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Sep 16 21

Shayna Jack overjoyed as doping saga finally comes to an end

by ZwemZa

Shayna Jack (left) was pictured arriving at her first training session in two years with her coach Dean Boxall (right)

The anti-doping saga that engulfed Australian swimmer Shayna Jack is over at last, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissing an appeal against her reduced ban and ensuring she can now return to the sport.

Jack was banned for four years after testing positive in 2019 for the banned SARM (selective androgen receptor modulator) ligandrol before the FINA World Championships in South Korea. That was halved when she appealed to CAS last December, only for Sport Integrity Australia and the World Anti-Doping Authority to challenge the leniency.

That appeal has now been dismissed meaning Jack, the 22-year-old freestyle sprinter, can focus on making the team for next year’s World Championships and Commonwealth Games. She had always proclaimed her innocence and the legal proceedings have cost her in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Jack is overjoyed with the news. She has been back in training with coach Dean Boxall for a number of months and a reinstatement of the original four-year ban would have been a crushing blow likely to have ended her career.

On her Instagram page, Jack said the ‘nightmare was finally over’ and she would cherish the decision, thanking those around her who had been with her from the start.

“After a 2 year and 3 month battle, I have finally received my final decision that my appeal case has been dismissed by the Court of Arbitration. I am now free to do what I love with no restrictions and am so overwhelmed with joy. I am now going to take some time to myself to cherish this moment and reflect on what I have endured. The nightmare is finally over,” she wrote.

After her original appeal, a CAS arbitrator ruled that Jack did not intentionally ingest the substance and that she was a convincing and honest witness who had gone to every length available to prove her innocence. She had been tested regularly before her positive test and after and never returned a violation.

Jack’s positive test was one of the most highly publicised doping cases in Australian history. It came just days after Mack Horton had made a public stand against banned Chinese star Sun Yang by refusing to share a podium with him at the World Championships.

She was sent home from a staging camp in Japan and returned to photographers stationed outside her house as she tried to clear her name. She didn’t change her story from day one and still proclaims to have no concrete reason as to why ligandrol was found in her system.

In her appeal, CAS was told the amount was so small as to have no impact on her performance. But the emotional strain and financial damage was crippling and Jack said she had been told to kill herself among a series of vile online threats and comments.

But that is now in the past as she can begin training without the weight of a pending doping case resting on her shoulders. The full CAS award will be published in coming days and shed further light on the reasons behind the decision.

Phil Lutton | The Age

Sep 16 21

WADA to review cannabis ban for athletes

by ZwemZa

An advisory group to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will review whether cannabis should remain a banned substance, a move that comes after American track and field star Sha’Carri Richardson missed the Tokyo Games after testing positive for it.

The scientific review will be initiated next year, WADA said on Tuesday. Cannabis is currently prohibited in competition and will continue to be in 2022, it added.

Richardson tested positive for a chemical found in cannabis during the U.S. Olympic Track & Field trials in June, which wiped out her trial results. She was also hit with a one-month suspension.

The 21-year-old, who had been seen as a top contender in the 100 metres, has said she used cannabis to help cope with the death of her mother.

The suspension sparked an outpouring of sympathy and calls for a review of anti-doping rules, including by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. read more


Sep 16 21

Swimming Australia advise all-female Independent Panel moves to next phase

by ZwemZa

Swimming Australia has advised that the Independent Panel – formed last month to review and report into issues related to women and girls’ experience and advancement in the sport of swimming – has moved to the next phase.

The formation of the panel was initiated in the wake of two-time Olympic silver medallist Maddie Groves quitting the Tokyo Olympic trials, citing “misogynistic perverts” in the sport.

Submissions to the independent panel have now closed. The panel – which will inquire into the most appropriate mechanisms to create a safer swimming community – is supported by the Australian Sports Commission through the Australian Institute of Sport, and Swimming Australia.

The panel, comprising of Chris Ronalds, Professor Alexandra Parker and Katherine Bates, will now begin the next phase of their work as they start to form their review and report into issues related to women and girls’ experience and advancement in the sport of swimming.

While all members of the panel possess extensive experience and knowledge to undertake the work of the review, if they require specific technical swimming advice, the panel will consult swimmers, coaches and other appropriate people for information.

Professor Alexandra Parker is the Executive Director of the Institute for Health and Sport (IHES) at Victoria University. Professor Parker is a clinical researcher in mental health. Her fields of speciality are in the role of physical activity for preventing and treating mental health concerns, and the mental health and wellbeing of athletes with a focus on women in sport. In addition to her academic and research history, during Professor Parker’s career, she has partnered closely with Orygen and headspace youth mental health organisations.

