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Olympic chief, leader in spat after Brisbane gets 2032 nod

Olympic chief, leader in spat after Brisbane gets 2032 nod

Australia’s highest-ranking Olympic official and the current premier of the state of Queensland where the 2032 Summer Games will be held have put an early test to the old adage that sports and politics don’t mixBy DENNIS PASSA AP Sports WriterJuly 22, 2021, 5:00 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBRISBANE, Australia — Australia’s highest-ranking Olympic official and the current premier of the state of Queensland where the 2032 Summer Games will be held have put an early test to the old adage that sports and politics don’t mix.Hours after Brisbane was given the hosting rights for the Games 11 years down the track following an International Olympic Committee vote in Tokyo on Wednesday, Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates had a public disagreement with Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.The issue at the late night news conference in Tokyo? Whether Palaszczuk and other members of the city’s delegation, including the Brisbane mayor and a federal sports minister, should attend the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony on Friday.Palaszczuk indicated she’d be staying in her hotel room.That didn’t sit well with Coates, a powerful vice-president for the IOC and one of the driving forces behind Brisbane having received the hosting rights so soon without any real competition.“You are going to the opening ceremony,” Coates told Palaszczuk rather pointedly. “There will be an opening and a closing ceremony in 2032 and all of you, everyone there, has got to understand the traditional parts of that, what’s involved in an opening ceremony.“None of you are staying home and going to be sitting in your room.”The premier did not respond to Coates’ suggestion and declined to say why she would not attend the ceremony — “I don’t want to offend anybody, so . . .” She had told critics of her trip to Tokyo that she was only attending the IOC meeting to make a final pitch for the Games and wouldn’t attend other functions.After Palaszczuk was asked why it would be more beneficial to sit in her Tokyo hotel room instead of traveling only a relatively short distance to the National Stadium for the ceremony, she didn’t respond.Coates did on her behalf.“You’ve never been to an opening ceremony,” he said to Palaszczuk. “You don’t know the protocols and I think it’s a very important lesson for everyone here — opening ceremonies cost in the order of $75 million to $100 million. My very strong recommendation is the premier and the Lord Mayor and the minister be there and understand it.”Tom Heenan, a Monash University lecturer in Melbourne who specializes in the politics behind the Olympics, said those kinds of comments from an Olympic official “never fail to surprise me.”“The IOC sets the stage, they are all powerful and have no problem dictating terms to political leaders,” Heenan said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “The fact that the head of the AOC said that he or she should attend is another indication of Olympic autocracy.”Heenan said it’s the same reason why the Tokyo Olympics are going ahead despite record new cases of COVID-19 in Japan.“They push aside public opinion in the middle of a pandemic,” Heenan said. “It’s only up to the IOC to cancel. All power rides with them.”Later Thursday, Coates issued a statement saying that his comments “have been completely misinterpreted by people who weren’t in the room.” And suggesting that Palaszczuk will be attending the opening ceremony on Friday.“Absolutely I believe the premier should come to the opening ceremony and she has accepted,” Coates said. “The premier and I have a long-standing and very successful relationship. We both know the spirit of my remarks and I have no indication that she was offended in any way.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Goolagong Cawley saw champion potential in Barty years ago

