Seven sports vie for 2020 Games

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Regardless of the fact that the IOC has three more Olympics to worry about this decade, the 2020 Olympics seem to be shaping up rather nicely.

Leaders from seven sports were in Lausanne, Switzerland this week to officially make their case for inclusion at a yet to be determined location as part of the 2020 Games.

But, unfortunately, there’s only one available spot in Tokyo, or Istanbul… or possibly Madrid. Here’s a look at each sport’s chances:

Squash: Surprisingly high. A possible frontrunner after the WSF made a concerted effort to popularize the sport, make it more modern, audience friendly, and fun. The glass-encased courts make for an incredible spectator experience, and you can put a camera anywhere, but it might lose out because of how many racquet sports are already in the Games.

Baseball/softball: High-ish. Both were taken off the Olympic schedule after Beijing, and both have failed to gain re-admittance for Rio, so we’re not sure joining forces suddenly makes this bid an automatic home run (pun totally intended). But they’re both popular sports that everyone knows, and can’t be counted out.

Roller sports: In consideration. It might be the dark-horse favorite if only because Olympics fans are familiar with its winter cousins. Roller sports includes six disciplines ranging from speed skating and roller figure skating to rink hockey and roller derby. Yes, that’s right, Olympic roller derby. That’s reason enough.

Wake boarding: Talking ourselves into it. A few years ago we’d say wake boarding was too X-Gamesy for the Olympics, but with guys like Shaun White regularly bringing medals back to the States, the audiences from both sporting events seem to be merging. It’s also great on television, though not for live spectators.

Wushu: Hmmmm. Earns points for combining all the best from other martial arts, and for literally being the chinese word for “martial arts.” But wushu loses points because few people have heard of it, and because it’s going up against the more well-known Karate, despite being more entertaining. Speaking of which…

Karate: Meh. We already have taekwondo and judo, so all Karate is bringing to the table is a different scoring system. Think the All-Valley Tournament at the end of The Karate Kid (but without the evil gang of teenagers). It already lost out for Rio and we’re just not sure its different enough to stand out.

Sport climbing: Low. Awesome sport, terrible spectator experience. It’s just difficult to televise athletes literally up against a wall. That said, if you sent some American Gladiators to chase them after ten seconds or so, we’d absolutely be into it. Otherwise, this one is probably near the bottom of the list.

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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