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Eugene 2021 World Track and Field Championships winning bid being investigated

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PARIS (AP) — French prosecutors have opened an investigation into the IAAF’s decision to award the 2021 World Track and Field Championships to Eugene, Ore., without an open bidding process.

The financial prosecutors’ office in Paris aims to determine whether corruption, money laundering or other crimes may have been committed in the IAAF’s decision and, if so, whether prosecuting them might fall within French jurisdiction.

The office said Thursday that its probe, opened Dec. 1, does not target any specific individuals at this stage. It is also separate from another, more advanced criminal investigation being led by French magistrates into suspected corruption by former IAAF president Lamine Diack and two other people who worked for the sport’s governing body: lawyer Habib Cisse and former anti-doping chief Gabriel Dolle.

In France, preliminary probes that uncover wrongdoing can lead to a more formal criminal investigation or prosecutors can later close them down if they find no evidence.

“We have suspicions, otherwise we wouldn’t open an investigation,” a prosecutor said, speaking on condition of anonymity per his office’s requirement. “We are within our rights to have a look. But there may be normal reasons (for the Eugene award) that will lift the suspicions.”

Diack’s successor, Sebastian Coe, on Thursday again defended the selection of Eugene. Speaking to the BBC, he said it wasn’t the first city the IAAF has picked without open bidding. He also said the IAAF’s ruling council saw the first world championships to be held in the United States as a chance to break into that market.

“That’s not without precedent,” Coe said. “We have selected cities before not within a bidding cycle.

“By 23 to 25 votes my council decided that this was, for the foreseeable future, the best opportunity to get the world athletics championships into the United States,” Coe added. “Every sport is falling over itself to get into the largest sports market in the world.”

The prosecutors’ probe follows intense media scrutiny of Coe’s role in the Eugene decision. The 1980 and 1984 Olympic 1500m champion was, until last month, a long-time ambassador for Nike, which is headquartered outside Portland, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Eugene.

His dual roles for Nike and the IAAF led to questions about conflicts of interest, particularly after the BBC last month published an email in which a Nike executive wrote that he discussed Eugene with Coe three months before the surprise IAAF selection of the small Oregon city without a bidding process.

Coe “made clear his support for 2021 in Eugene,” wrote the Nike executive, Craig Masback. Coe has insisted he “did not lobby anyone.” The Swedish city of Gothenburg, which was also vying for the 2021 worlds, has called for the whole process to be investigated.

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Joey Mantia extends U.S. medal streak at speed skating worlds; Dutch dominance returns

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Joey Mantia ensured the host U.S. finished with a medal at the world single distances championships. Ireen WüstKjeld Nuis and Jorrit Bergsma ensured the Netherlands finished atop the medal standings.

Mantia joined Shani Davis as the only U.S. men to earn individual medals at three different editions of the championships, taking bronze in the 1500m on the last day of the speed skating meet at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Mantia won the mass start at the last two worlds in 2017 and 2019 (and finished fifth on Sunday, after the 1500m bronze).

Mantia clocked a personal best 1:42.16 in the fifth of 12 pairs of the 1500m. It held up until Nuis (1:41.66) and countryman Thomas Krol (1:41.73) in the last two pairs.

“Was starting to think that I’m so old that I can’t time trial anymore,” Mantia, a 34-year-old whose last 1500m personal best came in 2015, told media in Utah. “Maybe there’s a little bit of hope left.”

Mantia’s medal extended the U.S. streak of making the podium at every world championships this millennium — 16 straight. The single bronze is the smallest medal output since 2000.

Full results are here.

Wüst and Nuis gave the Dutch a sweep of the men’s and women’s 1500m titles, two years after they did the same at the PyeongChang Olympics. Bergsma, an Olympic and world 10,000m champion, earned his first global medal of any color — gold — in the 16-lap mass start.

The Netherlands failed to earn any golds on the first two days of the four-day competition. The dominant Dutch, who topped the medal standings at every Olympics and worlds dating to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, entered Sunday trailing Russia.

But Wüst began the day by clocking 1:50.92 to win the 1500m by .21 over Russian Yevgenia Lalenkova. American medal hope Brittany Bowe, the 2015 World champion who took bronze last year, finished 14th a day after taking eighth in her world-record 1000m distance.

Nuis and Krol went one-two in the men’s 1500m to tie Russia’s medal total. Then Irene Schouten took bronze in the women’s mass start to put the Netherlands ahead for good, followed by Bergsma’s capper.

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Netherlands on the board; more world records at speed skating worlds

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It took four world records from other countries before the Netherlands won its first title in an Olympic program event at the world single distances speed skating championships.

Jutta Leerdam got the dominant skating nation on the board on the third day of the four-day competition and in the ninth Olympic program event. Leerdam scored an upset over defending champion and world-record holder Brittany Bowe, the American who ended up eighth.

Leerdam, 21, prevailed despite having zero World Cup podiums to her name. She clocked 1:11.84, just .23 slower than Bowe’s world record set on the same Utah Olympic Oval last year. Bowe, who recently had her yearlong win streak snapped in the 1000m, finished in 1:12.92.

“It’s a nightmare,” Bowe said, according to media on site.

Later, the Netherlands won the men’s team pursuit in a world record 3:34.68, the fifth world record in Olympic events the last two days on the world’s fastest ice at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Full results are here.

The world championships conclude Sunday, highlighted by American Joey Mantia defending his world title in the mass start.

In other Saturday events, both the men’s 1000m and women’s 5000m world records fell. On Friday, world records were lowered in the men’s 10,000m and women’s team pursuit.

Pavel Kulizhnikov followed his Friday world 500m title with the 1000m crown, repeating his double gold from 2016. Kulizhnikov was one of the Russians banned from the PyeongChang Olympics after he served a prior doping ban.

On Saturday, Kulizhnikov clocked 1:05.69 to take .49 off Dutchman Kjeld Nuis‘ record from last March, also set at Salt Lake City. Nuis, the Olympic 1000m and 1500m champion, took silver, 1.03 seconds behind.

Russian Natalya Voronina and Czech Martina Sablikova both went under Sablikova’s world record in the 5000m. Voronina came out on top in 6:39.02, 2.99 seconds faster than Sablikova’s record from a year ago and 2.16 seconds faster than Sablikova on Saturday.

Voronina’s time would have been the men’s world record as recently as 1993. Sablikova won the previous 10 world titles in the event dating to 2007.

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