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Apr 22 21

Tokyo Olympics torch relay has first positive COVID-19 case

by ZwemZa

A woman with her dog walks past the Olympic rings in Tokyo, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Ko…

Tokyo Olympics organizers said Thursday that a policeman tested positive for COVID-19 a day after his assignment last week at the Olympic torch relay.

It is the first positive test connected to the relay since it began March 25 from northeastern Fukushima prefecture.

Organizers say the 30-year-old policeman was assigned to control traffic on the April 17 leg in southwestern Kagawa prefecture. They said the officer developed symptoms and tested positive the next day. Local health authorities are investigating.

Officials say the policeman was wearing a mask and taking social-distancing precautions and other measures.

The report comes as Japan is preparing to declare a third state of emergency in western metropolitan areas around Osaka, and in Tokyo. It is expected on Friday and is being re-instated after current measures failed to slow the latest resurgence fueled by a new, more contagious variant of the virus detected earlier in Britain.

Japan had 541,496 cases and 9,710 deaths as of Tuesday. These results are good by global standard but poor in Asia. Without compulsory lockdowns, people in Japan have become less cooperative with preventive measures.

The organizers said all participants and officials are taking the best precautions and that the case will not affect the subsequent legs of the torch events.

The torch relay involves 10,000 runners crisscrossing Japan for four month, ending at the arrival at the National Stadium on July 23 to kick off the scheduled opening ceremony.

For precautions, legs last week were run in a city park in Osaka and taken off the public streets. Something similar is expected for some legs on May 1-2 on the southern island of Okinawa.

Associated Press

Apr 22 21

Potential Tokyo state of emergency does not affect Games – IOC

by ZwemZa

The Olympic rings are illuminated in front of the National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan January 22, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

A potential state of emergency that could be imposed on Tokyo is unrelated to Olympic Games preparations and is part of the government’s plan to curb infections during Japan’s holiday week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Wednesday.

Japan’s government is considering a state of emergency for Tokyo and Osaka, local media reported, a move that would enable prefectural authorities to impose curbs to try to stop infections spreading.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is preparing to request an emergency period be declared from April 29 to May 9, encompassing Japan’s annual “Golden Week” holiday period, the Mainichi newspaper reported.

“We were informed there might be another state of emergency declared in Tokyo,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

“We understand that this would be a proactive measure for the ‘Golden Week’ holiday with which the government is aiming to prevent the spread of infection.

“This measure would be in line with the very diligent approach we see taken by Japanese authorities,” he said following an IOC Executive Board meeting and a report from the Tokyo Games organisers.

With thousands of new cases resulting from highly infectious strains of the virus, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said the government wants to decide this week whether to declare the state of emergency for major parts of the country.

The Tokyo Olympics were postponed by a year in 2020 and the IOC has said there are no plans to cancel or postpone them again, with the Games now less than 100 days away.

“This (state of emergency) is absolutely in line with the overall policy of the government but it is not related to the Olympic Games,” Bach said. “It is related to the Golden Week.”

Japan has so far avoided the rapid spread of the pandemic which has plagued many Western countries, with total cases at about 540,000 and a death toll of just under 10,000.

The latest rise in infections has stoked alarm, however, coming just months before the start of the Olympics and amid a sluggish vaccination roll-out.


Apr 22 21

Olympic officials uphold ban against athletes protesting on field or medal stand

by ZwemZa

Gold medalist fencer Race Imboden of the U.S. takes a knee in protest during the national anthem ceremony on the podium in August 2019 at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Getty Images

Olympic athletes will not be allowed to take a knee, raise a fist or otherwise protest on fields of play or medal podiums, the International Olympic Committee said Wednesday, in an announcement upholding its current ban on political demonstrations.

Olympic athletes have long been prohibited from making political statements or protests at the Summer or Winter Games, but the IOC re-examined the issue in an 11-month study after a new wave of activist athletes have taken public stands on issues ranging from sexism to racism to human rights.

