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May 17 21

Britain show good sprint relay form as swimming gets underway in Budapest

by ZwemZa

Monday morning saw the swimming action get underway at the European Championships in the Hungarian capital, with no fewer than 20 Brits in action across seven events, including two exciting 4x100m Freestyle relays.

Those new-look quartets were in fact on fine form, both advancing to tonight’s finals third quickest overall. An untried women’s team of Lucy Hope, Evelyn Davis, Emma Russell and Freya Anderson were up first, Edinburgh-based Hope swimming a quality lead off leg before youngsters Davis and Russell produced fine swims of their own, which allowed Anderson to bring it home and nearly overhaul Denmark in the final five metres.

Assessing their performance, Hope said:

“The aim was to make the final and that’s what we did. We’ve got a couple of youngsters in the team, so it was good to let them get some international experience, and then we had Freya to bring us home. The goal tonight is to have a great race, get in and about it, and get one of the top 16 places to secure a place at the Olympics.”

The men duly followed suit, again a young team putting a statement of their intentions out to the rest of Europe, both here and potentially in Tokyo later this summer – their time fractionally outside the 3:14.17 consideration time for the Olympic Games.

Matt Richards was extremely solid on lead off duties, before the elder statesman of the team, James Guy, who is only 25 years of age himself, flew down his two lengths to put youngster Jacob Whittle, and then Joe Litchfield, in the shake-up. That duo followed where their teammates had left off, to deliver a well-rounded team performance.

“It was all about getting the job done for the team this morning. It’s a new team and we’ve never really had an experienced 4x100m Freestyle team, but we’ve got some good young lads who are doing a good job. Hopefully we can progress from that swim in the final tonight.”

The youngster of team, Whittle added:

“Yeah, it was a really good swim. I didn’t have much idea what was going on around me, so I just tried to stick to what I knew and it was a good swim.”

The final individual event of the morning with British interest was the Men’s 100m Breaststroke, which saw Adam Peaty, James Wilby and Ross Murdoch in action. Reigning champion Peaty showed his class in the final heat of seven, charging down the final 50m to take a clear win and top the qualifiers.

Summarising his efforts, Peaty said:

“That was a really smooth heat. Coming in here I’ve had pretty much no rest, but I have shaved down to get a good feel for the water! It was a good heat, no emotion, so we’ll see what we get tonight and then move it on for the final, as always.”

In the previous heat, his Loughborough National Centre teammate Wilby also looked good, touching second and well inside 60 seconds to be sure of his place in what is going to be a very intriguing semi-final line-up this evening.

With LEN’s two per nation rule in place here in Budapest, one of the trio would be unable to advance, which was the case when the trio posted the fastest three times in Glasgow three years ago. Unfortunately, Murdoch fell on the wrong side of this ruling once more, so will now switch his attention to his favoured 200m event later in the week.

Setting what would prove to be the tone for the British team was Aimee Willmott, the experienced Individual Medley swimmer controlling the first heat of the Women’s 400m Individual Medley, the first race of the championships, making good use of the favoured lane four. Although eventually edged out on the touch, she looked strong and composed throughout as she progressed through to tonight’s final.

Youngster Katie Shanahan was also in action, making her senior Great Britain debut from lane one in the second heat – she acquitted herself well, finishing just outside her season’s best.

The Men’s 400m Freestyle final was arguably the most competitive event of the morning, with no fewer than 50 men vying for just eight spots in tonight’s final. Going in the third of five heats, Max Litchfield produced a big season’s best, but just missed out on the touch, which would ultimately cost him a final berth. Two races later it was Kieran Bird’s turn, fresh from winning this event in fine style in London a month ago. Whilst not able to reproduce that form and challenge for a final place, it was a sizeable in-season best for the Bath National Centre man.

Thankfully the task at hand wasn’t quite as severe for Anna Hopkin, who eased into the Women’s 50m Freestyle semi-final with a measured swim. Touching second in heat five, the Mel Marshall coached sprinter advanced seventh quickest, with plenty more to come.

Also in action in this one were Russell and Davis, and whilst neither joined Hopkin in the next round, the youngsters gained valuable experience for the future on their senior debuts.

There were no fewer than four Brits in the Women’s 100m Butterfly heats, showing the strength in depth we currently have in that event in the UK. Harriet Jones – who secured her Olympic spot in London – and Laura Stephens were first up, and both made sure of a semi-final spot, Stephens advancing quickest. 200m specialist Alys Thomas found herself on the wrong side of the cut off, missing out by just one place, whilst Keanna MacInnes was another making her senior debut, fifth in the final heat.