Katherine Bates is the Head of Operations for Chicks who Ride Bikes. As a former professional Australian track and road cyclist, Ms Bates completed in Commonwealth and Olympic games. Ms Bates has had extensive board and community experience, as Commissioner of the Australian Sports Commission and Director of Bicycle NSW.

Ronalds said both Professor Parker and Ms Bates brought extensive experience and knowledge to undertake the work of the review. If this work requires specific technical swimming advice, the panel will consult swimmers, coaches and other appropriate people for information.

The panel will report findings and recommendations to the Presidents of both the ASC and Swimming Australia.

Sep 15 21

First title of a targeted 12 for Sates at SA Short Course Championships

by ZwemZa

Matt Sates (Facebook)

SA’s 18-year-old Olympian Matt Sates got his mammoth SA Short Course Championships campaign off to the perfect start in Pietermaritzburg, clinching victory in the men’s 800m freestyle.

Sates showed his versatility by claiming victory in the distance event by an impressive margin of almost six seconds.

He touched the wall in 7:51.71 with Danté Nortjé second in 7:57.16 and his Tuks teammate Roberto Gomes third in 8:05.90.

Competing in his home pool, Sates has set himself the daunting goal of winning 12 gold medals at these championships, and he’s confident he can achieve that.

“I learnt a lot from the Olympics, watching all the top swimmers do what they do so I’m just going to try and put what I learnt there into short course and see if anything’s different. I’m just testing the waters,” he said after his first victory of the meet.

“I’m swimming 12 races and I want to go unbeaten in all 12, so I want to get gold for all 12 races. There’s only one guy that can make a difference to that and that’s [fellow Olympian] Pieter Coetzé. He does well at the sprint events. I’m swimming the 100IM tomorrow but he’s the only guy who could dethrone me in that way so we’re looking forward to that. He’s a good guy to race against and one of my best friends in swimming,” added Sates.

The women’s 800m freestyle was won by 17-year-old Catherine van Rensburg from Tuks in 8:43.13 with her teammate Stephanie Houtman a close second in 8:43.92 and 16-year-old Hannah Robertson third in 8:51.61.

All three swimmers dipped under the B qualifying time for the World Short Course Championships in Abu Dhabi this December. If no swimmers reach the A qualifying time in the event before the cut-off date, swimmers with B qualifying times may be considered for selection.

“I wanted to swim a B qualifying time and I was happy that Stephanie was swimming next to me because she pushed me,” said Van Rensburg afterwards.

Asked what goes through her mind during the gruelling 32-length race, the Pretoria swimmer joked: “To be honest, not much – mostly just to keep my stroke nice and easy and about the end, when I can eat something.”

Action continues at the GC Jolliffe pool tomorrow with heats getting under way at 9:30am and the evening finals at 5pm.

Supplied by Swimming South Africa

Sep 14 21

Olympics-inspired swimmers fired up for SA Short Course Championships

by ZwemZa

Matt Sates (Supplied)

Close to 300 swimmers, including several who competed at the recent Tokyo Olympics, have converged on Pietermaritzburg to compete at the SA Short Course Championships from 15-19 September 2021.

Many of them will be gunning for qualifying times for the rescheduled FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Abu Dhabi from 16-21 December 2021.

South Africans have traditionally excelled in the short course format, contested in a 25m pool, with the nation’s swimmers claiming a total of seven medals – three of them gold – at the last world championships held in China in 2018.

Inspired by his recent trip to Tokyo, where he reached the Olympic semi-final of the 200m individual medley, Matt Sates is relishing the opportunity to compete on home turf. The Maritzburg swimmer has a busy few days ahead as he plans to swim in 12 events.

“After the Olympics I took a nice break that was needed desperately,” explained the 18-year-old. “I don’t like the breaks, but they are needed to be able to finish the test strong at short course worlds. But I’m excited to put what I learnt at the Olympics into SA short course and put on a show.

“It has inspired me in a way that lets me know that I’m on a good path for now.”

Speaking about last year’s SA Short Course Championships where he collected an impressive eight gold medals, Sates added: “My results last year were very pleasing to me, but to be honest it doesn’t matter what I did last year because this year is going to be next level.”

Rebecca Meder (Supplied)

Another swimmer feeling motivated by her recent trip to Tokyo is 19-year-old Rebecca Meder, who will be competing in seven events in Maritzburg.

