IOC president focused on gender balance and climate initiatives; doesn’t speculate on coronavirus

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International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach showed determination on Wednesday to forge ahead with Olympic programs in the short term and long term despite the spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking after an executive board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, Bach devoted most of his 15-minute opening statement to initiatives on climate and gender, along with positive reports from Tokyo 2020 and other future Olympic hosts, including the 2022 Olympic delegation that traveled from Beijing.

The questions that followed were heavily focused on the coronavirus’ possible impact on this summer’s Olympics. Bach didn’t deviate from the IOC’s stance of moving forward with the games.

“Today in the meeting of the executive board neither the word cancellation nor the word postponement was even mentioned,” Bach said in response to the first question, which asked about contingency plans.

After several more questions about dealing with the coronavirus, Bach teased the assembled reporters.

“You have an agreement among yourselves that you’ll try to get me into speculation?” Bach asked with a smile. “The IOC is fully committed, and we are not engaged in any speculation.”

For the long term, the keywords Bach stressed the IOC’s social responsibility initiatives, starting with progress on combating climate change.

From 2030, Bach said, the Olympics will be “climate-positive,” which he defined as having future organizers create enough carbon savings to exceed any negative impact the games may create. The IOC will also plant an “Olympic Forest” in Africa.

Bach said it is projected that 48.8 percent of the athletes in Tokyo will be women, which would be a new high for an Olympics. The IOC has said its goal is to eventually have a 50-50 split.

Bach also noted two specific efforts:

  • All nations participating in Tokyo must have one female and one male athlete.
  • Nations will be allowed to have two flag bearers, one female and one male, at the Opening Ceremony. (Editor’s note: While rare, there were previously multiple flag bearers at Opening Ceremonies. Most recently in PyeongChang with Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and North and South Korean athletes carrying a unified Korea flag.)

The organizers of the next Olympics, Beijing 2022, were able to participate in the meeting despite the spread of coronavirus in China, and Bach was impressed with their progress on an “engagement program” that aims to familiarize 300 million people in the host nation with winter sports. Organizers have reported 670,000 applications for 39,000 volunteer positions, and applications will still be going for another year.

Bach also gave some historical perspective to counter the notion that the last month has been the most difficult in his career as an athlete and IOC official. He cited political tensions that threatened the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, concern over the Zika virus at the 2016 Olympics, the terrorist attack in 1972, and the dueling boycotts in 1980 and 1984.

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Asher Hong leads U.S. men’s gymnastics world team selection camp after first day

Asher Hong

Asher Hong, 18, posted the highest all-around score on the first of two days of competition at the U.S. men’s gymnastics selection camp to determine the last three spots on the team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Hong, bidding to become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009, totaled 84.6 points in Colorado Springs. He edged Colt Walker by one tenth. Tokyo Olympians Shane Wiskus (84.15) and Yul Moldauer (83.95) were next. Full apparatus-by-apparatus scores are here.

Brody Malone, who repeated as U.S. all-around champion at August’s national championships, and runner-up Donnell Whittenburg already clinched spots on the five-man team for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. They did not compete Monday, though their results from the first day of nationals are shown in the official scores.

The three remaining team spots will not necessarily go to the top three all-arounders at this week’s camp, which is supposed to be weighed equally with results from August’s nationals. Hong was third at nationals, but if excluding difficulty bonus points from that meet that will not be considered by the committee, would have finished behind Walker and Moldauer in August.

A selection committee is expected to announce the team soon after the second and final day of selection camp competition on Wednesday evening. The committee will look at overall scoring potential for the world team final, where three men go per apparatus, and medal potential in individual events.

Stephen Nedoroscik, who last year became the first American to win a world title on the pommel horse, is trying to make the team solely on that apparatus. He wasn’t at his best at nationals and struggled again on Monday, hurting his chances of displacing an all-arounder for one of the last three spots.

The U.S. has reason to emphasize the team event over individual medals at this year’s worlds. It will clinch an Olympic berth by finishing in the top three, and its medal hopes are boosted by the absence of the Russians who won the Olympic team title. All gymnasts from Belarus and Russia are banned indefinitely from international competition due to the war in Ukraine.

In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship

The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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