Full results can be found HERE.

British Swimming

May 17 21

National Records and Semi-Finals for Ireland at LEN European Aquatics Championships

by ZwemZa

Team Ireland broke two National Records and made two Semi-Finals on Monday morning at the first heats session of the LEN European Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

The goal of these championships for Ireland is to qualify one or more swimming relay teams for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games, so it came as a welcome boost when both 4x100m Freestyle Relay teams this morning set new Irish standards.

The Women’s quartet of Mona McSharry, Danielle Hill, Victoria Catterson and Erin Riordan swam 3mins 44.37secs, lowering the record set in 2009 by almost three seconds. They finished fifth in their heat and 12th overall.

In the Men’s event, Jack McMillan, Jordan Sloan, Shane Ryan and Max McCusker came home in 3mins 16.88secs, bettering the time that was set by McMillan, Sloan, Ryan and Robbie Powell at the 2019 World Championships.

They also finished 12th, meaning that neither relay team has advanced to tonight’s Final, but both have advanced their chances of qualifying for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.

In the individual events, Conor Ferguson (Larne Swimming Club) and Darragh Greene (National Centre Dublin) will feature in tonight’s finals, Ferguson having touched the wall in 25.21s to make the 50m Backstroke Semi-Final, and Greene hitting 1min 00.21secs to go into the 100m Breaststroke Semi-Final.

Ferguson’s personal best in this event is 24.99s, while Greene holds the Irish record of 59.76 in 100m Breaststroke, one of two events in which he has earned the Olympic Consideration Time. Tonight’s swim for him will be a great test for what is to come this summer.

The finals session begins at 16:00 Irish time, with Ferguson’s event beginning at 17:24 and Greene on the blocks after 17:53.

swimireland.ie

May 17 21

80% of Japanese oppose holding Olympics: poll

by ZwemZa

The latest survey comes after Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency amid a fourth wave of virus infections. Image: Shutterstock

More than 80 percent of Japanese oppose hosting the virus-postponed Olympics this year, a new poll published on Monday showed, less than 10 weeks before the Tokyo Games.

The latest survey comes after Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency on Friday as the nation battles a fourth wave of virus infections.

The surge has put pressure on the country’s healthcare system, with medical professionals repeatedly warning about shortages and burnout.

The weekend survey by the Asahi Shimbun daily found 43 percent of respondents want the 2020 Games cancelled, and 40 percent want a further postponement.

Those figures are up from 35 percent who backed cancellation in a survey by the paper a month ago, and 34 percent who wanted a further delay.

Only 14 percent support holding the Games this summer as scheduled, down from 28 percent, according to the poll of 1,527 replies from 3,191 telephone calls.

If the Games do go ahead, 59 percent of respondents said they want no spectators, with 33 percent backing lower fan numbers and three percent a regular capacity Games.

For months, polling has found a majority in Japan oppose holding the Games this summer.

A separate poll by Kyodo News published on Sunday showed 59.7 percent back cancellation, though further postponement was not listed as an option.

Olympic organisers says tough anti-virus measures, including regular testing of athletes and a ban on overseas fans, will keep the Games safe.

But the Kyodo poll found 87.7 percent of respondents worry that an influx of athletes and staff members from abroad may spread the virus.

Asked about the polls, government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said the government would “make efforts so that the Japanese people understand the Tokyo Games will be held in a safe and secure manner”.

“We need to give explanations on details of the concrete (coronavirus) measures,” he said, insisting that the Games would not put further pressure on medical services.

Japan has seen a smaller virus outbreak than many countries, with fewer than 11,500 deaths so far. But the government has come under pressure for a comparatively slow vaccine rollout.

The Kyodo poll found 85 percent of respondents considered the rollout slow, with 71.5 percent unhappy with the government’s handling of the pandemic.

AFP

May 17 21

Italian gold rush opens European Para Swimming Championships

by ZwemZa

Carlotta Gilli was one of seven Italian winners on day one in Madeira ©Getty Images

Italian athletes won seven gold medals on the opening day of the European Para Swimming Championships.

Twenty-five finals were contested in Madeira, with Russia’s Andrei Nikolaev the first European champion crowned in the men’s S8 400 metres freestyle.

Russia finished the day with four gold medals but that was eclipsed by Italy.

