Ty Votaw

Rio Olympic golf course progress speeds up

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Rio Olympic organizers have significantly increased development of the first Olympic golf venue since 1904 in the last two months after previous delays, but it probably would not be able to hold a test event until less than a year before the Games, International Golf Federation officials said Thursday.

“I wouldn’t say that more work has been done in the last 45 days than in the previous six months, but I wouldn’t be too far off if I said that,” IGF vice president Ty Votaw said at The Players Championship.

The faster pace and greater man power came after a dissatisfied IGF president Peter Dawson said in late March that course construction progress was behind schedule.

“We are going to struggle to get a test event a year before the Games,” Dawson said then. “I’m not writing that off completely, but we have to recognize that might be difficult. However, I still think it will be ready in time for the Olympics.”

Two weeks after Dawson’s comments, the International Olympic Committee announced it would send executive director Gilbert Felli to Rio de Janeiro several months earlier than scheduled to oversee day-to-day business as part of a series of emergency measures to address delayed preparations in several areas. IGF officials said the golf course is one of about 10 venues Felli is working on.

The Rio Organizing Committee is responsible for delivering the Olympic golf venue. The IGF is responsible for approving it.

The next step for the development of the Rio Olympic golf course is for it to be grassed, hopefully by the end of 2014, Votaw said. Even if that target is hit, holding a test event in August 2015, one year before the Olympics, on a course with eight months of grass maturation “wouldn’t be a good step forward for us,” Votaw said.

“The likelihood of a test event a year out continues to be improbable, and how much further within that year out we go all depends on our grassing schedule and how much the golf course matures,” Votaw said.

About 10 members of the Rio Olympic Organizing Committee have been at TPC Sawgrass this week, observing operational setups for one of the biggest tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule — from security to catering to hospitality to ticketing. They’re taking lessons to use in planning in Brazil, a nation without a long-standing golf tradition.

“For some of them [Rio organizers in Ponte Vedra Beach], this is a very big event and bigger than what they’ve worked on,” IGF executive director Antony Scanlon said. “It gives them a bit of size and scale of what they’re facing. For others, this is what they expected.

“This is a sport that’s not very large in Brazil. The proximity of the players to the public is something that most security agencies are concerned by, and the great expertise that the PGA Tour has here is allaying their fears and helping them with their fans.”

One question yet to be answered two years out is how big the crowds will be at the Olympic golf tournaments. The Players Championship is equipped to handle 50,000 fans per day. Rio organizers have also visited the British Open and World Golf Championships events.

“To the extent that [Rio organizers] are going to be prepared for ’16, they’re going to need to be exposed to the biggest possible crowds and the biggest possible logistics and the biggest possible security issues,” Votaw said. “When you have a stadium-like golf course like this and this amount of a crowd, we thought this would be a good event for them to at least get that exposure.”

Votaw and Scanlon said IGF officials will next be in Rio in June as part of an IOC venue construction review team.

“It’s been a great partnership with Rio,” Scanlon said. “That’s why [Rio organizers] are here [in Ponte Vedra Beach].”

Another publicized issue is the status of Rory McIlroy and other players whose Olympic nationality isn’t cut and dry. McIlroy is from Northern Ireland, but there is no Northern Ireland team at the Olympics. It’s been reported he could represent Great Britain, or he could be tied to represent Ireland because he competed under an Irish flag as recently as the 2011 World Cup of Golf.

The IGF hopes to finalize the nationality policy by July, two years before the Olympic golf fields of 60 men and women are determined. The fields are set by world rankings, which take into account players’ results over the previous two years.

That would make it clearer not only for a player like McIlroy, currently ranked No. 11 in the world, but also for other players from Great Britain and Ireland observing rankings to determine their chances of making the Olympics.

“If there’s a dual nationality player before the eligibility starts [in July 2014], it’s equitable for every other player from each of those countries to know who is ahead of them on the world rankings from that country,” Votaw said.

