Fencing into the future


Whether or not the IOC’s recommendation to remove wrestling from the Olympics holds in the coming months, the decision has served as a wake-up call for a number of sports that they will look to evolve for the Games. First up: fencing.

International Fencing Federation Secretary General Frédéric Pietruszka told Inside the Games this weekend that the sport is considering shortening its three periods to two minutes each, instead of three, adding colored clothing and devices to help spectators know when points have been scored, and introducing lasers.

“At the moment the notion of using [laser weapons] is no more than a distant dream,” Pietruszka explained during the interview. “But we do need to think about what our sport ought to look like in 20 years time.”

Pietruszka believes these changes will help make fencing a “sport of the future,” which is every federation’s aim in the coming decades. Case in point, squash – a 2020 candidate sport – has made a number of technical advancements including glass walled courts, lighting, music, and video review to make the sport more entertaining for spectators on site and at home.

“We have become more fan-friendly,” seven-time world champ Nicol David said last year. “In the past squash was regarded as a bit too sterile where you couldn’t cheer. But now if there is a great shot and the fans cheer, the rally will continue… We have to move with the times and we have adapted.”

U.S. men’s gymnastics program undergoes changes

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 25: Members of the U.S. Men's National Gymnastics Team gather before day two of the 2016 Men's Gymnastics Olympic Trials at Chafitz Arena on June 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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U.S. men’s national team coordinator Kevin Mazeika‘s contract will not be renewed at the end of the year as USA Gymnastics makes changes after missing the men’s team podium at a second straight Olympics.

Mazeika was the U.S. men’s head coach at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, where the U.S. men earned team medals at a non-home Games for the first time. He then served as national team coordinator from 2009 through this year.

The U.S. men finished fifth at the last two Olympics.

USA Gymnastics will replace the national team coordinator role with a high-performance director “focused on sustained international success.”

“The coaches, committee members and staff did a thorough review of the existing structure and results, and then took a hard look at what is needed to prepare our athletes for success heading toward Tokyo and beyond,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a press release.

MORE: U.S. women’s national team coordinator named

Kayla Harrison begins MMA career

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12:  (BROADCAST - OUT) Judoka Kayla Harrison of the United States poses for a photo with her gold medal on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Two-time Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison has joined mixed martial arts promotion World Series of Fighting, which says she is moving to MMA but won’t set a debut fight for at least a year.

Harrison, 26 and all but retired from judo, has been asked time and again for years about her interest in pursuing MMA. That’s in part because of former training partner Ronda Rousey‘s overwhelming success after she switched from Olympic judo.

Harrison hasn’t responded to messages seeking comment.

Harrison will serve as a commentator and brand ambassador before getting into MMA competition. Her commentating debut will be at WSOF 34 in New York on Dec. 31 on NBC.

Earlier this month, Harrison reiterated that she had offers on the table to sign a mixed martial arts contract, with interest from at least three “big” promotion companies.

Harrison has taken boxing and jiu-jitsu lessons as far back as 2013, which should boost her MMA potential.

To compete in MMA, Harrison will require a weight cut from her Olympic judo class of 172 pounds.

Rousey competes at 135 pounds, the heaviest women’s weight class in UFC. WSOF plans to develop a women’s program as Harrison readies for her debut.

“I’m interested in MMA in an aspect where competitors are treated as competitors and not as celebrities or as showmen,” Harrison said earlier this month, while emphasizing her admiration for Rousey. “I’m not interested in being a talker or someone who is all about the show.”

MORE: Ronda Rousey sets comeback fight