Stefano Raimondi, Carlotta Gilli, Francesco Bocciardo, Emmanuele Marigliano, Giulia Terzi, Xenia Francesca Palazzo and Alessia Scortechini all won gold medals for Italy, with the nation also earning six silvers and four bronzes.

Terzi was perhaps the most impressive of the bunch, setting a new European record of 3min 8.12sec in the women’s SM7 200m individual medley.

Belarus’ Ihar Boki, who won seven gold medals at the 2018 edition of this event in Dublin, underlined his ability by setting a new world record in the men’s S13 100m butterfly final – 53:72sec.

That gold medal may not the last Boki wins in Portugal this week.

Spain’s Sarai Gascon was another notable winner, collecting a 15th European gold medal in the women’s SB9 100m breaststroke.

Renata Pinto won a bronze medal for the host nation in that race.

The open European Championships – where athletes from outside the continent are also permitted to compete as they prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics – continue Monday.

May 17 21

European Aquatics Championships, Budapest – Day 7, Summary

by ZwemZa

Bondar jumps out of the world, not even 10 pieces of 10s helped Daley

Britain’s wonder diver Tom Daley received 10 perfect marks of 10.0 in the platform final but not even those were enough against Russia’s Aleksandr Bondar who was out of this world during the evening as he showed an almost flawless performance to win the men’s 10m title. Earlier the diving contest saw the tiniest winning margin ever recorded at European Championships when Lena Hentschel and Tina Punzel of Germany edged out Italy’s Elena Bertocchi and Chiara Pellacani by 0.09 points in the women’s 3m synchro. In the lake French distance king Axel Reymond reconquered his 25km title among the men after 2014 and 2016, while Germany’s Lea Boy claimed a big win in the women’s race on the closing day at the open water swimming competitions.

FLASH QUOTES

Axel Reymond is a specialist at the 25km races, he won back-to-back European golds in 2014 and 2016 and clinched the world titles in 2017 and 2019, only to miss the podium in 2018. In Glasgow he came 4th, perhaps the most disappointing placement in this event, leaving the course empty-handed after swimming 25,000m. It was a painful experience for the French distance king and he was determined to re-conquer his title and also admitted that he wanted to prevent the Italian sweep after Gregorio Paltrinieri doubled down the 5-10km and was part of the winning team too.

Still, as it was usual this week at Lake Lupa, Italy had a serious title-contender over this distance too. It was veteran 32 year-old Matteo Furlan who kept up with the Frenchman but he could never really stay close to him over the second half of the race. It wasn’t a huge gap but did not go under 4sec and at the end Reymond won by 5.3sec, kind of comfortably. In the meantime Russia’s Kirill Abrosimov resurfaced before the final 500m (he was second in the middle of the race for a while) and challenged Furlan heavily but the Italian withstood the pressure and touched in 1.1sec ahead of him.

In the women’s race Lea Boy, just like Reymond, always swam in the leading pack, was ranked 1-3rd at each checking point. For a while she was in front with the others (the company changed from time to time), then she switched gears at 20km and never looked back. Well, she did it sometimes but could not see anyone following her since by the last lap she built a full minute advantage and kept it till the end.

The battle for the minor spoils turned into a three-horse race with France’s Lara Grangeon, Italy’s Barbara Pozzobon and Hungary’s Kata Somenek Onon. The two more experienced swimmers could rush ahead in the final lap, by two body-lengths, and decided the remaining two spots on the podium between themselves. Grangeon out-touched her rival by 0.3sec but Pozzobon’s bronze – a first-ever podium for her at majors – also meant that Italy could claim a medal in each event at the championships. Not surprisingly, they won the Team Trophy by a huge margin ahead of the French and the Hungarians.

While a couple of tenths decided on the medals sometimes in the lake, the diving pool saw even tighter finishes on the closing day in the women’s 3m synchro final. As if Elena Bertocchi and Chiara Pellacani had copy-pasted Lena Hentschel and Tina Punzel’s dives in performing (their programme was not identical). Their scores were similar during the entire session, though the Italians had a weaker second jump (44.40, each mark under 8.0) but they came up with the highest scoring dive of the final in the fourth for 74.40 points and took over the lead by 1.20. The quality of the last attempts was not superb but the Germans’ had a higher DD (3.1 vs 3.0) and even though the marks were almost the same, that gave them the winning edge by 0.09 points. It was a huge relief for Punzel who had five silver medals and a bronze in this event since 2014 – now she claimed gold at last. The battle for the bronze was just as tight – it came down to 0.3 points, which favoured the Russians Uliana Kliueva and Vitaliia Koroleva over GB’s Grace Reid and Katherine Torrence. And as usual, the best was saved for the last – the men’s 10m final proved to be the crowning event once more. Title-holder Oleksi Sereda kicked off the party receiving three 10s to his opening dive but the two Russians Viktor Minibaev and Aleksandr Bondar also began the evening in style, not to mention world champion Tom Daley who also received three perfect marks in the opening round.

