Getty Images

Wayde van Niekerk talks Usain Bolt’s records as he awaits IAAF decision

Leave a comment

Wayde van Niekerk‘s long-term dreams are Usain Bolt‘s world records in the 100m and 200m, but first he eyes a more attainable goal: a change in the world championships schedule.

The IAAF council will this week consider Van Niekerk’s request for a shift in the worlds schedule to more easily allow him to race both the 200m and 400m at the meet in London in August, according to the Times of London.

Van Niekerk said in January that he was petitioning the IAAF. The current worlds schedule has the 200m first round taking place about two and a half hours before the 400m final.

There is precedent. The 1996 and 2016 Olympic schedules were changed for Michael Johnson and Allyson Felix‘s double attempts, though Felix failed to make the Rio team in the 200m.

Van Niekerk’s credentials are comparable to Johnson and Felix. He shattered Johnson’s 400m world record of 43.18, clocking 43.03 at the Rio Games out of lane 8 in August. Van Niekerk, coached by a great-grandmother, worried during the one-lap final that a buggy hamstring would bite him around the 200-meter mark as it had in the first round and semifinals. It never did.

Van Niekerk said in January he plans to double regardless of if the schedule is changed, according to South Africa media.

Van Niekerk is not expected to race Bolt at worlds, since Bolt said he will sit out the 200m as he cruises toward retirement. Still, the 24-year-old from Bloemfontein will be asked Bolt questions for the rest of his career.

“A lot of people say, ‘Wayde, you need to be more of an entertainer,'” Van Niekerk said, according to the Times. “I am not that type, but I see qualities I share with Usain Bolt, and that brings a form of comfort even if it won’t sell T-shirts.”

Van Niekerk specifically said in September he dreamed of being as fast as Bolt in the 200m.

“I am a 100, 200 and 400 athlete so will dream for every record there is,” Van Niekerk said, according to the Times on Tuesday. “What sort of athlete would I be if I didn’t?”

Van Niekerk is the only man in history to break 44 seconds for the 400m, 20 seconds for the 200m and 10 seconds for the 100m. His 100m and 200m personal bests — 9.98 and 19.94 — are well off Bolt’s world records from 2009 — 9.58 and 19.19.

So while he will likely be a strong 400m favorite at worlds, he may be a 200m underdog behind the likes of Olympic silver medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada.

In other Rio reflections to the Times, Van Niekerk said a rush in South Africa to associate his Olympic 400m title with race via the hashtag #ColouredExcellence “broke his heart.” (“Coloured” is not necessarily an offensive term in South Africa.)

“It shocked me that as soon as the flag was off my shoulders it became about race,” Van Niekerk said, according to the report. “Didn’t they see what I had done? In South Africa it is a problem how easily people want to classify you racially. People want to put themselves in groups but then go to work with black and white people. Isn’t that racist?

“I got abused a lot. I got called traitor because I didn’t accept I was coloured. Black people told me I was living a blind life, but I know what’s going on around me. I just don’t want to support it. It would be better if we all lived as South Africans.”

The day after Van Niekerk’s gold in Rio, his agent received a phone call from Oscar Pistorius wishing to congratulate his countryman from prison, according to the Times. Last July, Pistorius was sentenced to six years in prison for murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. Pistorius became the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Van Niekerk set to race at Usain Bolt’s home finale

Tour de France route for 2018 unveiled

Getty Images
Leave a comment

PARIS (AP) — Defending champion Chris Froome can expect a stern challenge from Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin in next year’s Tour de France.

Froome is chasing a record-equaling fifth victory to move level with Belgian great Eddy Merckx, French riders Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, and Spanish great Miguel Indurain.

Froome and Dumoulin won the three Grand Tours last year, with Froome adding the Spanish Vuelta and Dumoulin winning the Giro d’Italia.

The 105th edition of the Tour features a hilly 31-kilometer (19-mile) time trial through the Basque country on the penultimate day.

Froome is a specialist, but Dumoulin is the reigning world time trial champion.

The 32-year-old Froome is still in his prime, while the 26-year-old Dumoulin is approaching his.

“A contest between Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin, two riders with similar qualities, wouldn’t displease me. It would force one of the two to try something different to surprise the other,” Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme said Tuesday. “We’re looking at a new generation that wants to entertain. I think that if Christopher Froome is up against Tom Dumoulin, they will want to do that. They will be more or less equal in the time trials. That’s something very exciting.”

The race starts on July 7 — a week later than usual because of the soccer World Cup in Russia — and opens with a flat 117-mile route for sprinters from Noirmoutier-en-l’ile to Fontenay-le-Comte in the Vendee region, on the Atlantic coast.

With the time trial returning after being omitted the last two years, Froome’s Team Sky will be confident of creating early time gaps on Stage 3 — 21.7-mile route starting and ending in Cholet in Western France.

But Sky faces tough competition, because Dumoulin’s Sunweb team is the reigning TTT world champion.

The Tour route, which goes clockwise, features 25 mountain climbs — ranging from the relatively difficult Category 2 to Category 1 and the daunting Hors Categorie (beyond classification).