“I am swimming quite a few races this week. The main ones being the 100IM, 200IM and the 400IM,” said the Durban swimmer. “I think I am swimming seven races in total and my goal is to be solid and fast on each and every swim. I have set myself some really quick goal times which I am hoping to achieve.

“Last year’s SA short course was SA’s first big national competition after lockdown,” she added. “It was exciting and most of us didn’t know what to expect when it came to our racing and the possible times we could swim. I am looking forward to racing this year as I know what my body is capable of doing this time round. Plus, I love racing short course.”

Speaking about what she gained from her Olympic experience, Meder added: “I am still feeling sparky and race ready after swimming in Tokyo.

“Having experienced the top level of swimming in the world, I am so motivated to be faster, stronger and better. We race – that’s what swimming is all about. My eyes have been opened to different skills and techniques of doing things, not just swimming, but the boldness, the bravery and tenacity it takes to be at the top. This is the level I want to be competitive in, and to get there starts with having that mentality when racing back at home.”

Racing at the GC Jolliffe pool in Pietermaritzburg gets under way at 5pm on Wednesday, 15 September and will continue until Sunday, 19 September.

by Karien Jonckheere on behalf of Swimming South Africa

Sep 14 21

Emma McKeon admits she’s looking forward to a ‘mental break’ at the International Swimming League in Italy.

by ZwemZa

Emma McKeon and Kyle Chalmers will race for London Roar in the International Swimming League in Italy. Photo: Adam Head

She’s Australia’s greatest Olympic swimmer, but Emma McKeon admits she’s looking forward to a ‘mental break’ at the International Swimming League in Italy.

Kyle Chalmers is set to face his Olympic conqueror this weekend after cutting short his post-Olympic break to lead London Roar in the International Swimming League (ISL).

Chalmers and Tokyo Games star Emma McKeon left Australia last week for an extended overseas sojourn, with Chalmers expecting to be away for the next 20 weeks.

Chalmers was back in Adelaide for just 10 days with family and friends before leaving for the ISL.

But the chance to lead the Roar franchise and earn enough money to support his training program through to the Paris Olympics is too good an opportunity to pass up.

“We’re lucky that ISL’s happening at the moment, I’m really looking forward to getting over to the ISL and competing with my team the London Roar,” Chalmers said.

“I’m actually the captain of the team, so I’m really looking forward to getting over there and doing well.”

Chalmers will take on US sprint star and Cali Condors captain Caeleb Dressel when he heads back into action in Naples, Italy, this weekend.

After returning to Australia and undergoing two weeks of quarantine with the swim team in the Northern Territory before reuniting with family and friends in South Australia, training had not been a priority.

He was looking forward to the clash against Dressel, who beat him to gold in the 100m freestyle by just 0.06sec but given he had not trained for a month after the Games, had few expectations.

“I’ll probably be pretty dusty,” Chalmers said.

“He (Dressel) has stayed in pretty good nick it seems and has raced already over at the ISL.

“I’ll be saving my best swims for the finals towards the end of the season but it’ll be good to have a hitout against him – and catch up with him, he’s a great mate of mine.

“It’ll definitely be a rude shock standing up on the blocks, he’ll be looking pretty lean and mean and I’ll probably have the dad bod running but I’m looking forward to it.”

Chalmers does not expect to be back in Australia until next February, meaning he faces a packed schedule in 2022, with national championships in April, world championships in Japan in May and the Commonwealth Games in England in July-August.

But he believes the sacrifice is worthwhile.

“Every opportunity I have to race is going to benefit me,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to getting over there and hopefully winning some prize money.

“The more money I can make over this little period, the better I’m going to be in Paris (at the 2024 Olympics) because it will allow me to take my swimming to the next level and be as professional as I can.”

“I’m part of the London Roar team, so I’ll go over and do that which I think will be a bit of fun,” McKeon said.

“It’s definitely a different way to race so I feel like that will be a nice mental break.

“Even though I’m still swimming, it’ll be a lot of fun with that team and just a different format, different way of racing.”

Emma McKeon became the most successful Australian Olympian in history when she won seven medals, including four gold, in Tokyo. Picture: Getty Images

McKeon said the incredible precautions athletes had taken to avoid any chance of catching Covid meant there was little social interaction at the Games and she was looking forward to catching up with friends.

McKeon, who became Australia’s most successful Olympian after winning seven medals in Tokyo, said the ISL would provide a break from the regular routine of training.

“It was different because I didn’t really stop and chat to many people at all, we were just so careful about what we were doing,” she said.