The second then divided the field, Sereda bowed out after a complete miss and Daley’s attempt was also mediocre while the Russians held on, both earning a couple of 10s. Bondar remained phenomenal, his consistency was simply amazing, after he got 10s for his first two dives, he deserved that again for this fifth one and all but two marks out of the 54 was 8.0 – all the others were 8.5 and higher. His 564.35 points in total is a fantastic result, though the Arena’s record still belongs to Daley who had won at the 2017 Worlds with 590.

Daley bounced back with two magnificent attempts in the fourth and fifth, got seven more 10s (3 and 4 – had 10 altogether out of the 20 perfect marks the judges threw out this evening), his 109.15 pointer in the penultimate round was a class of its own. That decreased the gap to 16.45 points between him and Bondar but the Russian didn’t crack under pressure. Instead he offered another nearly perfect dive, his fifth over 90 points (and the sixth was 89.25) while Daley couldn’t maintain his level from the previous rounds but at least clinched the silver by 3.35 points ahead of Minibaev. The Brit produced three of the four highest scoring dives in the final but lacked the balance what Bondar showed throughout the evening.

It was a fitting end to the diving competition – and these two more medals secured that Russia won the Team Trophy, Germany was the runner-up, ahead of Great Britain.

For detailed results and more, visit www.len.eu

May 16 21

Australia’s Olympic swim coach reveals area of Tokyo medal focus

by ZwemZa

Emma McKeon was in great form at the Sydney Open.Credit:AP

Australian Olympic swimming coach Rohan Taylor is refusing to put a number on how many gold medals he believes his team can win in Tokyo but says a podium finish in all seven relays is not out of the question.

Taylor said he was satisfied with the progress of Australia’s best prospects two months out from Tokyo after watching many fine tune their preparations at the Sydney Open ahead of next month’s Olympic trials in Adelaide.

However, gauging where Australia’s swimmers stand compared to their rivals is not a simple task. World rankings for 2021 offer some insight but should not be taken as a definitive guide because not every gold medal hopeful has posted times, and America’s best have not been in regular competition.

The form guide is set to become clearer in coming weeks, with Australia hosting their Olympic trials at the same time as the USA, six weeks out from the Games. Australia usually hold their Olympic trials months in advance but will mirror the Americans’ schedule this year, partly as a result of COVID-19.

Australia claimed 10 medals in Rio – three gold, four silver and three bronze – to finish second on the swimming medal tally.

Asked how many gold medals he wanted in Tokyo, Taylor said it was too early to make a call. “As far as numbers, we’re steering away from that,” he said. “I don’t want to lock myself in. As many as we can.”

But relays are firmly on Taylor’s mind. Australia won a gold and a bronze in two men’s relays at the 2019 World Championships, to go with another four medals in women’s and mixed relays in the Gwangju meeting.

In Tokyo there will be 4×100 freestyle, 4×200 freestyle and 4×100 medley relays for men and women, plus a new mixed medley relay.

“I would say this: we want to really try to maximise our relays,” Taylor said. “We were six out of seven [medals] in Gwangju and we’d like to match that or do better. How many of those are gold, well you can work out we’ve got some pretty strong relays.

“First thing is get in the high rankings. We know that 86 per cent of all medals are won from the top five in the world going into the meet. So we need to get in there. Then we’re in there with a chance.

“Fifty per cent of the golds are won by the first ranked swimmer going into the event. We want to be in that 50 per cent and in as many top fives so we have more chances to win medals.

“I think maybe there were some missed opportunities [in previous Olympics]. We’re just hoping what we put in place over the last few years with the trials moving closer, that we’re giving our guys the best chance to convert when they get there.”

Taylor said the standouts from the Sydney Open were Kaylee McKeown and Emma McKeon. McKeown broke Australian and Commonwealth records in the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke events, while going close to claiming world records in the two shorter events. Her 200m individual medley time of 2:08.73 was also the fastest in the world this year.

Meanwhile, McKeon clocked a clocked a personal best of 52.29 in the 100m freestyle, also the fastest in the world for 2021.