But to “protect the neutrality of sport,” the IOC said the rule will remain unchanged, after a poll of more than 3,500 athletes from 185 countries found 70% believed protests were inappropriate on the field of play, and 67% opposed protests on medal stands.

“The IOC AC is very concerned about the risk of politicisation of the athletes and the risk that athletes may be put under external pressure,” the organization said in a statement. “It is important to protect athletes from the potential consequences of being placed in a position where they may be forced to take a public position on a particular domestic or international issue, regardless of their beliefs.”

The IOC and its Athletes Commission said they are “fully supportive of the freedom of expression,” but said protests or political statements are more appropriate during press conferences and interviews, at team meetings, or on social media.

“The goal of this wide outreach was to engage with athletes and hear their thoughts on existing and new opportunities to express their views at the Olympic Games as well as outside Games time,” Kirsty Coventry, a former Olympic gold-medal-winning swimmer and current chair of the IOC Athletes Commission, said in a statement. “We want to amplify the voices of athletes, and find more ways to support the values of the Olympic Games and what sport stands for.”

The IOC did not specify how athletes would be punished or penalized if they protested anyway, only saying they would be handled on a case-by-case basis.

In December, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it would not punish athletes who peacefully protest social-justice issues at the Olympic Games.

The Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which were postponed by the pandemic last year, are scheduled to begin July 23.

Market Watch


Apr 22 21

Indian swimmer alleges manipulation in timing during Uzbekistan event

by ZwemZa

File picture of S.P. Likith. – The Hindu

India swimmer S.P. Likith has alleged that organisers at the recently held Uzbekistan Open Swimming Championships (April 13-17) tampered with race timings to suit local athletes.

The competition was a Tokyo 2020 qualification event, where Srihari Nataraj came within 0.22 seconds of making the A-cut in 100m backstroke and Indian swimmers finished with a rich haul of medals. Likith, who was looking the make the B-cut for Tokyo, secured silver medals in 50m and 100m breaststroke events.

In a YouTube video uploaded on Wednesday, Likith claimed that timings in the 100m freestyle heats on the opening day and the 100m butterfly heats on the final day were fudged and urged FINA, world swimming’s governing body, to look into the matter.

On the final day of the competition, Likith had refused to dive into the pool in the 200m breaststroke event and just stood on the starting block for over two minutes. He said it was a mark of protest.

“I touched the pad and stopped my own time and asked the officials if it was the new world record to show them that what they were doing was wrong,” Likith said. He even claimed that the local officials offered him a bribe so that he doesn’t go public with his grievances.

But the Swimming Federation of India (SFI) said that the issues with the heats timings were corrected before the final in the respective events after Indian coaches and swimmers present at the site flagged them. Monal Chokshi, SFI secretary also didn’t approve of Likith’s conduct on the final day of the event in Tashkent.

“He didn’t approach us,” said Chokshi, about Likith airing his views in public. “On the first day, heats times were a problem and the display was not working. So, our coaches brought it to the organisers’ attention. Last day too, heats timings were wrong. But the final start lists and the results were fine. That is what our coaches told us.”

“He [Likith] cannot protest the way he did. Heats timings were wrong and for even our swimmers they posted faster times! Everything was corrected,” Chokshi added.

The Hindu

Apr 22 21

Swimming Canada decides against attending and hosting international events

by ZwemZa

John Atkinson (Swimming Canada)

Swimming Canada has decided not to attend world junior championships, or to host international events for 2021.

Canada will not send swimming teams to the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Kazan, Russia, August 24-29, or to the FINA World Junior Open Water Championships (location to be determined).