“We didn’t know what the risk was going to be so it was best off just not to stop and chat to anyone for too long.”

Emma Greenwood | The Courier Mail

Sep 14 21

‘Lost, depressed and irrelevant’: Swimmer Stephanie Rice reveals post-retirement struggle

by ZwemZa

Stephanie Rice (centre) won three gold medals at the 2008 Olympics. (Steve Christo SCZ)

The Australian sporting community has rallied around former swimmer Stephanie Rice after the three-time Olympic champion revealed her struggle transitioning from the sport.

After spending a month deciding whether to share her story, Rice posted a brief video on social media of herself in tears, which was filmed during the Tokyo Olympics.

The 33-year-old did not speak in the clip, which ended with a brief smile, but included an emotional caption revealing how she felt “depressed” and “irrelevant” after injury plagued the latter part of her career before retiring in 2014.

Rice won three gold medals in Beijing 2008 and watching the recent Games brought back a flood of emotions, not all of them good, she said.

“Many athletes and high performers speak about the challenges they face with mental health around transition,” Rice wrote.

“For me, transitioning was f…… hard … and still is at times. After swimming, I felt lost, depressed, irrelevant and as though I had achieved the pinnacle of my life at 24 and everything moving forward would be far less exciting and special.

“So in order for me to move on, I had to completely let go of the person I was as an athlete and rediscover myself without the title of being ‘a swimmer’.

“This bought up loads of deep-seated insecurities that I was able to hide by the validation and recognition I got by being a gold medallist.

“Honestly, now, after doing so much ‘work’ on myself, I truly am so so happy and content. I love my life and the people in it.

“But watching the Olympics reminds me of the person I was back then and it’s still hard not to feel sadness that that part of me is gone and isn’t coming back … and that’s what the tears are for.”

Rice’s post resonated with a number of Australian sports stars, including cricketing great Matthew Hayden.

“I’ve always been amazed by how God created us all different and special. Each with our own identity and uniqueness, our fingerprints are undeniable evidence of this basic truth,” Hayden wrote.

“Steph your efforts poolside were amazing testimony to your drive and energy to champion the sport but this post and many more to follow I suspect have the power to transform others which makes you a champion of life. Thank you.

“Sending you good energy and love to keep leading us all in mental fitness.”

“We can be many things as we evolve through life … and each of these things will be different yet just as fulfilling,” Lassila said.

“You have an incredible skill set … a lot of it was developed as a champion swimmer. These skills and traits carry through and are sooooo valuable. Love you xx.”

Other Australian athletes to offer support on Rice’s post include Olympic champion Sally Pearson, former Aussie cricket captain Michael Clarke, football star Tim Cahill and Melbourne Cup winner Michelle Payne.

Sep 6 21

Paralympic symbol removed from Tokyo Bay morning after games’ end

by ZwemZa

Work is under way to remove the Paralympic “agitos” in Tokyo’s Odaiba waterfront area on Sept. 6, 2021, a day after the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympics. (Pool photo)(Kyodo)

The Paralympic “agitos” symbol was removed from Tokyo Bay on Monday, a day after the games for athletes with impairments closed at the National Stadium, signaling the end of the Japanese capital’s hosting of the games.

The red, blue and green crescents that make up the Paralympic symbol had been sitting on a barge at Odaiba Marine Park since before the 13-day global sporting event.

At around 10:30 a.m., the barge carrying the 94-tonne installation, which is 23.4 meters long and 17.5 meters tall, was towed away by a tug boat toward Yokohama, where it was built and where its materials will be recycled.

Lit up at night, the Paralympic agitos were unveiled to the public ahead of the Paralympics, which started on Aug. 24 and ran through Sunday. They replaced the Olympic rings that stood in the spot in the lead-up and through the Olympics held between July 23 and Aug. 8.

“Although there were many opinions opposing (the games), I was encouraged by the athletes’ efforts. I’m going to miss the games now that they are over,” said Yasumoto Takei, 43, who was watching the agitos being removed.

Also on Monday, athletes and officials from overseas were seen leaving the athletes’ village in Tokyo’s Harumi waterfront district to make their way home, with some waving at photographers as they departed on buses.

A 44-year-old woman who lives near the athletes’ village said, “I feel both a little sad and relieved that I won’t be able to see this sight anymore.”

At Narita airport near Tokyo, many athletes from overseas formed queues at check-in counters. Some could be heard saying “arigato,” which is thank you in Japanese, to people around them while passing security checkpoints.