“Probably the way Emma swam [was most impressive],” Taylor said. “Kaylee just her consistency. I think she is finding ways to get faster.”

Australia’s two individual gold medalists from the 2016 Rio Games, Kyle Chalmers and Mack Horton, will be vying for positions next month.

Horton did not swim in Sydney and there are some concerns over his sluggish form, while Chalmers only lined up in a 400m heat before pulling out of the final and then the 100m freestyle event.

Chalmers and Ariarne Titmus excelled at Australian Swimming Championships last month in their return from shoulder injuries, winning three gold medals apiece.

“There are some great swims we’ve seen this week and some encouraging things happening within the team,” Taylor said on Sunday.

“These are the meets where it gives you a really good indication of where you’re at. I’m pretty comfortable where everybody is at. Obviously at trials they have to perform, so we’ll pick a team there.”

By Tom Decent | The Age

 

May 16 21

Smith, King and Andrew win again on TYR Pro Swim Series at Indianapolis closing night

by ZwemZa
Regan Smith, Lilly King and Michael Andrew wrapped up the final night of competition at the TYR Pro Swim Series with a win apiece, as the meet came to a close Saturday night at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis, Ind.
Regan Smith, winner of the women’s 100-meter fly and runner-up in the 200m fly and 200m back earlier in the meet, got the night started with a swift 58.77 in the 100m back, just over a second off her own world record and well in front of 200m back champ Phoebe Bacon (59.62).

“I’m pleased with that swim, I would have wanted to be a little faster at night but I can’t complain with it,” she said after the race. “I think I’m definitely making my way and am getting ready for Trials, so this meet has been good for my confidence.”

Lilly King and Emily Escobedo duplicated their placings from the 100m breast earlier in the meet again in the 200m, with King taking first in 2:21.82 and Escobedo second in 2:22.81. King’s time isn’t far off her personal best and could set her up for a great race next month in Omaha.

“I’m pretty excited, I think that is the fastest I have been in season and it was really, really close to my best time,” she said. “It did hurt a lot, but the time was really good so it’s worth it.”

Michael Andrew closed out a successful meet with another win, this time in the men’s 200m IM. Andrew took command right from the beginning, turning a second ahead of the field at the first 50 and extending his lead over the rest of the race to clock a 1:56.84, almost four seconds ahead of second place finisher, Grant House.

“This evening was a little hard to get in the right frame of mind, I felt a little tired mentally,” Andrew said. “That race hurt a lot more, but I’m happy with some of the adjustments we were able to make and I’m looking forward to these next three weeks and getting ready for Trials.”

After finishing in the top three a couple of times earlier in the meet, Kate Douglass broke through in the women’s 50m free with the top time of the night at 24.54. Erika Brown grabbed second, also breaking the 25 second mark with a 24.87. Douglass would add another second-place swim later in the night with a 2:10.74 in the 200m IM. Her teammate, Alex Walsh, narrowly won event with a 2:10.67.

“I saw (Douglass) right there next to me the whole time, I knew she was going to be there so I had to dig deep to get my hand on the wall first,” Walsh said after her I.M. win. “The great thing about racing her is that she pushes me – especially in practice, we really push each other. I really like having her there and I don’t think I would have gone as fast if I didn’t have her there.”

Multiple-time Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian joined the winner’s circle in the men’s 50m free with a 22.13, while defending Olympic champ Anthony Ervin won the B final in 22.64. Adrian is focused on making a few tweaks and improvements headed in Trials next month.

“The start and the first 25 were terrible, but the second 25 was good – that’s kind of how I feel about it,” he said. “I’m not super upset about it, but I’d like to get that one back. I’m excited to see what I can do with a little more rest in the pool.”

In distance freestyle action, the women’s 800m free came down to the final touch as Ally McHugh (8:26.24) out-touched Emma Nordin (8:27.44), Sierra Schmidt (8:27.54) and Leah Smith (8:27.60) by the narrowest of margins.

“It was only two seconds off my best, so I was really happy with that,” McHugh said. “The heat was a stacked heat and I was so excited to race them; I’m looking forward to doing it again in a few weeks.”

In other events tonight, Hunter Armstrong took the win in the men’s 100m back in 53.69, edging 2012 Olympic gold medalist Matt Grevers (54.27). Alex Evdokimov fought off Anton McKee for the men’s 200m breast win, 2:12.10 to 2:12.24. Marwan El Kamash took the men’s 800m free win in 7:53.28 to close out the night.