“Our high-performance team, including national development coach Ken McKinnon, and national distance/open water coach Mark Perry, have done a thorough review of several factors that complicate our ability to select teams, have them travel internationally, and compete safely. This includes health and safety constraints at home and abroad, as well as our inability to run qualification events for athletes in a fair and equitable way,” said high performance director and national coach John Atkinson. “We understand what a tough year it’s been for our junior swimmers in Canada. Unfortunately, the lack of training and racing opportunities, combined with many unknown factors regarding travel, borders, and quarantines, have led us to the very difficult decision that Canada will not be sending a team to either the pool or open water world junior championships.”

In addition, Canada will not be hosting the FINA Marathon Swim World Series July 25 or FINA UltraMarathon Swim Series July 31 in Lac St-Jean, Que., or the Marathon Swim World Series August 7 in Lac Megantic, Que. This decision was made in consultation with the local organizing committees and Fédération de natation du Québec.

“Our Olympic and Paralympic Trials event set for Toronto this year at the end of May is still in place, however, we must be responsive to the current health situation in the country as we

lead up to the event,” said Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi.

“As an organization, we have to put health and safety first. While these are difficult decisions, I am confident it is the right decision to not expose our promising young swimmers to international travel this year, or to encourage swimmers from other countries to travel to Canada for events,” added president Cheryl Gibson.

Apr 22 21

Japan poised to declare state of emergency for Tokyo

by ZwemZa

Questions are being raised once more regarding the Tokyo Olympics (RTE)

Further questions are being raised about this summer’s Olympics with Japan set to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo as cases of Covid-19 surge.

With thousands of new cases resulting from highly infectious strains of the virus, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the government wanted to decide this week whether to declare the state of emergency for major parts of the country.

Suga said the capital Tokyo was mulling a request to the central government to issue the state of emergency, as Osaka and Hyogo prefectures already have done.

Japan has so far avoided an explosive spread of the pandemic that has plagued many Western countries, with total cases so far at about 540,000 and a death toll of 9,707. But the latest rise in infections has stoked alarm, coming just three months before the planned start of the Tokyo Olympics and amid a sluggish vaccination roll-out.

On Wednesday Tokyo reported 843 new infections, the most since the end of January when its previous state of emergency was in place. Case numbers in Osaka have exceeded those in Tokyo in recent days, reaching a record 1,351 on 13 April.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is preparing to request an emergency period be declared from 29 April to 9 May, encompassing Japan’s annual ‘Golden Week’ holiday period, the Mainichi newspaper reported.

Kyoto prefecture is also preparing to request an emergency declaration, Japan’s top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said.

If adopted in all four regions from Tokyo to Kyoto, the emergency measures would cover close to a quarter of Japan’s population of 126 million.

Earlier on Tuesday, Suga claimed that any emergency declaration would have no impact on the Olympics scheduled to begin in July.

Kato, the top government spokesman, also said Wednesday the government would continue to work for a “safe and secure” Tokyo Olympics.

Meanwhile Pfizer Inc will sign a contract this month to supply an additional 50 million doses of vaccine to Japan by September, the Nikkei newspaper reported.


Apr 22 21

Danielle Hill and Victoria Catterson set new Irish records as Irish swimmers fail to add to Olympic spots

by ZwemZa

Danielle Hill (RTE)

Swim Ireland’s Irish National Team Trials continued at the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin this evening, with Danielle Hill and Eoin Corby agonisingly close to securing the Olympic consideration time once again, while Hill and Victoria Catterson set Irish records.

Larne’s Danielle Hill came closest to an Olympic time in the 100m backstroke as the 21-year-old broke her Irish record for the second time in as many days.

Hill came into the meet with a best time of one minute 00.90 seconds but lowered that to 1:00.48 yesterday and took another .14 off in this evening’s final to leave her just .09 shy of the Olympic standard of 1:00.25.

Hill will have another shot at the time in June.

Victoria Catterson set her first Irish record in the 100m freestyle semi-finals. The Ards swimmer clocked an impressive 55.44, knocking over half a second off Hill’s 2019 record of 56.01.

Catterson now puts herself in contention for Ireland’s 4x100m medley relay team which will compete at the European Championships in May, where a world ranking of up to 16 would qualify a place for the team at the Tokyo Games.