The Olympic golf field will invite everybody from the world top 15, with no more than four players per nation. Beyond the top 15, the field will be filled according to the rankings with a maximum of two players per country that does not already have two or more in the top 15.

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Oscar Pistorius’ family upset with delays in possible release

Oscar Pistorius
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SOMERSET WEST, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius‘ family criticized South African authorities on Tuesday for delays in deciding whether he should be released from jail and moved to house arrest, saying his rights were being “undermined” because of the publicity surrounding his case.

The family also reacted to parole officials’ recommendation that the double-amputee runner undergo psychotherapy, saying he was already receiving “regular and ongoing” psychotherapy from both his personal and prison psychologists.

The Pistorius family spoke out in a written statement after his early release — which had been granted in June — was canceled Monday and ordered to be reconsidered.

“This experience leaves us with the uncomfortable conclusion that the public, political and media hype that was allowed to develop around Oscar’s trial has undermined his right to be treated like any other prisoner,” Pistorius’ family said.

The family expressed concerns over the “legality” of canceling Pistorius’ release.

Pistorius was approved to be released on Aug. 21 after serving 10 months of his five-year manslaughter sentence for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. In a fairly common procedure in South Africa for offenders sentenced to five years or less, he would have been moved from jail after one-sixth of the sentence to serve the remainder under correctional supervision at home.

But the justice minister intervened two days before Pistorius was to leave jail and ordered a review on a legal technicality, saying the parole board met two months too early. After a seven-week delay, officials reviewing Pistorius’ case on Monday sent it back to that original parole board to consider all over again.

“We cannot understand … why the matter is now to be referred back to the parole board that has no reason to make a different decision from the one that was made in the first place,” the Pistorius family said.

MORE PISTORIUS: Pistorius’ top rival wants him to race again

Carolina Kostner wants to return to competition

Carolina Kostner
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MILAN (AP) — With her suspension coming to an end, Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner already has her sights set on the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang.

The Italian figure skater will be eligible to return to competition on Jan. 1 after serving a suspension for helping her ex-boyfriend evade doping controls.

”The desire is there, and it includes also obviously a possible Olympics,” the 28-year-old Kostner said Tuesday.

Kostner received clearance this week from the Court of Arbitration for Sport to return to competition next year after agreeing to have her 16-month suspension extended by five months, but then backdated, freeing her to skate earlier than anticipated.

As part of the agreement, Kostner also agreed to act as a spokeswoman against doping, her lawyer said.

But Kostner said it was too soon to lay out a program for her comeback.

”Knowing that I can return to competition in 2016 gives me great strength and great serenity to make a decision,” Kostner said.

Italian skating federation president Andrea Gioss said it would be difficult for Kostner to qualify for the European Championships from Jan. 25-31 because of time constraints. She would have time to qualify for the World Championships in Boston in March by picking up points at sanctioned international competitions.

As she has in the past, Kostner admitted she ”made an error,” by helping her ex-boyfriend, Olympic race walking gold medalist Alex Schwazer, evade a doping test and other infractions. She has said she was unaware he was doping.

”This period for me was a moment of great growth and maturation,” she said, adding she has broken off all contact with Schwazer but did not wish him ill.

Kostner, who missed out on the Worlds last year but won bronze at the Sochi Olympics, said she has been concentrating on the artistic aspects of skating since the suspension took effect in January, and will be able to return to full training in federation-sanctioned rinks from Nov. 1. In the meantime, she is preparing for an ice show in Verona this week, and spent last winter in a dance studio practicing ballet.

Kostner said she misses competing but that she had nothing to prove by returning to the rink.

”I have a big trove of experience, Olympics that have gone well, Olympics gone badly, falls, getting back up,” Kostner said. ”In a certain sense, I feel the desire and need to give it all meaning, if only to be part of a team and have the young future Italian champion turn to me and ask advice, `You, at those moments, what did you do?”’

MORE FIGURE SKATING: New star emerges at Japan Open