U.S. women’s hockey stars plan to boycott world championship

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U.S. women’s hockey stars plan to boycott the world championship tournament that starts in two weeks over wages and support.

A social-media statement read that team members will not play at worlds in Plymouth, Mich., “unless significant progress has been made on the year-long negotiations with USA Hockey over fair wages and equitable support.”

USA Hockey responded five hours later by noting its previously planned increased “level of direct support” to the women’s national team, that could result in up to $85,000 per player over the Olympic period, and saying it looked forward to continued discussions. It plans to field a team for worlds.

The players’ representatives called USA Hockey’s response “misleading.”

“It suggests that USA Hockey is prepared to pay the players $85,000 during the Olympic year,” a statement read. “That is simply not true, and no such offer was ever extended. In its public statement, USA Hockey has coupled their contributions with payments made by the U.S. Olympic Committee, which pays gold medal-winning athletes more than $60,000. Further, it covers only the Olympic period and does not offer anything for each of the other three years during which a World Championship is played. Lastly, it does nothing to address the marketing and training support that is not on par with what it provides to the mens’ and boys’ teams.”

The world championship tournament runs from March 31-April 7. The U.S. team is due to have a pre-worlds camp starting next Wednesday in Traverse City, Mich., but players are not planning to attend without meaningful progress.

“We are asking for a living wage and for USA Hockey to fully support its programs for women and girls and stop treating us like an afterthought,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said in a press release from the players’ law firm. “We have represented our country with dignity and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.”

USA Hockey president Jim Smith said in a press release that it is not the organization’s job to employ athletes.

“While USA Hockey is disappointed that players from the women’s national team program have said today they do not intend to participate in the upcoming IIHF Women’s World Championship unless their financial demands are met, USA Hockey remains committed to continuing dialogue and will field a competitive team for the upcoming 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship,” USA Hockey said.

Olympic medalists including Hilary KnightAmanda Kessel and Duggan were among the players on the already-named worlds team to post the statement on their social-media accounts.

Knight and Duggan both said Wednesday that the entire national-team player pool is on board with sitting out. Duggan said the under-18 team is, too. They said players had not considered sitting out previous tournaments since hiring lawyers in 2015, hoping that negotiations would net significant change. Until now.

Knight said if it was an Olympic year rather than a worlds year, the players would sit out the Olympics unless significant progress is made. The U.S. Olympic Committee pays bonuses to Olympic medalists, including $37,500 to gold medalists and $22,500 to silver medalists.

“I think that speaks volumes, really, to the unity of our group, but also how passionate we are about standing up for equitable support,” Knight said.

Duggan wasn’t sure if players would sit out the Olympics under the current conditions.

“I mean it’s difficult to say,” Duggan said. “Obviously, that’s a bridge you cross if you get there. We’re prepared to fight for what’s right.”

Knight said she didn’t know U.S. coach Robb Stauber‘s stance. Stauber replaced Ken Klee as the U.S. coach starting with games in December.

The players’ release noted a lack of pay during non-Olympic years.

“The women seek a contract with USA Hockey that includes appropriate compensation,” the release said. “Nearly all of the players’ compensation outside of the Olympic period comes from the U.S. Olympic Committee, and for that, the players are thankful. In the past, USA Hockey has provided the players with only $1,000 per month during the six-month Olympic residency period. During the remainder of the four-year period, USA Hockey pays virtually nothing, despite its expectation that in each of the non-Olympic years, the players train full time and compete throughout the year, including in the World Championships. Approximately half of the players on the Women’s National Team hold second or third jobs, and many others rely on financial support from family members.”

USA Hockey detailed its already planned support leading up to the 2018 Olympics, including “a six-month training camp, additional support stipends and incentives for medals that could result in each player receiving nearly $85,000 in cash over the Olympic training and performance period. The sum is in addition to a housing allowance, travel allowances, meal expenses, medical and disability insurance and the infrastructure that includes elite-level support staff to train and prepare the players.”

The U.S. women’s hockey team has won three straight world titles. In Plymouth, it could go for its first-ever streak of four world titles and its first world title on home ice.

The U.S. took gold in women’s hockey’s debut at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, then silver in 2002, bronze in 2006 and silver in 2010 and 2014.

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Five events to watch at Prefontaine Classic

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The 2017 World Track and Field Championships left questions that could carry over into 2019 and 2020. What does Allyson Felix have left? When will Justin Gatlin cede the world’s fastest man title? How much longer will Caster Semenya be unbeatable?

Those questions might not be answered at this weekend’s Prefontaine Classic (NBC and NBC Sports Gold broadcast schedule here), but it could be the most important meet of a year without a world championships to sort them out.

Felix races the 400m, now her trademark event after a decade as mainly a 200m sprinter, for the first time since taking bronze at worlds in London in August. She does so against the women who beat her both at worlds in London and in Rio.