Hill and Catterson return to the pool on Friday for the 100m freestyle final.

Darragh Greene, already under the Olympic consideration time, won the 100m breaststroke final in 1:00.08.

The National Centre Dublin swimmer held off Eoin Corby of National Centre Limerick in 1:00.21. The 19-year-old Corby swam a best time of 1:00.15 in the semi-finals and will need to find .23 between now and his next qualification opportunity.

In the women’s final, Mona McSharry was the winner in 1:08.92, well off yesterday’s Irish record of 1:06.29.

Jack McMillan improved on his time from last night’s 200m freestyle semi-final clocking 1:47.67 to take the win in the final.

Ards’ Paddy Johnston took the win in the 200m butterfly final in a best time of 1:58.81, breaking the two-minute mark for just the second time. Brendan Hyland had gone out hard in search of an Olympic time but ran out of steam in the last 10 metres to see Johnston take the touch.

Conor Ferguson took first place in the 100m backstroke final. The Larne swimmer hit the wall in 54.57.

Cookstown and Stirling University swimmer Calum Bain led the 50m freestyle field once again, touching in 22.46 in the semi-final.

In the 100m butterfly semi-finals, Templeogue’s Ellen Walshe clocked 1:00.12 ahead of NAC’s Paralympic swimmer Amy Sheridan in 1:16.76.

This evening’s final event saw Trojan’s Grace Hodgins win the women’s 800m freestyle final in 9:10.73, while Sundays Wells’ Liam Custer won the men’s final in 8:14.98.

The trials are primarily open to performance athletes currently training in recognised onshore training bubbles in the National Centre at Dublin’s National Aquatic Centre, the National Centre at the University of Limerick, and at Bangor Aurora Aquatic & Leisure Complex, as well as those identified athletes of similar standing who are living and training offshore.

The competition comprises of a full Olympic individual event programme with heats, semi-finals, and finals in all 50m, 100m and 200m events and heats and finals in 400m, 800m and 1500m events.



Apr 21 21

McSharry leads Irish swimming quartet to Olympic qualification

by ZwemZa

Mona McSharry (TodayFM)

Mona McSharry is among four Irish swimmers to secure qualification for the Tokyo Olympics at Swim Ireland’s Irish National Team Trials.

Joining her on the plane to Japan in the summer will be Daniel Wiffen, Shane Ryan and Darragh Greene.

Sligo native McSharry had previously been just three hundredths of a second off the Olympic qualifying time prior to the meet at the Irish Sports Campus.

The 20-year old produced a time of 1:06.97 in the 100m breaststroke to book a maiden Olympic appearance.

“It’s still sinking in, but I am excited to go and jump around my apartment for a little while,” McSharry said afterwards, “Just, talk to my family and be happy about it – soak it all in and make sure that I am actually enjoying the moment.

“Sometimes you can forget to live in it for a minute, so I am definitely going to work on that today, because I have been striving for this for so long.

“I was trying not to think about it this morning, which I’ve been doing the last three weeks.

“Just trying not to build it up so much in my head – it’s just another 100m Breaststroke and I’m just going to swim it. I had a set plan this morning and I have a very organised way that I do stuff to make sure I don’t have time to sit and worry about my race.

“The first 50 felt really good. I could see Niamh [Coyne] beside me, so that was definitely pushing me on.

“When I turned, I could still see her there and I knew I would have to pick it up and really go for it. It definitely burned in the last 10m. At that point you just have to push through.

“I did have that wonder, does this burn and I’m not going fast enough, or is it because I’m pushing to new levels. It’s very hard to distinguish sometimes.

“You just have to push to the wall and see what the time is. I knew I was going to do it, and I knew I could do it, but it was still really nice to turn around and be surprised to see it on the board.”

In the first race of the morning, Wiffen took a whopping 21-seconds off his best time in the 800m Freestyle. The Larne Swimming Club member came in 2-seconds under the Olympic qualifying time.

