Usain Bolt

IAAF announces candidates for World Athlete of the Year

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Usain Bolt is a candidate for track and field’s athlete of the year award, as expected, but he’s by no means a sure bet to take home the title for the fifth time in six years.

Bolt had a stellar 2013, winning the 100 meters, 200 and 4×100 relay gold at the World Championships and losing one race all season, but he did not break a world record. He graded his season an eight out of 10.

“I won, but I wouldn’t say it was in Usain Bolt fashion,” he said earlier this month.

Bolt won the IAAF World Athlete of the Year Award in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012. Kenyan David Rudisha, the world record holder in the 800 meters, won in 2010, when Bolt was hampered by injury and lost a 100 to Tyson Gay.

Who could beat Bolt this year? Here are the other nine men up for the award:

Mohammed Aman (ETH) — World champion, 800 meters
Bohdan Bondarenko (UKR) — World champion, high jump
Ashton Eaton (USA) — World champion, decathlon
Mohamed Farah (GBR) — World champion, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters
Robert Harting (GER) — World champion, shot put
Wilson Kipsang (KEN) — Berlin Marathon winner in world record time
Aleksandr Menkov (RUS) — World champion, long jump
LaShawn Merritt (USA) — World champion, 400 meters
Teddy Tamgho (FRA) — World champion, triple jump

The strongest candidates appear to be Bondarenko, Farah and Kipsang.

Bondarenko was the only male track and field athlete to win a specific event at five Diamond League meetings this season and capture a world championship. The lanky Ukrainian also made several failed attempts to break Javier Sotomayor‘s world record of 2.45 meters from 1993.

Farah was the only man other than Bolt to win two individual world championships in 2013. The Somalian-born, Oregon-trained Brit became the first man to sweep the 5,000 and 10,000 at worlds the year after sweeping the events at the Olympics.

The top candidate, though, could very well be Kipsang. The Kenyan became the only track and field athlete to break a world record this year Sunday, winning the Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, three minutes, 23 seconds.

The last time Bolt did not take World Athlete of the Year, the winner, Rudisha, also broke a world record (twice, actually) in 2010.

The women’s winner will likely be Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who, like countryman Bolt, swept the 100, 200 and 4×100 at worlds. She became the second woman to win three golds at a single worlds, joining Allyson Felix.

Fraser-Pryce starred on the Diamond League circuit, too, winning the season titles in the 100 and the 200. She posted the world’s three fastest times of 2013 in the 100 and the two fastest in the 200.

The other women’s candidates:

Valerie Adams (NZL) — World champion, shot put
Abeba Aregawi (SWE) — World champion, 1,500 meters
Meseret Defar (ETH) — World champion, 5,000 meters
Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) — World champion, 10,000 meters
Zuzana Hejnova (CZE) — World champion, 400-meter hurdles
Caterine Ibargüen (COL) — World champion, triple jump
Sandra Perkovic (CRO) — World champion, discus
Brianna Rollins (USA) — World champion, 100-meter hurdles
Svetlana Shkolina (RUS) — World champion, high jump

Defar is the only nominee to previously win the award (2007). Felix, whose 2013 was cut short by injury, won the award in 2012 after taking triple gold at the Olympics. If Fraser-Pryce wins, she’ll become the second Jamaican woman to take it, joining Merlene Ottey (1990).

Her biggest competition would appear to be throwers. Adams posted the six farthest throws in the world this year and won the Diamond League season title in the shot put. Perkovic won all seven Diamond League meets this year with the five farthest discus throws in the world.

There’s also Hejnova, who won seven of eight Diamond League races in the 400 hurdles and posted seven of the eight fastest times of the year.

The lists will be narrowed to three finalists for each award after an email poll of track and field officials closes Oct. 27. The winners will be announced Nov. 16 after a council decision.

U.S. track and field athlete’s Olympic bronze medal stolen

Curling siblings secure mixed doubles Olympic quota spot for U.S.

Rich Harmer/USA Curling
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The United States will be represented when mixed doubles curling makes its Olympic debut in PyeongChang, thanks, in part, to the performance of siblings Becca and Matt Hamilton at the 2017 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship.

Although the Hamiltons finished well off the podium in 10th, their work, coupled with a third place finish at the 2016 World Championships by Joe Polo and Tabitha Peterson, is all the U.S. needed to lock in an Olympic spot for 2018. The bronze won by Polo and Peterson in 2016 was the first time the United States had won a world championship medal in mixed doubles curling, according to TeamUSA.org.