Gatlin withdrew from Pre on Wednesday, but the man now seen as the heir to Usain Bolt‘s sprint throne, Christian Coleman, races the 100m for the first time since worlds, too. Coleman may have been edged by Gatlin in their one-two at worlds, but he is 14 years younger and coming off an indoor season where he ran the 60m faster than the world record three times (twice under legal conditions).

If Coleman stays fast at Pre, through the summer and 2019, we may look back on 2017 as the transition year between the retiring Bolt and rising Coleman more so than Gatlin’s return to the top.

Semenya faces all of her closest 800m rivals on Saturday, though “close” must be used loosely. Her dominance may be impacted going into next season if the IAAF’s new testosterone limits on middle-distance runners are implemented. This Diamond League season presents what could be the final opportunities for American Ajee’ Wilson and others to take on Semenya before the women’s 800m landscape changes significantly.

Eugene start lists are available here. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

FRIDAY
9:37 p.m. — Men’s Pole Vault
9:42 — Men’s Javelin
10:52 — Men’s 800m
11:06 — Men’s 2 Mile

SATURDAY
3:40 p.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
3:43 — Men’s Triple Jump
3:48 — Men’s International Mile
4 — Men’s High Jump
4:03 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
4:10 — Women’s 800m
4:18 — Men’s 100m
4:26 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
4:41 — Women’s 100m
4:50 — Women’s 1500m
4:58 — Men’s Shot Put
5:03 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
5:10 — Women’s 5000m
5:31 — Women’s 400m
5:44 — Men’s 200m
5:51 — Men’s Bowerman Mile

Here are five events to watch on Saturday:

Women’s 800m — 4:10 p.m. ET
Olympic champion Caster Semenya faces the fastest American of all time, Ajee’ Wilson, for the first time since the 2017 Worlds, where Semenya breezed past Wilson and Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba in the final straight. Semenya is undefeated at 800m for 22 straight meets dating to September 2015, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Men’s 3000m Steeplechase — 4:26 p.m. ET
First matchup between Olympic and world champion Consenslus Kipruto of Kenya and top American Evan Jager this season, and Jager’s first steeplechase anywhere since Sept. 1. Kipruto relegated Jager to silver at the Olympics and bronze at the world championships. Jager has never won a race with Kipruto in the field but does have the world’s fastest time since the Rio Games.

Women’s 100m — 4:41 p.m. ET
The top five women from the 2017 World Championships, led by gold medalist Tori Bowie and Jamaican Elaine Thompson, who swept the 100m and 200m in Rio but was shockingly fifth at worlds. Thompson suffered her second 100m defeat since the start of 2016 at the Diamond League opener in Doha on May 4. Bowie has been absent from the Diamond League since worlds in August. Marie-Josée Ta Lou and Murielle Ahouré of the Ivory Coast and Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers have a chance here.

Men’s Shot Put — 4:58 p.m. ET
Every reigning Olympic and world medalist is in this field, plus the six men who combined for the world’s 33 best outdoor throws since the start of 2013. It’s headlined by Rio gold and silver medalists Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs of the U.S. and New Zealand’s Tomas Walsh, who on March 25 matched the farthest throw in the world since 1990. Crouser defeated Walsh at the Drake Relays on April 28.

Women’s 400m — 5:31 p.m. ET
Allyson Felix and Shaunae Miller-Uibo go head-to-head in the 400m for the first time outside of the Olympics and world championships. Their last meeting was at 2017 Worlds in London: Miller-Uibo led Felix going into the final straight, but Felix was passed by countrywoman Phyllis Francis and Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser while Miller-Uibo stumbled and ended up behind all three of them. Pre is the outdoor 400m season debut for Felix, Miller-Uibo and Francis. Miller-Uibo has already in 2018 run the fastest times ever for 300m indoors and 150m on a straightaway.

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Katinka Hosszu, coach/husband Shane Tusup split

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Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu, the Olympic and world champion in both individual medleys, is no longer working with coach and husband Shane Tusup, according to Hosszu’s Facebook.

Tusup later said in an email and on social media that the couple, who wed in 2013, would “no longer be involved, personally or professionally.”

“I would like to get ahead of the gossips, sadly Shane and I haven’t been able to resolve our personal issues, therefore we are no longer working together,” Hosszu’s post read. “I’m still preparing for the upcoming competitions while looking at my options for my support team.”

Hosszu, 29, swept the individual medleys at the last three world championships in addition to the Rio Games, making her the world’s best all-around female swimmer for the last half-decade, since turning to Tusup as her coach following a medal-less London Olympics. She also captured the 200m and 400m individual medley world records in that span.

Hosszu and Tusup’s relationship was covered by mainstream media in Rio, when Tusup’s fiery behavior, well-known on the pool deck, showed during Hosszu’s Olympic races. At the time, Hosszu defended Tusup.

They began dating as swimmers at the University of Southern California and endured difficult recent times, as Hosszu noted in a December Facebook post.

On March 29, Hosszu posted a Facebook photo with Tusup with a caption, “You and me against the World,” both of them smiling.

Hosszu last competed Dec. 21. Her name appears on psych sheets for a meet in California that starts Friday.

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