Wiffen’s time of 7:52.68 also beat the eight-year old Irish senior record of Andrew Meegan by a whole 13-seconds.

“It’s probably the most nervous competition I’ve ever been to,” Wiffen said.

“I only managed to eat cereal for breakfast. I was thinking about it all day.

“I knew I had to be in and around 3:55 out on the 400m Free, so I wanted to be quite comfortable out.

“I kinda knew I went out the right time and towards the end I had a cheeky look at the clock on the last 50 to see where I was.

“I just got my head down then to get that time. It’s unbelievable – 19 and going to the Olympics. I am over the moon and I just have to thank my parents, my coaches and all of my friends for helping me get here.”

Shane Ryan will be competing at his second consecutive Olympic Games, having equalled the qualifying time of 53.85 in the 100m Backstroke. Ryan had already gone quicker at the Irish Open in 2019.

Completing the Tokyo-bound quartet is Darragh Greene. He’d gone under the Olympic threshold in the 100m Breaststroke at the 2019 World Championships.

He set a new Irish record best of 59.76 in Abbotstown on Tuesday morning.

Richie McCormack | TodayFM

Apr 21 21

Proudly SA shoe to be part of official Olympic outfit

by ZwemZa

SA marathon runner Gerda Steyn set a new women’s record time in Italy last week but she, like the rest of Team South Africa, will not be wearing running shoes at the opening of the Olympic Games.

Instead, the athletes, swimmers and other 300 sportsmen and women of Team SA will wear veldskoene when they carry the South African flag aloft in Tokyo, Japan, for the opening ceremony in less than 100 days’ time.

The Olympics closes a circle for co-founders of the Veldskoen brand, Nick Dreyer, Ross Zondagh, and Nic Latouf – Pretoria Boys’ High old boys who have given the footwear new popularity with their distinctive shoes with brightly coloured soles and laces.

After watching the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Dreyer and Zondagh were unimpressed with the baggy South African tracksuits and green shoes, and tried to imagine what the team should have worn to better represent the country.

They were not alone: there was plenty of controversy over the last two Olympics surrounding the kit which had been supplied by Chinese manufacturers. The green and gold tracksuits at Rio in particular are remembered for being baggy and unflattering.

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) even appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Sport and Recreation at the time, explaining that no local sponsors had come forward to dress the team.

Zondagh suggested to Dreyer that athletes could wear veldskoene, shoes made of rawhide leather which trace their origin to Khoisan footwear and were adopted by early Dutch settlers in the Cape and, the story goes, were even worn by South African officers during World War 2.

Dreyer realised that “vellies”, while comfortable and durable, may be seen as unfashionable, and so the entrepreneurs worked on ways to reinvent them to be more attractive, coming up with bright soles and laces with names like Springbok (green), Bloem (orange), J-Bay (blue) and Pinotage (pink).

Aside from selling online and in stores such as Woolworths, Veldskoen is making inroads abroad with sales in 28 countries, including the UK – where they were punted as a style item by The Times (which noted that Prince Harry wore them in the bush) – and in the US, where vellies have enjoyed the endorsement of actors Ashton Kutcher and Matthew McConaughey.

In unveiling Veldskoen as a new sponsor, alongside Mr Price Sport, Sascoc president Barry Hendricks said a “new sentiment” had developed among sponsors and the business community to support Team SA and he would announce another local sponsor soon.

The Olympics will introduce the world not only to our star athletes and para-athletes across various codes but to home-grown design. And beyond the Olympics is the dream to launch Veldskoen into space by sending a pair to Mars.

Pretoria News

Apr 21 21

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

by ZwemZa

IOC member Dick Pound.(Bernat Armangue/AP)

Canadian lawyer and long-standing IOC member Dick Pound says the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee is firmly committed to hosting the Games.