Meanwhile, at a square outside of JR Tokyo Station, workers took down “Tokyo 2020” flags that had been hanging from street light poles.

“I’m sad (the games) are over. Although it is difficult under the coronavirus pandemic, I hope the Olympics and Paralympics can be used as a model case for other events to be held,” a 48-year-old man from Yokohama said.

Both events were held after a one-year postponement due to the global health crisis, forcing organizers to ban spectators from most venues.

Kyodo News

Sep 6 21

Paralympic closing marks end of Tokyo’s 8-year Olympic saga

by ZwemZa

Fireworks illuminate over National Stadium viewed from Shibuya Sky observation deck during the closing ceremony for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

The final act of the delayed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics came Sunday, almost eight years to the day after the Japanese capital was awarded the Games.

The Paralympics ended a 13-day run in a colorful, circus-like ceremony at the National Stadium overseen by Crown Prince Akishino, the brother of Emperor Naruhito. The Olympics closed almost a month ago.

These were unprecedented Olympics and Paralympics, postponed for a year and marked by footnotes and asterisks. No fans were allowed during the Olympics, except for a few thousand at outlying venues away from Tokyo. A few thousand school children were allowed into some Paralympic venues.

“There were many times when we thought these games could not happen,” Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, said on Sunday. “There were many sleepless nights.”

The closing ceremony was entitled “Harmonious Cacophony” and involved both able-bodied actors and others with disabilities. The theme was described by organizers as a “world inspired by the Paralympics, one where differences shine.”

Like the Olympics, the Paralympics went ahead as Tokyo was under a state of emergency due to the pandemic. Like the Olympics, testing athletes frequently and isolating them in a bubble kept the virus largely at bay, though cases surged among a Japanese population that is now almost 50% fully vaccinated.

“I believe that we have reached the end of games without any major problems,” said Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo organizing committee.

But there was fallout, however. Lots of it.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Friday — two days before the closing — that he would not continue in office. Suga hoped to get a reelection bump from the Olympics. He got the opposite as his approval rating plummeted after a slow vaccine rollout in Japan, and a contentious decision to stage the Games during the pandemic.

Suga succeeded Shinzo Abe, who resigned a year ago for health reasons. It was Abe who celebrated in the front row of a Buenos Aires hotel ballroom on Sept. 7, 2013, when then-IOC President Jacques Rogge announced Tokyo as the 2020 host — ahead of Istanbul and Madrid.

In a sad coincidence, Rogge died a week ago at 79 after being in poor health.

“Now that Prime Minister Suga is forced out, taking the blame for his failure to combat the coronavirus, it would be impossible to claim that the Olympics and Paralympics were successful, a unifying moments for Japan,” Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University, wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

The Paralympics may leave a more tangible legacy in Japan than the Olympics, raising public awareness about people with disabilities and the provision of accessible public space.

The Paralympics involved a record number of athletes — 4,405 — and a record number of countries won medals. They also saw two athletes from Afghanistan compete, both of whom arrived several days late after fleeing Kabul.

“The Tokyo Games were a model of efficiency and friendliness,” Olympic historian David Wallechinsky said in an email to The Associated Press. “If it hadn’t been for the COVID-related difficulties, these would be right at or near the top of the best-organized of the 19 Olympics — Summer and Winter — I have attended.”

The costs also set records.

A study by the University of Oxford found these to be the most expensive Games on record. Japan officially spent $15.4 billion to organize the Olympics and Paralympics, double the original estimate. Several government audits suggested the real costs are twice that. All but $6.7 billion is public money.

The pandemic probably cost organizers almost $800 million in lost ticket sales, a budget shortfall that will have to be made up by more government funds. In addition, local sponsors contributed more than $3 billion to the operating budget, but got little return with few fans.

Toyota, a major Olympics sponsor, pulled its Games-related television advertising in Japan because of public opposition to the Games.

Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the organizing committee and a former deputy governor of the Bank of Japan, framed the costs as an investment. He acknowledged that it’s difficult to sort out what are — and what are not — Olympic costs.

“It has to be scrutinized further to segregate which part is investment and which part is expenditure,” Muto said in an interview last week. “It’s difficult to define the difference.”

Tokyo was also haunted by a vote-buying scandal during the bid process that forced the resignation 2 1/2 years ago of Japanese Olympic Committee president Tsunekazu Takeda. He was also an International Olympic Committee member.

Next up are the Beijing Winter Olympics, opening in five month. They have been billed as the “Genocide Games” by rights groups that want the Games pulled from China because of the reported internment of at least 1 million Uyghurs and other largely Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang in northwestern China.

