Weightlifting’s Olympic future in doubt as president ousted

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DÜSSELDORF, Germany — The future of weightlifting at the Olympic Games was put in further doubt Wednesday after the governing body’s interim president was ousted and the International Olympic Committee expressed concern.

Interim president Ursula Garza Papandrea told The Associated Press that board members voted to remove her from office Tuesday during a virtual meeting which she did not attend, after she had called the meeting for Wednesday. She said that first vice-president Intarat Yodbangtoey of Thailand was appointed in her place.

Papandrea, a former weightlifter and coach from the United States, questioned the board’s authority to remove her before a full electoral congress. She said board members repeatedly thwarted her attempts to reshape the IWF after an investigation alleged long-running corruption and doping cover-ups.

Papandrea said the IWF was “dysfunctional” and long-serving officials were hostile to reform.

“As soon as I was in a position to make changes, I did,” she said. “These guys, they’ve had decades to write a new constitution, they’ve had decades to reform, and all of a sudden they’re really going to do it now? I’m a little skeptical.”

Leading board members opposed her choices for ethics posts and blocked her plan for a new integrity commission, Papandrea said.

“I’ve got athletes, clean athletes, relying on me to try to make change, but change with this group is just untenable, in my opinion,” she said.

The IOC has previously warned the IWF that weightlifting’s place on the program for the 2024 Paris Olympics could be brought into question if it didn’t reform its management and crack down on doping. Weightlifting was on the program for the first modern Olympics in 1896 and has been part of every edition since 1920.

“The IOC is very worried to learn about the reported decision made by the Board of the International Weightlifting Federation to replace the Acting President, Ms. Ursula Garza Papandrea, the way the decision was taken and the chosen replacement,” the IOC said in a statement. “The IOC enjoyed excellent cooperation with her during her time in office, and is fully supportive of the reforms she has initiated in the IWF. Currently the IOC has not received all the information to fully assess the situation in its entirety.”

The IWF was shaken by the resignation in April of president Tamas Ajan, who had been president for 20 years and general secretary for 24 years before that. Papandrea was appointed to the acting president role in January when Ajan initially took a leave of absence after German broadcaster ARD aired allegations of financial irregularities and doping.

An investigation commissioned by the IWF found in June that 40 positive doping tests had been “hidden in the IWF records” during Ajan’s tenure as president, that $10.4 million was unaccounted for, and that voters were bribed in elections for IWF positions.

Lead investigator Richard McLaren said at the time that law enforcement “might be interested in” some of the alleged wrongdoing, and Papandrea pledged to hand over information about possible criminal offenses.

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Saudi Arabia to host 2029 Asian Winter Games

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Saudi Arabia will host the Asian Winter Games in 2029 in mountains near the $500 billion futuristic city project Neom.

The Olympic Council of Asia on Tuesday picked the Saudi candidacy that centers on Trojena that is planned to be a year-round ski resort by 2026.

“The deserts & mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for Winter sports!” the OCA said in a statement announcing its decision.

Saudi sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said the kingdom’s winter sports project “challenges perception” in a presentation of the plan to OCA members.

“Trojena is the future of mountain living,” the minister said of a region described as an area of about 60 square kilometers at altitude ranging from 1,500 to 2,600 meters.

The Neom megaproject is being fund by the Saudi sovereign wealth vehicle, the Public Investment Fund.

Saudi Arabia also will host the Asian Games in 2034 in Riyadh as part of aggressive moves to build a sports hosting portfolio and help diversify the economy from reliance on oil.

A campaign to host soccer’s 2030 World Cup is expected with an unprecedented three-continent bid including Egypt and Greece.

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Jim Redmond, who helped son Derek finish 1992 Olympic race, dies

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Jim Redmond, who helped his injured son, Derek, finish his 1992 Olympic 400m semifinal, died at age 81 on Sunday, according to the British Olympic Association, citing family members.

At the 1992 Barcelona Games, Derek pulled his right hamstring 15 seconds into his 400m semifinal, falling to the track in anguish.

He brushed off help from officials, got up and began limping around the track. About 120 meters from the finish line, he felt the presence of an uncredentialed man who rushed down the stadium stairs, dodged officials and said, “We started this together, and we’re going to finish this together,” according to Olympedia.org.

“As I turned into the home straight, I could sense this person was about to try and stop me,” Derek said in an NBC Olympics profile interview before the 2012 London Games. “I was just about to get ready to sort of fend them off, and then I heard a familiar voice of my dad. He said, ‘Derek, it’s me. You don’t need to do this.'”

Derek said he shouted to his dad that he wanted to finish the race.

“He was sort of saying things like, ‘You’ve got nothing to prove. You’re a champion. You’ll come back. You’re one of the best guys in the world. You’re a true champion. You’ve got heart. You’re going to get over this. We’ll conquer the world together,'” Derek remembered. “I’m just sort of saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.'”

At one point, Derek noticed stadium security, not knowing who Jim was, having removed guns from their holsters.

“It’s the only time I’ve ever heard my dad use bad language,” Derek said. “He just goes, ‘Leave him alone, I’m his father.'”

Derek told himself in that moment, “I’m going to finish this race if it’s the last race I ever run.” It turned out to be the last 400m race of his career, after surgery and 18 months of rehab were not enough to yield a competitive comeback, according to Sports Illustrated.

Derek had missed the 1988 Seoul Games after tearing an Achilles, reportedly while warming up for his opening race. He looked strong in Barcelona, winning his first-round heat and quarterfinal.

“I’d rather be seen to be coming last in the semifinal than not finish in the semifinal,” he said, “because at least I can say I gave it my best.”