Any suggestion otherwise is simply stating the obvious — that nothing is guaranteed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, Tokyo organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto was forced to assure the world again that the postponed Games will open in just over three months. Her statement came after Toshihiro Nakai, the general secretary of the ruling LDP political party, suggested cancellation was still a possibility amid surging COVID-19 rates in Japan.

“It’s very clear that the party in power, and the prefectures involved are quite determined to proceed with the Games . . . whether it was a member of a party saying, ‘Well, yes, of course. But nothing is guaranteed,” Pound said. “There could be a wave three or wave four or five that might interfere with it.’ But I don’t think it goes any farther than that at the moment.

“They are fully committed to going ahead and they think they can create the necessary bubble for safety.”

Ensuring safety for athletes is obviously a top priority, but organizers also need to reassure the Japanese public. More than 80 per cent of Japanese citizens said in two polls that the Games, scheduled to open on July 23, should be cancelled or postponed.

“I assume there must be some plan to try and convince the ones who are sort of just against it that we can pull this off in a way that it’s not going to be threatening to public health in Japan, that this would be a great achievement for Japan, and we hope you’ll understand that we’re doing what we’re doing based on the best science we can avail ourselves of, and that we have no desire whatsoever to add to any public health problems in Japan,” Pound said.

In an editorial last week, the British Medical Journal cast doubt on the ability to keep the Games “safe and secure.”

Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases and a slow vaccine rollout, the IOC and Tokyo organizers are pressing on. The IOC, which relies on selling broadcast rights for 73 per cent of its income, has seen its cash flow stalled by the postponement. Japan has already invested at least US$15 billion to organize the Olympics, and national audits suggest it might be twice that much. All but $6.7 billion is public money.

The IOC and Japan organizers are scheduled to release updated “playbooks” on April 28 with more details about health and safety protocols in Tokyo.

While no major shifts from the first playbooks released in early February are anticipated, Pound expects them to include more details around testing schedules.

“There’s going to be ongoing reassessment and testing within the bubble with sort of special places set aside if there happened to be any positive cases or any doubtful cases,” he said. “And then the process basically is you’re cleared at the airport you get onto a bus, which will take you to the Olympic Village, and you’ll be checked in there. And you’ll stay in the village until you get on another bus that will take you to your training or competition venue.

“Nobody’s going to be downtown on the Ginza (shopping area) pressing flesh.”

Qualifying for Tokyo remains a huge hurdle for many athletes. Canada’s top boxer Mandy Bujold, an 11-time Canadian champion, learned last week that her Olympic qualifying event in Argentina had been cancelled. The spots available at that event will now go to the highest ranked athletes from events in which Bujold didn’t compete. Bujold had taken time off to have a baby. The Kitchener, Ont., boxer has hired a lawyer.

Pound is aware of Bujold’s case.

“I heard that particular story and I’m not sure what the proper resolution is,” he said. “I think the idea now is to find some way that will avoid this kind of a casualty, resulting from the sole fact that the athlete is female.

“I think the IOC is wrestling with this. How they’ll solve it I don’t know. I think at this point, with a lot of the qualification meets are getting cancelled or postponed, it’s up to whoever’s organizing things, either the (international federation) or the IOC in this case, to find some kind of way that will be as undisruptive as possible, in circumstances. That’s what they’re looking for as we speak.”

Partly lost among the immense challenges of hosting the Games amid the pandemic is the fact Tokyo organizers were on pace to deliver an Olympics without any major pre-Games issues. Other than some concerns about heat, the headlines were about venues finished ahead of schedule, and other good news.

“Oh, I think there can’t have been any doubt in anyone’s mind that these would have been the best prepared Games in history,” Pound said. “It was kind of picking up where Tokyo ’64 left off, where there was a whole new paradigm of the Olympic organization created on that occasion, and really opened the eyes of the world about the new Japan. I think they were going to do the same thing in 2020.”

— With files from The Associated Press.

The Canadian Press

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