While it was encouraging that the International Olympic Committee nominated USOC president Larry Probst for membership, it essentially was filling the vacancy created more than a decade ago when Sandra Baldwin resigned in disgrace after admitting to falsifying her academic credentials. What would be decidedly more significant is an American representative on the 15-member executive board, where the real power resides.
The US hasn’t had a presence there since Jim Easton lost his position in 2006, and while Anita DeFrantz will be a candidate when the IOC votes at its September session, she hasn’t been on the board since 2001 and withdrew her candidacy last time. Though US television rights fees and corporate sponsorships essentially underwrite the Olympic movement, the Americans don’t have the pull where it counts. While it makes sense that the IOC needs global diversity on the board — Guatemala, Taiwan, Ireland, and South Africa all have seats — it’s beyond baffling that the planet’s biggest player isn’t at the table.
With half a dozen candidates jockeying to succeed IOC president Jacques Rogge when his term ends this year, the committee took the unprecedented step of having them make 15-minute pitches to the members at its recent meeting in Lausanne. Germany’s Thomas Bach remains the front-runner in a group that includes Ukraine’s Sergei Bubka, Singapore’s Ng Ser Miang, Taiwan’s C.K. Wu, Switzerland’s Denis Oswald, and Puerto Rico’s Richard Carrion.
Race for 2020 tightens
The three-way race to host the 2020 Summer Games appears to be tightening, with Madrid closing the perceived gap with Tokyo after Crown Prince Felipe, a former Olympic sailor who carried Spain’s flag at the 1982 opening ceremonies in Barcelona, made a boffo speech to the IOC members at their recent session. The key to Madrid’s bid will be to siphon away votes earmarked for Istanbul, whose allure is fading . . . Though the NHL still hasn’t signed off on sending its players to Sochi next winter, a deal that was supposed to have been done in May, USA Hockey already has named its coach (Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma) and general manager (Nashville’s Dave Poile) and has a good idea about who’ll be on the roster. What Poile says will be the “core and foundation” will come from the 2010 team that won the silver medal behind Canada. The rest of the players likely will be those who can handle the big Olympic ice sheet and deal with a round trip to the Black Sea. “A player that might have been successful in Vancouver may not be successful in Sochi,” observed Poile. The goalie (Ryan Miller last time) likely will be whoever has the hot hand next season. “You have to look at how they’re playing this current year,” said Poile. The best Yank between the pipes during the campaign just past was the Kings’ Jonathan Quick, who rode the bench along with Tim Thomas in 2010. Assuming that the league, the players’ association, and the international federation come to terms soon (“I would prefer to speak French . . . it would be much easier to negotiate with them,” joked IIHF president Rene Fasel), orientation camp will be held at the end of August in Arlington, Va. Why was Bylsma, who has no experience coaching a national team, given the job? Because he’s a proven winner (fastest coach to 200 victories in NHL history), has a passion for American hockey, and has a knack for dealing with global stars such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, whom he’ll be coaching against at the Games. Though the Yanks drew the toughest of the three groups with Russia, Slovakia, and Slovenia, the brass will be gunning for gold, which no US team has won outside of the States. “It’s different now,” says federation president Ron DeGregorio. “Hockey in our country has come to a point where winning gold medals is not a miracle, it’s an expectation.”
Franklin eyes medals
Missy Franklin may not equal the seven gold medals that Michael Phelps collected in 2007, but she likely will earn seven of some color at the world swimming championships in Barcelona at month’s end. Missy The Missile, who won four golds and a bronze last summer in London, will be favored to win the 100- and 200-meter backstrokes, finish second in the 100 and 200 freestyles, and get a couple more golds and a bronze in the relays. Her competitive plate is so crowded that Franklin has dropped the 50 back from the menu.
Ryan Lochte, who won five golds and a bronze in 2011, will go for another half-dozen in the 200 free, 200 back, 200 individual medley, 100 butterfly, and the freestyle relays. Lochte, who’ll be competing in his fifth global meet, is skipping the 400 IM, which he won at Olympus.
Five other individual gold medalists from London made a US squad that will feature 27 rookies — Nathan Adrian (100 free), Matt Grevers (100 back), Tyler Clary (200 back), Katie Ledecky (800 free), and DanaVollmer (100 fly). Missing out was Allison Schmitt, who failed to make the 200 free final after winning the event at the Games. Reborn as a sprinter is Natalie Coughlin, who made her sixth world team at 30 by winning the 50 free and earning a relay spot in the 100. Also booking a return spot was Olympic double medalist Elizabeth Beisel of Saunderstown, R.I., who qualified in the 200 and 400 IMs. Joining Harvard grad Alex Meyer on the open swim team is Yale rising sophomore Eva Fabian of Keene, N.H.
Drysdale accepts fate
Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale wasn’t entirely shocked at losing to London finalist (and eventual champion) Aleksandr Aleksandrov by more than four lengths in the first round of the Diamond Sculls at Henley given that he’d been doing everything but rowing during his post-Games sabbatical.
“This sport is so hard it would be crazy to come back with only a month’s training and beat the top guys,” said Drysdale, who’d won the crown thrice. Besides competing in an Ironman triathlon and the grinding Coast to Coast event in New Zealand (biking, mountain running, kayaking), Drysdale climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, last month. Otherwise, London’s champions had themselves a five-ringed row on the Thames. MirkaKnapkova of the Czech Republic won her third title as did the New Zealand pair of Eric Murphy and Hamish Bond. Great Britain’s Helen Glover rowed in the winning women’s quad while countryman Andrew Triggs-Hodge stroked the Leander-Molesey combination loaded with fellow medalists that beat Washington’s national titlists for the Grand Challenge Cup.
Besides competing in the Games himself (fifth in the 1960 single) and coaching the 1972 US men’s and 1976 women’s eights to silver and bronze medals, Harry Parker, the late Harvard heavyweight crew coach, left a Crimson legacy at Olympus. Since 1964, a year after Parker took over the head job, Harvard oarsmen (50 in all) have competed in every Games, most recently Malcolm Howard, who earned silver in the Canadian eight, Henrik Rummel, who won bronze with the US four, and Brodie Buckland, who was fifth in the Australian straight pair.
Dutch storm the beach
Beach volleyball doesn’t belong to the Brazilians and Americans any longer. The Dutch, who’d never won a medal at the world championships, claimed the men’s title in Poland with 13th-seeded Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, while Chen Yue and Zhang Yi collected China’s first women’s crown. Nothing for the Americans, who were shut out of both podiums for the first time since 2001. After Olympic silver medalist Jennifer Kessy had to withdraw with hip and Achilles’ injuries, partner April Ross hooked up with Whitney Pavlik and they were beaten in the bronze medal match by Brazil’s Lili and Seixas. Former Olympic champ Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal were knocked out in the men’s Round of 16 . . . The Sochi torch relay, which will wend its way through nearly 3,000 Russian cities, towns, and settlements will make a novel diversion — outer space. An unlit torch will be blasted in November aboard the Soyuz TMA-11M manned spaceship to the International Space Station where a couple of cosmonauts will walk with it.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, personal interviews, and wires services was used in this report.