May 16 21

Tokyo Olympics: Why doesn’t Japan cancel the Games?

by ZwemZa

There have been mounting calls in Japan to cancel the major sporting event

The Tokyo Olympics are now just over two months away and calls to ditch the Games in the face of the pandemic are getting louder by the day. So why isn’t Japan talking about cancelling the Games? The answer as it turns out, is not that simple.

The situation is not looking great in Japan.

A coronavirus state of emergency has been extended in the capital Tokyo and three other major prefectures as cases continue to rise.

Yet there’s been no word about cancelling the Games, despite both health experts and public opinion being stacked against them.

Current polls in Japan show nearly 70% of the population do not want the Olympics to go ahead, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) remains steadfast that the spectacle will take place.

Japan has long insisted there was no question the Olympics, which should have taken place last summer, would be held and will be safe.

Yet earlier this week, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for the first time appeared to bow to the pressure of public opinion, saying that the government would “not put the Olympics first” – but adding that ultimately, the decision would lie with the IOC.

So who actually wields the power to cancel the Games – and is a cancellation likely to happen?

How could the Games be axed?

The contract between the IOC and host city Tokyo is straightforward: There’s one article regarding cancellation and it only gives the option for the IOC to cancel, not for the host city.

That’s because the Olympic Games are the “exclusive property” of the IOC, international sports lawyer Alexandre Miguel Mestre told the BBC. And as the “owner” of the Games, it is the IOC that can terminate said contract.

One reason given to justify a cancellation – aside from things like war or civil disorder – is that if “the IOC has reasonable grounds to believe, in its sole discretion, that the safety of participants in the Games would be seriously threatened or jeopardised for any reason whatsoever”. Arguably, the pandemic could be seen as such a threat.

The Olympic charter also stipulates that the IOC should ensure “the health of the athletes” and promote “safe sports”, Mr Mestre says, but despite all this, the IOC seems determined to go ahead.

So could Japan go against the IOC and pull out itself?

“Under various clauses within this host city agreement, if Japan was to unilaterally cancel the contract, then by and large, the risks and losses would fall with the local organising committee,” Professor Jack Anderson at the University of Melbourne told the BBC.

The sports law expert explains that the contract is fairly typical and that of course Tokyo knew what it signed up to. What it didn’t know was that a global pandemic would enter the picture.

“Contracts can foresee certain contingencies, but the nature of the current situation is obviously unprecedented,” he says.

“The Olympics are the biggest sporting event on the calendar, there are billions at stake for Japan and also the IOC in terms of broadcasting sponsorship. It is a huge event and there are huge contractual obligations for all sides.”

Hence, the only realistic scenario is Japan pulling the plug jointly with the IOC, staying within the framework of their contract.

If that happens, that’s where insurances would come in: The IOC has insurance, the local organising committee has insurance and the various broadcasters and sponsors will also have insurance.

“It’s probably safe to say that if the Tokyo Olympics is cancelled, it would probably be the biggest insurance pay-out event of its kind, there’s no question about that,” Prof Anderson says.

Insurance would cover the concrete expenses by the organisers, but it would hardly cover all of the indirect cost raked up by investments across the country in anticipation of the spectacle – hotels and restaurants for example, that might have undergone renovations in preparations for tourists they thought they would receive.

A chorus of criticism

As of now, the uncertainty around the Games lingers on.

It’s been a rocky road – they were postponed from last year, the torch run got interrupted again and again, international fans won’t be allowed to come and now even competitions in completely empty stadiums are on the cards.

Few athletes have spoken out about the issue and they are likely torn over the issue. For those who make it, the Olympics are among the highlights of their career and what they have trained for for years.

At the same time, there’s the concern for personal and public health in the middle of a global pandemic.

Japan’s biggest sports star, tennis champion Naomi Osaka was one of the few to join the debate, but also only voicing cautious hesitation.

“Of course I want the Olympics to happen,” she said this week. “But I think there’s so much important stuff going on, especially the past year.

“For me, I feel like if it’s putting people at risk… then it definitely should be a discussion, which I think it is as of right now. At the end of the day, I’m just an athlete, and there is a whole pandemic going on.”

The US’ track and field team earlier this week cancelled its pre-Olympics training camp in Japan out of safety concerns. And even the governor of the province that would have hosted the team, said he believed “they made the best decision possible in the current situation”.

The same uncertainty trickles through from many of those involved in organising the Games.

