The coronavirus epidemic has played havoc with Olympic regional qualifying events and world championships that were scheduled for a variety of Chinese cities.
The ongoing women’s soccer tournament for Asia was moved from Nanjing to Sydney. The Chinese team, which is without stars Wang Shuang and Yao Wei, was quarantined in Brisbane and its opening match was postponed until Friday. The women’s basketball qualifying was shifted from Foshan to Belgrade. The world indoor athletics championships, slated next month for Nanjing, were postponed for a year. The men’s boxing qualifier for Asia and Oceania was moved to Jordan next month, and the World Series diving event in Beijing was canceled. Still up in the air are international events in eight other sports, including the modern pentathlon world championships. Meanwhile, China has suspended its doping tests and its athletes have been training behind closed doors.
The Japanese organizers, while keeping an eye on the coronavirus with the Tokyo Games less than six months away, have been holding earthquake drills for residents in case of a recurrence of the 2011 quake-tsunami-nuclear meltdown northeast of the capital. They’ve also drawn up safety instructions in English for foreign visitors.
While tickets to most of the marquee events at the Tokyo Games are sold out (e.g., swimming, gymnastics, basketball), there still are a goodly number available for foreign purchase in track and field, boxing, volleyball (indoor and beach), wrestling, and team handball through the official US Olympic Committee outlet. Check cosport.com for details.
As expected, the US women’s soccer team easily collected its Olympic ticket on Friday, blanking Mexico, 4-0, in the regional qualifying semifinals in Carson, Calif., on two goals by Hanson native Samantha Mewis. In Sunday’s final, the Americans will face the Canadians, who won bronze at the last two Games and earned their berth by shutting out Costa Rica, 1-0.
Already qualified are Japan, Brazil, New Zealand, Great Britain, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Entrants from Asia and Africa will be determined next month, and Africa and South America will play off for the final spot in the spring. Missing out was defending champion Germany, which wasn’t among the top three European finishers at last year’s World Cup. The 12-team draw is set for April 20.
World Athletics (the IAAF’s new name) has given the Russian federation until Monday to explain its suspected doping coverup for world indoor high jump champion Danil Lysenko or risk being expelled. The Russians, whose 2015 ban has been extended more than a dozen times, have shown a “total lack of contrition,” said the Athletics Integrity Unit . . . The $215 million settlement for Larry Nassar’s victims proposed by USA Gymnastics as part of its bankruptcy reorganization is triple what it was expected to be. Still, the attorney for more than 200 of the victims called it an “unconscionable” offer because it does not include structural reforms to ensure athlete safety or account for other victims coming forward in the future. The payout, which will be covered by insurers, is nearly 10 times the federation’s annual revenues. Even then, it’s less than half of what Michigan State is paying Nassar’s victims, who number more than 500 as compared with USAG’s 350-plus . . . Kenya is sending its top guns to the Olympic marathons, including world record-holders Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei. Kipchoge, who won the gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, will be bidding to become the first men’s champion to repeat since Waldemar Cierpinski, the suspected East German doper, who won in 1976 and 1980. Kipchoge will be joined by Lawrence Cherono, who won Boston and Chicago last year, and Amos Kipruto, the world bronze medalist. Kosgei, last year’s London and Chicago victor, was named with world champion Ruth Chepngetich and Vivian Cheruiyot, the Olympic 5,000-meter winner. Jemima Sumgong, the Rio women’s champion, is sitting out a four-year doping ban . . . Kobe Bryant’s gilded basketball résumé included his captaincy of the “Redeem Team,” which won gold in Beijing in 2008 after settling for bronze both in Athens in 2004 and the 2006 world championships. Bryant, who scored 20 points against Spain in the final, returned to play on the 2012 London team that also went unbeaten. He also was on the board of directors of the bid team that brought the 2028 Games back to Los Angeles and narrated the final portion of the video presentation before the IOC vote.
Hill to climb
Kansas City Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill is toying with the idea of trying to qualify for the US Olympic track and field team. If he does, it would flip the usual progression where five-ringed champions such as Bob Hayes make it to the NFL. Hill, known as “Cheetah,” ran a 9.9 in the 100 in high school, which would get him into the trials if he can duplicate it in a competition by early June. “The thing is, I weigh like 195 right now,” Hill observed. “When I ran a 9.9, I was like 175.” If Hill were to make the team and win a gold in Tokyo, he’d be the only man to do it and also win a Super Bowl title besides Hayes, who won the 100 and anchored the relay in Tokyo in 1964 and went on to earn a ring as a Cowboys receiver . . . Olympic hopefuls who still are in college received two major benefits out of last month’s NCAA convention. Not only can athletes be paid for training expenses by the USOC (including travel costs for their coaches, trainers, and family members), they also can work out with their college coaches without breaking the rules for practice limits . . . The US men’s and women’s volleyball teams each drew the defending champion as part of their Tokyo groups. The men, who won bronze in Rio, will face Brazil as well as fourth-place Russia, Argentina, France, and Tunisia. The women, who also earned bronze last time, will meet gold medalist China plus Russia, Italy, Argentina, and Turkey. The top four in each group advance to the quarterfinals.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews, and wire services was used in this report.