Eleven are in the Alps, four in the Massif central region and 10 in the Pyrenees.

The difficult climbs start on Stage 10, the first of three straight days of grueling Alpine ascents.

But organizers have preceded that with a tricky ninth stage that could shake up the peloton.

It takes riders over 15 treacherous cobblestone sections: the highest number since the 1980 Tour, with nearly 13.6 miles altogether.

The Roubaix cobbles may perhaps trouble Froome, although Prudhomme thinks the British rider can handle anything.

“The leaders of the Tour have the ability to adapt. We’ve seen that Chris Froome has a range of abilities much wider than people said,” Prudhomme said. “He’s intelligent and hard-working. He keeps on winning in a different manner than in previous years.”

Even though Froome will be 33 on next year’s Tour, Prudhomme still thinks he can improve.

“I don’t think we’ve seen everything that Froome has to offer,” Prudhomme said. “He is strong in areas we didn’t think he was.”

The cobbles are followed by a rest day on July 16, and Froome had better make the most of it because the Alps start brutally the day after.

Stage 10 on July 17 has four difficult climbs on a 98.6-mile route from Annecy to Le Grand Bornand. They include a punchy ascent of Montee du plateau de Glieres, featuring for the first time.

“Six kilometers with an 11.2 percent gradient is monumental,” Prudhomme said.

The third day of Alpine climbing begins with Col de la Madeleine, then Croix de Fer (which translates as the ominous-sounding Iron Cross) and ends with an ascent of l’Alpe d’Huez: three of the Tour’s most well-known.

Dumoulin is not in Froome’s class as a climber, but is not so easy to drop. Whether he can hang in with Froome all the way to the Pyrenees, however, will prove crucial to his chances.

The three tough days of climbing in the Pyrenees starts with Stage 16 on July 24: a daunting 135-mile route from Carcassone to Bagneres-de-Luchon that follows the second rest day.

Stage 17 is short at 40 miles but cruel, with three consecutive nasty climbs, ending with an attack up Col de Portet.

Stage 18 is relatively flat but the next day’s third and final day of climbing on Stage 19 has four ascents and then ends with a potentially treacherous 12.4-mile descent that will test the concentration of tired riders.

Whoever is freshest after that will have a better chance of challenging Froome in the time trial.

The 21-stage race ends with its customary processional Sunday finish on the Champs-Elysees.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Austrians say no to 2026 Olympic bid

Salt Lake City forms committee to weigh Olympic bid

Getty Images
1 Comment

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City has formed an exploratory committee to decide if the city will bid to host the Winter Olympics in either 2026 or 2030 — taking a key step toward trying to become a rare two-time host city.

The group made up of elected officials, business leaders and one key member of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City said Monday that it plans to make a recommendation to state leaders by Feb. 1.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Olympic Committee board said Friday that it was moving forward with discussions about bringing the Winter Games to America for either 2026 or 2030.

Because Los Angeles was recently awarded the 2028 Summer Games, a bid for 2030 would make more sense, chairman Larry Probst said Friday.

The USOC has until next March to pick a city; those expressing interest include Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno, Nevada.

Innsbruck, Austria, said Sunday it wouldn’t bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, taking one more city out of the running. The hosting rights are set to be awarded in July 2019.

The same country hasn’t hosted back-to-back Olympics since before World War II, though when the International Olympic Committee scrapped its traditional rules and awarded 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (LA) at the same time, it indicated it was certainly open to new ideas.

Since 2012, Salt Lake City has been letting Olympic officials know the city was ready and willing to host again with a plan based on renovating and upgrading venues that have been in use since the Games ended.

The city had previously estimated it could put on a Winter Olympics for about $2 billion, but the committee will come up with a new cost estimate, said Jeff Robbins, the president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission.

Robbins is one of three co-chairs on the committee along with Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Fraser Bullock, a key player in Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympics.

Robbins said he thinks the city has a great shot at winning a bid based on the relatively low cost and because it has demonstrated it knows how to maintain venues and keep them in use, putting the city in line with Agenda 2020, the blueprint that IOC President Thomas Bach created for future Olympics calling for less spending on new venues and infrastructure.

There’s an eight-lane interstate running from the Salt Lake airport, which was upgraded for the Olympics, to Park City, which is the home of U.S. Ski and Snowboard. Park City is the host for key U.S. training centers for freestyle skiing, speedskating and cross country skiing.

Overall, the area has hosted about 75 World Cup and world-championship events in winter sports since the Olympic cauldron was extinguished more than 15 years ago.

He said an expanded light rail train line grid around Salt Lake City and a $3 billion airport renovation already underway are two examples of how Salt Lake City is even better prepared now to host than in 2002.

But he and other organizers will also have to answer questions about a bidding scandal that marred the 2002 Games and resulted in several International Olympic Committee members losing their positions for taking bribes.

“You can’t control the past,” Robbins said. “The results of what happened I think would certainly speak volumes. While there was some challenges, we hosted arguably one of the best Olympics ever hosted.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Austrians say no to 2026 Olympic bid