Alex Azzi

Editor, On Her Turf

Alpine skiing World Cup season opener cancelled due to bad weather

The first women's alpine skiing World Cup stop of the season was canceled due to unpredictable weather
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Soelden, Austria — Rain and snowfall wiped out the first women’s race of the Alpine skiing World Cup season Saturday and made the men’s event for the next day doubtful.

Wet snow on the Austrian glacier affected the visibility on the softened course and made a safe race impossible.

Organizers initially delayed the planned start time of 10 a.m. by one hour but decided to call off the race soon after as conditions didn’t improve.

“This was the worst-case scenario — but this happened exactly,” FIS women’s race director Peter Gerdol said. “We had a couple of hours of rain tonight and then this wet snow around five or six o’clock this morning, so the surface was actually too soft to guarantee a safe race.”

The giant slalom will likely be rescheduled at another venue, to be confirmed “in a few days,” according to Gerdol.

Weather conditions were expected to improve in the afternoon, allowing organizers to start preparing the course for the men’s race on Sunday.

Chief of race Rainer Gstrein said they might need to use water and salt to make the weakened course suitable again for a World Cup race.

“It’s going to be a major effort,” Gstrein told Austrian broadcaster ORF.

It is the first time since 2006 that the women’s race of the traditional season-opening weekend in Austria was canceled. The men’s race was most recently called off in 2017 and 2018.

“Well, we’re trying. We’re all ready to go, everything’s been packed up,” Mikaela Shiffrin said in a video posted on her Twitter account.

“But the race has been canceled because, unfortunately, it’s really, really, really wet outside. But air smells fresh and that’s nice but we won’t be racing today.”

Shiffrin won the traditional season opener on the Rettenbach glacier last year and the American went on to win the overall World Cup title for a fourth time.

In a similar scenario, Marco Odermatt triumphed in the men’s race and the Swiss skier became overall champion for the first time last season.

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Caeleb Dressel falls short of breaking swimming’s 20-second barrier

Caeleb Dressel
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Caeleb Dressel attempted to become the first swimmer to break the 20-second barrier in the 50m free.

He didn’t quite manage.

A video released today by Speedo shows Dressel take two attempts, clocking 20.41 as his fastest time.

“The suit doesn’t make the swimmer. The swimmer makes the suit,” Dressel said after making the attempt.

Dressel, a 13-time world champion, completed the sub-20 challenge in a 50 meter (short course) pool while wearing Speedo’s LZR Racer full-body suit, the now-banned high-tech swimsuit that Michael Phelps and others donned at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Because the suit is now banned from competition, even if Dressel had managed to go sub-20, it would not have been considered a world record.

Ahead of the attempt, Speedo wanted to to “find out how fast a man can go in water without any restrictions” and to mark 20 years of the company’s Fastskin suit series, a spokesperson said.

Dressel is the reigning world champion in the 50m freestyle and in November, he broke his own short course record in the event (20.16 seconds).

Looking ahead to next summer’s Tokyo Olympics, Dressel could make the U.S. Olympic team in as many as seven events.

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USOPC will not sanction athletes for social justice protests

The Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice wants the rules prohibiting athlete demonstrations at the Olympic and Paralympic Games be changed
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Today, the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice released its first set of recommendations, advocating that the rules prohibiting athlete protests and demonstrations at the Olympic and Paralympic Games be changed. The announcement was made with the support of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), which said it will “not sanction Team USA athletes for peacefully and respectfully demonstrating in support of racial and social justice.”

In its statement, the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice wrote, “The silencing of athletes during the Games is in stark contrast to the importance of recognizing participants in the Games as humans first and athletes second. Prohibiting athletes to freely express their views during the Games, particularly those from historically underrepresented and minoritized groups, contributes to the dehumanization of athletes that is at odds with key Olympic and Paralympic values.”

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” The IPC Paralympic Handbook has a similar rule (referred to as Section 2.2).

As part of its recommendations, the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice noted that potential amendments to Rule 50/Section 2.2 should consider the context of ethical responsibility. “We do not consider hate speech, racist propaganda, and discriminatory remarks that are aimed at eliminating the rights and dignity of historically marginalized and minoritized populations as meeting the requirements for ethical speech… We call on the IOC and IPC to recognize that protests focused on human rights and social justice initiatives do not qualify as ‘divisive disruptions’ of the Games and should not be met with the same consequences as hate speech, the promotion of racist ideology, or expressions of discriminatory propaganda.”

The Team USA Council also discussed the way human rights have been politicized, noting, “We want to make unmistakably clear that human rights are not political; yet, they have been politicized both in the U.S. and globally to perpetuate the wrongful and dehumanizing myth of sport as an inherently neutral domain.”

As part of today’s announcement, the USOPC expressed its support for the recommendations made by the Council. “The USOPC values the voices of Team USA athletes and believes that their right to advocate for racial and social justice, and be a positive force for change, absolutely aligns with the fundamental values of equality that define Team USA and the Olympic and Paralympic movements,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote.

Hirshland announced the creation of the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice in June, saying then that the athlete-led group would “challenge the rules and systems in our own organization that create barriers to progress, including your right to protest. We will also advocate for change globally.”

The 44-member Team USA Council consists of 23 active athletes, five alumni representatives, five NGB representatives, five USOPC liaisons, and six external members. John Carlos, who famously demonstrated alongside Tommie Smith at the 1968 Mexico City Games and was then sent home by the U.S. Olympic Committee, is a member of the steering committee on protests and demonstrations that was responsible for the recommendations that were announced today.

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