Several of the towns who were set to host the athletes across the Tokyo region have reportedly pulled out for fear the programme might add to the spread of Covid.

One local governor this week said he had rejected requests to secure hospital beds for the athletes. Instead, he urged that a new postponement or possibly cancellation should at least be considered.

A doctors union this week said in a statement to the government that it was “impossible” to hold the Games given the development of the pandemic.

None of these things are clear-cut calls for the Games to be cancelled, but with the warnings by health experts and public opinion turning against the games, the trickle of doubters is becoming a steady chorus over the past weeks.

More than just money

There is more at stake though than just the financial cost of cancelling the Olympics.

The next Games on the global calendar are already next year, the Winter Games in February 2022, hosted by regional rival China in Beijing.

So there is little doubt that overall, Japan is prepared to go to great lengths to get the Tokyo Games done.

The last time Japan hosted a Summer Olympics was in 1964 and at the time, they were seen as an important symbol for the country’s rehabilitation and rebuilding process after World War Two.

For the Tokyo 2020/21 Games, there’s again a symbolic significance, Prof Anderson explains.

“Japan has seen economic stagnation for a long time, there has been the tsunami and the nuclear disaster of Fukushima, so the Games would been as symbolic of a revival of Japan,” he says. “It does take a special importance in that sense.”

Ultimately, the question of whether the Games should go ahead is separate from whether they will go ahead. In the history of the modern Olympics, there have been only three instances the spectacle got cancelled: in 1916, 1940 and 1944 – all three cases due to the two World Wars.

So despite mounting headwinds, the IOC’s refusal to even consider a cancellation has most observers agreeing that this year’s Olympics will indeed go ahead and kick off on 23 July – in what shape or form still remains unclear.

By Andreas Illmer | BBC News

May 16 21

Mack Horton defends Olympic protests, but has not thought about facing Sun Yang in Tokyo

by ZwemZa

Mack Horton says he is focused on getting to the Olympics and hasn’t thought about who he might face in Tokyo, including rival Sun Yang.(AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

Australian swimmer and Olympic champion Mack Horton says he would consider sitting down and talking to China’s Sun Yang – the man he refused to stand on a podium with at the 2019 world championships.

“It’s not a bad idea, maybe one day,” he said.

Speaking to The Ticket at the unveiling of the swimsuits to be worn in Tokyo by Australian swimmers, divers, surfers, water polo players and modern pentathletes, Horton said he had not yet thought about who he would be competing against, since he still has to qualify for the team.

The rivalry between Sun and Horton extends far beyond the pool.

Sun served a secret three-month ban in 2014 for testing positive to a stimulant, which he had been prescribed for a heart condition.

The stimulant was later removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list.

At the Rio Olympics in 2016, Horton won gold ahead of Sun and labelled the Chinese star in a press conference a “drug cheat”.

“I just have a problem with him testing positive and still competing,” he said at the time.

Three years later, the results were flipped when Sun won the world championship race ahead of Horton, who chose not to step onto the medal dais at the presentation ceremony citing “frustration”.

At the time Sun was awaiting a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing after a stand-off with doping control officers who had collected blood and urine samples with incomplete paperwork.

When the doping control party tried to leave with their sealed container, Sun’s party – including the China team doctor — refused to let his samples be taken away until the paperwork was corrected.

A security guard broke open the container, with Sun claiming he was following intructions from the testing agents to allow each party to retain their own property.

Horton’s podium protest created global headlines, viral photos and a sustained social media attack that included death threats.

The CAS hearing in November 2019 found Sun guilty, handing him an eight-year ban but the hearing was appealed at the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

It ordered a retrial on the grounds the lead arbitrator, former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, had expressed an anti-China bias in his social media posts.

The re-hearing begins in a little over a week.

If Sun wins he will be free to compete in Tokyo and may line up against Horton again with the potential for another protest.

“There are so many hypotheticals you have to get through before we’re there.

“It’s a cheesy and cliched athlete thing to say, but the biggest competitor is yourself, which is true.

“All of my focus is on basically beating myself and being in the best shape and I guess cutting out all that peripheral … to make it easier on myself as well.”

Horton will always be recognised for his podium protest, a gesture that brought unexpected pressure and enormous geo-political weight.

“I don’t think I intentionally took on the weight, I was just being me, and I will continue to just be me regardless of weight or no weight,” he said.

“But I think as long as you are just being the best version of yourself, the best swimmer you can be, the best athlete you can be, that weight probably isn’t taken on because I’m not trying to be something or do something that isn’t natural.