The US Department of State and several other governments have called the human rights violations in Xinjiang a genocide, and one major IOC sponsor — Intel — has said it agrees with the characterization.

“The COVID-related restrictions that were imposed in Tokyo are like a dream come true for the Chinese dictatorship,” Wallechinsky said. “No foreign spectators, fewer foreign media; just what the Communist Party leadership would want. Will athletes protest, and if they do, what will the Chinese do? Deport them? Arrest them? We don’t know.”

The IOC, which pushed for Tokyo to go ahead and generated about $3 billion-$4 billion in television income, has already lined up the next three Summer Olympics; Paris in 2024, Los Angeles in 2028, and Brisbane, Australia, in 2032.

The Winter Olympics after Beijing are in Milan-Cortina in Italy in 2026.

“I believe the IOC has to be greatly relieved that the next Games will be in France, Italy and the United States,” Wallechinsky said. “Both Paris and Los Angeles are cities with venues and infrastructure that are already well in place.”

Hashimoto, the head of the organizing committee, indicated Sunday that Sapporo would bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics. It was the host city in 1972.

“For 2030, Sapporo will definitely become a candidate,” Hashimoto said. “I would hope this would become a reality.”

The Associated Press

Sep 3 21

Japan PM Suga to resign amid criticism over COVID-19 response

by ZwemZa

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a news conference at the prime minister’s official residence, as the government declares a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) state of emergency in Tokyo almost two weeks before the start of the Olympic Games, in Tokyo, Japan July 8, 2021. Nicolas Datiche/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga expressed his intention to resign Friday amid mounting criticism over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The development came just under a year after Suga took office and as his ruling Liberal Democratic Party prepares to hold its presidential election on Sept. 29, with campaigning starting on Sept. 17.

“I had planned to run, but dealing with both COVID-19 and the election would require an enormous amount of energy. I decided that there was no way to do both, that I had to choose,” Suga told reporters, adding, “I decided to focus on coronavirus measures.”

Tokyo stocks extended their gains after the news reports, with the 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average gaining 524.99 points, or 1.84 percent, from Thursday to 29,068.50 as of 1 p.m.

Suga was quoted by a participant at an extraordinary meeting of LDP executives held earlier in the day, as saying he will serve out his term through Sept. 30.

A source at the prime minister’s office said Suga hit a snag in his plans to reshuffle the party’s executives, which he hoped to carry out on Monday.

Facing low public support, Suga has been planning to reshuffle party executives as well as his Cabinet lineup ahead of the party contest, including replacing LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai, the party’s No. 2 leader of five years.

Nikai said Suga has not named a successor and the LDP leadership race will be held as scheduled.

The contest, which will now choose Suga’s successor, comes ahead of a general election that must be held as the House of Representatives members’ term expires on Oct. 21.

Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has already thrown his hat into the ring, while Sanae Takaichi, a former minister of internal affairs and communications, has expressed interest in running.

Kishida said Friday his intention to run in the party leadership race is “unchanged.”

Takaichi said she was “appalled” at Suga’s flip-flopping on running in the race, and that she “will fight till the end” of it.

LDP policy chief Hakubun Shimomura, who had given up on running in the election after being asked by Suga to focus on the coronavirus response, said “the situation has changed” and he will consult fellow LDP members.

The stock market climbed “on high expectations that a new government would implement new economic measures against the coronavirus fallout,” said Maki Sawada, a strategist in Nomura Securities Co.’s investment content department.

Suga had earlier announced his bid for a second term as the party chief as his current term expires on Sept. 30. But he gave up on the plan amid falling support within the party as well as the public.

Suga had been forced to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency that had been in place in Tokyo until Sept. 12 and expand it to cover 21 of Japan’s 47 prefectures as hospitals came under increasing strain.

Suga, who served as chief Cabinet secretary for then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for more than seven years, won the party leadership race last year against Kishida and former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba and became prime minister on Sept. 16 in succeeding Abe, who stepped down from the post for health reasons.

Suga pledged to succeed Abe’s economic and diplomatic policies, vowed to eliminate sectionalism, and create a “Cabinet that works for the people.”

The approval rate for his Cabinet stood at over 60 percent at the time. It, however, gradually fell after a slew of wining and dining scandals involving his close aide and his son and plunged to the lowest level of 31.8 percent in a Kyodo News poll in August in the face of the public’s rebuke against the government’s coronavirus response.

Kyodo News

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