The Hamiltons opened the 2017 World Championships with a perfect 7-0 record through pool play, but a 6-5 loss to Finland in a match that needed extra ends took them out of contention for a medal. Wins against Hungary and Italy moved them into position to get the necessary points to land the Olympic quota spot. In their final match at the 2017 Worlds the Hamiltons fell to Russia, 5-7.

At the top of the 2017 World Championship final standings, Switzerland won the gold, Canada took silver and China left with bronze.

The eight mixed doubles team field set to compete in PyeongChang includes China, Canada, Russia, Switzerland, United States, Norway, Finland and hosts Korea. Curling begins in PyeongChang on February 8, 2018, one day ahead of the Opening Ceremony, with competition lasting throughout the entire span of the Olympic Games.

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President of National Olympic Committees association leaves FIFA post amid bribery claims

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GENEVA (AP) — FIFA Council member Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait is resigning from his soccer roles under pressure from allegations in an American federal court that he bribed Asian officials.

Sheikh Ahmad said Sunday in a statement he will withdraw from a May 8 election in Bahrain for the FIFA seat representing Asia, which he currently holds.

“I do not want these allegations to create divisions or distract attention from the upcoming AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and FIFA Congresses,” said the Kuwaiti royal, who denies any wrongdoing.

“Therefore, after careful consideration, I have decided it is in the best interests of FIFA and the AFC, for me to withdraw my candidacy for the FIFA Council and resign from my current football positions,” he said.

The long-time Olympic Council of Asia president contacted the ethics panels of FIFA and the IOC after the allegations were made in Brooklyn federal courthouse on Thursday.

FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking around $1 million in bribes, including from Kuwaiti officials. The cash was to buy influence and help recruit other Asian soccer officials prepared to take bribes, Lai said in court.

Sheikh Ahmad resigned his candidacy ahead of a FIFA panel deciding whether to remove him on ethical grounds.

The FIFA Review Committee, which rules on the integrity of people seeking senior FIFA positions, has been studying the sheikh’s candidacy since the allegations emerged, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.

The FIFA ethics committee is making a separate assessment of whether to provisionally suspend the sheikh, a long-time leader of Kuwait’s soccer federation who was elected to FIFA’s ruling committee in 2015.

Resigning from his soccer positions does not necessarily put Sheikh Ahmad out of reach of FIFA ethics prosecutors and judges if any action was taken.

In 2012, former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar was banned for life by the ethics committee days after he resigned.

Bin Hammam was also clearly identified in Lai’s court hearing for having paid Lai a total of $100,000 in bribes to support the Qatari’s failed challenge to FIFA’s then-president Sepp Blatter in 2011. Bin Hammam was removed from that election contest in a Caribbean bribery case.

Sheikh Ahmad has also contacted the IOC’s ethics commission about the allegations against him, the IOC said on Saturday.

As president since 2012 of the global group of national Olympic bodies, known as ANOC, Sheikh Ahmad’s support has often been cited as key to winning Olympic election and hosting awards. The sheikh was widely credited for helping Thomas Bach win the IOC presidency in 2013.

Although Sheikh Ahmad was not named in Department of Justice and court documents last week, he has become one of the most significant casualties of the sprawling U.S. federal investigation of bribery and corruption in international soccer revealed two years ago.

The sheikh could be identified in a transcript of Lai’s court hearing which said “co-conspirator #2 was also the president of Olympic Council of Asia.” Sheikh Ahmad has been OCA president since 1991.

Co-conspirator #3 was described as having a “high-ranking” role at OCA, and also linked to the Kuwait soccer federation.

According to the published transcript, Lai claimed he “received at least $770,000 in wire transfers from accounts associated with Co-Conspirator #3 and the OCA between November of 2009 and about the fall of 2014.”

“I understood that the source of this money was ultimately Co-Conspirator #2 and on some occasion Co-Conspirator #3 told me to send him an email saying that I need funds so he could show the email to Co-Conspirator #2,” Lai said in court.

Lai admitted that he agreed to help recruit other Asian officials that voted in FIFA elections who would help Kuwait’s interests.

The Guam soccer federation leader since 2001, Lai pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. He agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties, and will be sentenced at a later date.

The American federal investigation of corruption linked to FIFA has indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 people and marketing agencies linked to soccer in the Americas since 2015.

Lai’s case marked the first major step into Asia, and suggests other soccer officials potentially recruited by the Kuwait faction could be targeted.

The Asian election for FIFA seats on May 8 in Manama, Bahrain, is the same day as a FIFA Council meeting which the sheik will not attend. The FIFA congress is held in the city three days later.

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