Paralympic champ Markus Rehm still hopes for Olympic spot

Markus Rehm
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COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Paralympic long jump champion Markus Rehm is still hoping to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro despite a scientific study’s inconclusive findings on whether his carbon-fiber prosthesis gives him an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes.

Wolfgang Potthast of the German Sport University in Cologne said Monday that it was “difficult if not impossible” to determine whether the 27-year-old Rehm gets an advantage or not.

The study conducted by the German Sport University along with the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tokyo found that athletes with a running-specific prosthesis have an impaired ability in the run up but a better technique for the long jump, leaving open the question of whether a prosthesis helps or hinders the athlete.

“The study could not identify any advantage through the prosthesis, and I think that for me is a good result,” said Rehm, who is hoping to compete both at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August and at the following Paralympics.

“I want to bring the Paralympic and Olympic sport closer together. To give both sides the chance to profit from this.”

Rehm is aiming to be the second athlete with a carbon-fiber prosthesis to compete at the Olympics and Paralympics after South African runner Oscar Pistorius in 2012.

To become eligible under a new rule introduced last year by the IAAF, Rehm has to prove that his prosthesis gives him no advantage over athletes with a similar disability or non-amputee long jumpers.

“I’ve taken the first step with the study, so now I await a step in return from the world body,” said Rehm, who lost his lower right leg in a wakeboarding accident when he was 14.

Rehm won the gold medal at 2012 London Paralympics and holds the world record in his competition class at 8.40 meters. Rehm also won the German national title in 2014 over non-amputee athletes, drawing a mixed reaction.

He was then prevented from competing for the German team at the European Championships, with track and field officials saying the prosthesis could give him an unfair catapult effect.

“Since the German championship in 2014 it has been an ordeal. It’s difficult for me to hear these charges [of having an advantage]. I don’t want to have any advantage. On the other hand, you feel you have to apologize to other athletes,” Rehm said. “There were times when I asked myself if it was worth it.”

Under current rules, Rehm is not eligible for the German team.

“There is no finding that has found an advantage,” Friedhelm Julius Beucher, president of the German National Paralympic Committee, said reacting to the study. “It’s not a question of fairness but a case of discrimination.”

MORE: 100 Olympic storylines as Rio Games approach

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

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Italian skier Elena Fanchini, whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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