed the Canadian Olympic Trials to late May over concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. It also provisionally named six swimmers to the Olympic squad.

The six are:

  • Kylie Masse, 100 and 200 backstroke
  • Maggie MacNeil, 100 butterfly
  • Penny Oleksiak, 200 freestyle
  • Sydney Pickrem, 200 breaststroke, 200 and 400 individual medley
  • Taylor Ruck, 100 freestyle
  • Markus Thormeyer, 200 backstroke

Canadian Olympic Trials had been scheduled for April. They’ll now take place May 24-28, still at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. To accommodate social distancing, entries were limited to 20 swimmers per event (15 per Paralympic event), invitations for which went out earlier this month. Swimming Canada, importantly, reserved the right to change its selection procedure as conditions require. Canada will send up to two representatives per event to the Tokyo Olympics, which this week have been on increasingly rocky ground as to whether they can continue this summer.

Rescheduled Trials will follow the same invitational-only format, contested as timed finals. Swimming Canada also cites the ability for the men’s 400 free and 800 free relays to post times to be considered for Tokyo qualification before the May 31 deadline set by FINA and the IOC. (Canada didn’t field an 800 free squad in Rio.)

The six swimmers were selected by Swimming Canada’s Selection Committee, with a limit of one per event. The athletes provisionally selected are still expected to compete at Canadian Olympic Trials.

Adam Peaty, Duncan Scott, Luke Greenbank and James Wilby have been confirmed as the first swimmers to be named to Team GB for the Tokyo Olympics.

The quartet earned their place on the team following their medal-winning performances in individual events at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju with British Swimming revising its selection policy for the postponed Games.

While the four were nominated to the team in December, Wednesday’s announcement confirmed their selection to the Games which are scheduled for July and August although the rise in coronavirus cases around the world has once more cast doubt on them taking place.

Pre-selection is the first of three qualification phases with further selections to be made following the British Championships which are scheduled for April and possible discretionary additions to be made in June 2021, making up the third and final phase.

The Week That Was #3: Jacco Verhaeren Joins German Swimming Federation

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Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia

By Liz Byrnes

Former Australia team coach Jacco Verhaeren has joined the German national team staff where he will share his sprinting expertise, the national swimming association DSV has announced.

Verhaeren guided Pieter van den Hoogenband, Inge de Bruijn and Ranomi Kromowidjojo to a total of 10 Olympic gold medals before heading to Australia where he was head coach.

The 52-year-old left Swimming Australia in September 2020 after seven years following a tenure which saw them finish second in the medal table at Rio 2016 and the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju.

Verhaeren has now joined the German coaching team although his focus will be on the long-term – including work with junior swimmers – rather than on preparation for the Olympics that are scheduled to take place in July this year.

With a track record of producing freestyle swimmers who have reached the Olympic pinnacle over the shorter distances, Verhaeren will be tasked with developing sprinters from 50 to 200m in collaboration with coaches and sports scientists at the DSV’s training bases, starting with junior swimmers.

#4: CSCAA Head Calls Out Coaches For Emphasizing NCAAs During Pandemic

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Dan D’Addona

After swimmers and divers missed out on the NCAA Championships last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Executive Director Greg Earhart released a letter in the CSCAA newsletter, warning of the dangers of focusing on the NCAA Championships again.

As of now, the NCAA championships are on as scheduled.

Earhart’s letter warns of the effects on swimmers whose hopes hinge on making the NCAA championships, a meet that because of the pandemic, has a chance of not happening again, especially with many college teams just starting to compete again.

From the letter:

What I do know is that the symptomatic spread of this virus is real and deadly. I’ve never won a national title but I lost my mom to the coronavirus. I also know that I would feel guilty if I advocated bringing hundreds of people together just to crown a national champion knowing that it means another member of our community has to say goodbye to a loved one over an iPad.

At this point, I’m convinced that this year’s most important meet is Senior day.  It might be at a conference meet, might be against your biggest rival or might even be virtual. Some kids might swim fast, others not at all. As I’ve been unpacking a lifetime of things stored in my mother’s basement, I can tell you, the notes – especially from parents thanking me for looking after their sons and daughters – mean more to me than any medals or coach-of-the-year plaque.

The Week That Was #5: Matsumoto & Sato Impress at Kitajima Cup

Shoma Sato

Photo Courtesy: MIKE LEWIS / ISL

By Andy Ross

19-year-old Shoma Sato closed out the Kitajima Cup in Japan with a 2:06.83 in the 200 breaststroke, moving himself up to fourth all-time in the event as he became the fifth man to break the 2:07 barrier and the second from Japan to do so. Closing the meet with the 200 breaststroke, one of the pet events of the man the meet is named after, Kosuke Kitajima, Sato won ahead of Yamato Fukasawa at 2:09.94.

Out in 1:01.18, Sato nearly split under 33 seconds for each 50, with a 32.5 and 33.0 on the second half of the race. He is now second all-time in Japan behind former world record holder and reigning Worlds bronze medalist Ippei Watanabe (2:06.67). This is an improvement from his previous best of 2:07.0 as Sato is quickly becoming one of the world’s top breaststrokers in an already crowded event. All five men who have cracked 2:07 all-time in the 200 breast are still active.

Worlds silver medalist Katsuhiro Matsumoto impressed with a national record in the 200 freestyle with a 1:45.13, lowering his own record of 1:45.22 from the 2019 Worlds.

Matsumoto won comfortably ahead of Mano Hidenari (1:48.97). Matsumoto is coming off the ISL where he had the fourth fastest time in the league in the 200 freestyle at 1:41.7 in short course meters. Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, he is a medal favorite in his home country to which Japan has never had an Olympic medalist in this event.

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