“It’s just who I am.”

Horton warns Olympics have to move with times

The International Olympic Committee has confirmed that protests on the podium remain banned after collating results of a global survey sent to Olympic athletes spanning decades.

Horton said the Olympic movement is in danger of looking out of touch.

“With the way the world is and the way the world is going at the moment — so many people are so vocal and have so many opinions on so many issues — it seems a bit out of touch … to ban opinions and silence athletes,” he said.

Would that mean no flags and no anthems, instead a true celebration of the “youth of the world” that is claimed at every opening ceremony?

“It’s extreme, but yeah,” he said.

Horton said he has no interest in moving into sports administration once his competitive days are over.

“Of course, I’d like to be there to mentor younger athletes and help them through, but I think probably because I just spent so much time and so much energy in this world, once I’m done with that world, I want to be done.

“But it could change when you actually step away from that.”

Horton’s sole focus right now is in qualifying for Tokyo at next month’s Australian swimming trials in South Australia.

His main rival hopes to be in Tokyo too, but Sun’s next test is winning his trial at the CAS, starting on May 24th.

By Tracey Holmes for The Ticket and ABC Sport

May 16 21

It’s the Kaylee, Zac and Maddy show as Sydney Open winds up with a bang

by ZwemZa

Photo Credit: Delly Carr (SOPAC)

The unstoppable swim star Kaylee McKeown has today continued on her record breaking spree, wrapping up her Olympic Trials preparation with two more world class swims at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.

The 19-year-old followed up her near world record breaking swim in yesterday’s 100m backstroke win at the Sydney Open with another near miss today – this time in the non-Olympic 50m backstroke.

Clocking a new Commonwealth and Australian record of 27.16, the girl from USC Spartans was just 0.18secs outside the world mark, set by China’s Lui Xiang in 2018.

And it came 30 minutes after she established her third No 1 world ranked time of the meet, winning the 200m individual medley in 2:08.73 – a time only bettered in the 2020-21 season by her own 2:08.23, swum at last December’s Queensland State Championships – the third event in her repertoire for Tokyo.

The day before McKeown missed the 100m backstroke world mark by just 0.06, clocking 57.63 as she set about re-writing the record books in a three-day Sydney stopover en-route to Adelaide and then the long-awaited Tokyo Games.

The 100m was her second number one world ranked time in two days, coming after her 200m backstroke chart topper (2:04.31) on day one of the last meet before next month’s Olympic Trials at Adelaide’s SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre.

And the last three days McKeown has lived up to a reputation revealed by her coach at the University of Sunshine Coast, Chris Mooney, as a “no fuss athlete who is not afraid of pain.”

“Kaylee takes her body and her mind and she punches through pain barriers like no one else I’ve ever seen in my life and she doesn’t mind doing it,” said Mooney.

“We really do put a lot of focus and attention on our race processes and we find that if we get those processes done well then the result usually follows.

“We never really focus on the result, just focus on what we can control.”

While all eyes have been on McKeown this week, fellow Queenslander Zac Stubblety-Cook joined in the record setting, clocking a new Australian and NSW All-Comers record of 2:07.00 – the second fastest time in the world this year for 200m breaststroke.

National champion Stubblety-Cook, had earlier in the meet dipped under the minute barrier again in a personal best time of 59.72 to win the 100m, and is well and truly heading towards the Trials in a month with a huge confidence booster.

“It does wonders for the confidence, knowing that all the hard work in training, that comes down to just over two minutes work in the race is certainly paying off and we are on the right track,” said Stubblety Cook.

The meet finished on a high note for former Coffs Harbour girl, now TSS Aquatic, Gold Coast-based Maddy Gough who won the 1500m freestyle in a personal best time of 15:55.14 – a time only bettered by US superstar Katie Ledecky and Germany’s Sarah Kohler – the fastest time by an Australian in six years and seven seconds under the Australian Olympic Qualifying time.

Gough heads to Adelaide for the Trials where she will be chasing a berth on her first Olympic Team up against her TSS team mates Moesha Johnson (third today in 16:14.64) and Kiah Melverton, World Junior champion Lani Pallister (Griffith University) and 10km Olympic qualifier, Noosa’s Kareena Lee (second today in 16:08.40).

A great result too for her coach Chris Nesbit who has just signed up as the new High Performance coach with Carlile Swimming at Ryde – moving to Sydney after a successful tenure with TSS Aquatic, moulding them into one of Australia’s most successful programs.

Swimming Australia

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