April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour

April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

MORE: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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USA Gymnastics revamps Safe Sport policy amid abuse scandal

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USA Gymnastics is overhauling its Safe Sport policy in hopes of providing better protection for athletes and clearer guidelines for coaches, parents, trainers and club owners on what constitutes abuse.

The organization released the new policy on Wednesday after consulting with a wide spectrum of people inside and outside the sport. The group included child welfare advocates and survivors of emotional and sexual abuse, including one athlete abused by former national team doctor Larry Nassar.

USA Gymnastics President Li Li Leung called the update the foundation of the embattled organization’s efforts to foster a safe and healthy environment for all stakeholders.

“From this point forward, we are pledging to become a community of education, prevention and care,” Leung said. “We need to and can do better for our athletes and our community as a whole.”

The update is designed to clear up what the organization described as “gray areas,” including what the boundaries are for one-to-one contact between a coach and/or a trainer and an athlete. The new policy states that all one-to-one interactions should be “observable and interruptible,” including massages, icing and taping, stretching and any other physical contact.

Other guidelines prohibit electronic and social media communication between a coach and an athlete without a second adult being included in the exchange and banning personal gifts and other “grooming” activities. Background checks for employees at member clubs will now fall in line with those required by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The new regulations cover male and female athletes across all USA Gymnastics disciplines and mark the latest in a series of moves by the organization to better police itself in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal surrounding Nassar. The longtime doctor at both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University is now serving an effective life prison for child porn possession and molesting young women — many of them female gymnasts — and girls under the guise of medical treatment.

The policy also provides explicit courses of action when it comes to reporting various types of abuse, including what behavior dictates mandatory reporting. It states that “any adult under the jurisdiction of USA Gymnastics who becomes aware of an incident of child abuse or sexual misconduct involving a minor must immediately report the incident to law enforcement and the U.S. Center for SafeSport.”

The U.S. Center for SafeSport will handle claims of child abuse, sexual misconduct and any criminal charges involving a minor. USA Gymnastics will handle nonsexual misconduct complaints and any violations of the preventative policies. Leung stressed that “every athlete will be believed” when coming forward, meaning the organization will take each complaint seriously.

“When we say every athlete is believed, we will take the report and investigate it to best of our abilities,” said Shelba Waldron, USA Gymnastics’ director of safe sport education and training. “That means talking to witnesses, talking to club owners. The person who has case (filed) on them is notified and do have opportunity to speak to that.”

USA Gymnastics has beefed up its Safe Sport center in an effort to deal with the volume of claims. The organization is looking for a vice president of Safe Sport to work with its five Safe Sport staff members and uses three outside independent investigators.

Leung said the update brings the organization further in line with the recommendations put forward by a former federal investigator in the summer of 2017. USA Gymnastics has now implemented 48 of the more than 70 recommendations made by Deborah Daniels.

The organization is putting an emphasis on education. It will hold seminars at both regional and national congresses that will detail the new guidelines. USA Gymnastics also plans to host webinars focused on what constitutes emotional abuse.

Waldron said the organization used “national standards” when it came to defining emotional misconduct, which it describes as “repeated and severe non-contact behavior that includes any act or conduct described as emotional abuse under federal or state law. There are three forms of emotional misconduct: verbal, physical, and acts that deny support.”

USA Gymnastics is fighting for its survival as it tries to escape the shadow the Nassar case has cast over a program considered the gold standard of the U.S. Olympic movement. It filed for bankruptcy last fall in an effort to reach settlements in the dozens of sex-abuse lawsuits it faces and to avoid its potential demise at the hands of the USOC.

Leung, who took over in March, hopes the new policies will serve as an important step in rebuilding trust in the organization while helping fulfill her pledge to making USA Gymnastics more “athlete-centric.”

MORE: Nassar judge, Olympians back USOC oversight push in Congress

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Boxing body near bankrupt, facing 2020 Olympic exclusion

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The International Boxing Association (AIBA) is near bankruptcy, days before a decision to formally exclude the body from the Tokyo Olympics.

AIBA executive director Tom Virgets told board members it will be insolvent if International Olympic Committee members derecognize the troubled body next Wednesday.

The full IOC membership is expected to sign off on recommendations made last month by its executive board, which would deny AIBA its expected $17.5 million share of Tokyo Games commercial revenue and cut off the men’s and women’s 2019 world championships in Russia as qualifying paths.

“In my opinion, the decisions made by the IOC were clearly designed to bankrupt AIBA,” Virgets wrote in a letter seen by The Associated Press. “Every source of income that AIBA had going forward was taken away.”

The IOC board, chaired by President Thomas Bach, discussed the Tokyo boxing tournaments again Wednesday. However, there were no detailed talks about AIBA’s financial and staffing issues, IOC sports director Kit McConnell said.

AIBA has less than $400,000 in the bank and cannot afford to challenge any IOC ruling at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Virgets wrote to senior officials.

The boxing body is also releasing all but three staff from its Lausanne offices, close to the IOC’s new lakeside headquarters which opened this month and cost around $145 million.

Virgets said he also is leaving, explaining “It is the correct thing to do” because he failed in his mandate to keep AIBA involved in the Tokyo Olympics.

AIBA plans to hold an executive committee meeting one day after its Olympic fate is likely sealed.

The IOC board wants AIBA excluded after appointing an inquiry panel to investigate its finances, governance, and the integrity of judging and refereeing in Olympic bouts, including at Rio 2016.

A key factor against AIBA was its members having elected Gafur Rakhimov as president last year while on a U.S. sanctions list with suspected links to organized crime. He denies wrongdoing.

The IOC detailed its plans Wednesday for a fresh qualification program next year to send male and female boxers to 13 medal events in Tokyo.

The eight men’s weight classes are a reduction of two from Rio, with two women’s classes added to make five.

Four regional qualification tournaments are planned between January and April — in the Americas, Africa, a combined Asia-Oceania region, and Europe — with a final global qualifier, likely in May, McConnell said. Past and future Olympic host cities should host the qualifiers.

After the previous AIBA president, long-time IOC member C.K. Wu, sought to put professional boxers into the Olympic tournaments, that is not a priority for Tokyo.

McConnell said national Olympic teams could choose to enter pro boxers, who would have to go through the full qualifying program.

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