Goolagong Cawley saw champion potential in Barty years ago

Evonne Goolagong Cawley stayed up well past her usual bedtime to watch the big eventBy DENNIS PASSA AP Sports WriterJuly 11, 2021, 7:48 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBRISBANE, Australia — Evonne Goolagong Cawley stayed up well past her usual bedtime on Saturday night. Not that she minded being tired when she woke up all-too-early on Sunday morning: her friend and protege Ash Barty was the new Wimbledon champion.Barty completed a 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 win over Karolina Pliskova in the women’s singles final at the All England Club on Saturday. It was just past 1 a.m. Sunday on Australia’s east coast when the match ended and Goolagong Cawley and her husband, Roger Cawley, may have woken up the neighbors with their noisy reaction at their home on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane.There wasn’t much time to sleep before the phone calls started.“It was very emotional for me to be watching Ash,” Goolagong Cawley said Sunday. “I’m so proud of her and the way she handles herself on and off the court. She’s like a little sister to me, so it seems like a family win today.”Goolagong won Wimbledon twice — for the first time 50 years ago in 1971 — and again in 1980. Until Barty’s victory, that had been the last time an Australian woman won a singles title at Wimbledon.Barty’s wins and her career have been intertwined with Goolagong Cawley because of their Indigenious heritage — Goolagong Cawley is a Wiradjuri woman and Barty a Ngaragu woman. Their Aboriginal ancestors are from the same state — New South Wales, although the Wiradjuri people are mostly in the central areas, and the Ngaragu from the southeast.The two have known each other since Barty was 15.“Evonne is a very special person in my life,” said Barty, whose outfit was a tribute to the dress Goolagong Cawley wore when she won Wimbledon for the first time. “I think she has been iconic in paving a way for young indigenous youth to believe in their dreams and to chase their dreams. She’s done exactly that for me as well.”Goolagong Cawley made it clear in an interview Sunday that it was a mutual admiration society.“She made me proud from the first time I saw her,” Goolagong Cawley said. “She was 13 and after I saw her in a match, I knew she had all the skills — the slice, the volley, the smash, everything in one game! I looked at Roger (her husband Roger Cawley) and we thought ‘She’s got it, she’s going to be a champion.’ So look at her now.”Australian tennis great Rod Laver chipped in with his congratulations to Barty on Twitter: “So happy for you (at)ashbarty, your dream comes true and what a fight. Congratulations on your Wimbledon victory, I hope you and your team celebrate well along with your many fans around the world and back in Australia. Rocket.”Barty’s parents — Rob and Josie Barty — said in an interview with Australian Associated Press on Sunday that they he had no idea initially that the youngest of their three daughters would ever become a Wimbledon and French Open Grand Slam singles champion and world No. 1.“We weren’t tennis players. We were golfers,” Barty’s father, Rob, said. “We just thought she was one of these kids that could do everything. We had no idea. People used to say how good she was at tennis but we just thought she was a kid having fun.“Then she goes over and wins (junior) Wimbledon at the age of 15, you don’t usually win the junior slams until you’re 18, your last year, and we sort of thought ‘maybe she is pretty good at this game.’”She’s also pretty good at golf, for those who wonder. When the pandemic last year forced tennis tournaments to be canceled and international travel all but shut down for months, Barty worked on her golf game and lowered her handicap down to single figures.Goolagong Cawley isn’t surprised by Barty’s success at whatever she attempts.“I’m so proud of everything she does,” Goolagong Cawley said. “One of the last messages I sent her ahead of the final was that dreams do come true, no matter what you try.”———AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this story.-—More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Triathlete rides out the pandemic on her way to Tokyo Games

Triathlete rides out the pandemic on her way to Tokyo Games

BRISBANE, Australia — Australian triathlete Ashleigh Gentle had just finished a training session at her temporary base of Cairns in north Queensland state. Hot, muggy and tropical Cairns — except for the tropical part — is exactly what she’s expecting during her competition at the Tokyo Olympics.“It’s one of the hottest, most humid places, and it’ll help simulate conditions for Tokyo,” Gentle said of Cairns in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “It’s nice to get back to the warmth and remind my body what it’s like.”The warmth reference is all relative for a Queenslander used to moderate temperatures even in the southern hemisphere winter. Gentle lives in Brisbane, about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) south of Cairns, but still in a subtropical climate. A cold snap around Brisbane in southeast Queensland state meant temperatures had dropped to as low as 5 degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit) on several nights just before she left for Cairns.The Commonwealth Games gold medalist in Australia’s mixed team triathlon in 2018 and a 2017 world champion for Australia in the same event is looking forward to possibly representing her country again when the mixed team format makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo. That’ll be in addition to her place in the women’s individual race.The Olympic triathlons will have early starts to help counteract the expected humid, hot summer conditions in Tokyo: the men’s race on July 26 and the women’s on July 27 will begin at 6:30 a.m. local time. The mixed race on July 31 starts an hour later.“We’re pretty lucky, we most often have relaxed starts, often 10 a.m. and in some places in Europe, maybe not till 4 or 5 p.m.,” the 30-year-old Gentle said. “It will be pretty different to get up that early in the dark to go race.”Australia is the only country which will be represented by the full complement of six racers in Tokyo. Gentle, who finished 26th at the Rio Olympics in 2016 but won the World Triathlon Grand Final on the Gold Coast in 2018, reckons that will be a huge advantage for Australia in the mixed event.Australia has never finished off the podium in mixed relay world championship events since 2015, taking a gold medal, three silver and a bronze.“If you have (a choice of) three of each, we can make changes right up to two hours before the race,” Gentle said of the mixed event which features two male and two female athletes competing in relay fashion. “With the amount of rules and regulations and COVID concerns in the athletes’ village, that could make a big difference.”Gentle didn’t always do well trying to cope with the after-effects of the coronavirus-forced postponement last year of the Tokyo Games.She was competing at a World Cup event in Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane, in late March 2020. It turned out to be the last event she’d race in a while — the lockdown in Australia and most of the rest of the world started within days.“I was kind of expecting it, it was getting so close, and things were getting bad,” she said. “But I was still devastated and didn’t know what to think. I felt deflated and had to tune it all out.”She decided to take a break from training and instead worked on renovating the Brisbane house she and her partner, ultramarathoner Josh Amberger, built in 2018.“There were so many things we wanted to do, and we had all the materials, so we decided to do that,” Gentle said, adding with a chuckle, “I basically turned into a landscaper.”When she returned to training a month or so later, she found the swimming pools she trained at were still closed, as were gyms for weight training. The Olympic-distance triathlon is a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer cycle and 10-kilometer run, forcing triathletes into a variety of training regimens.But instead of relying on a quantity of training, she went for quality.“I worked more on technique, skill-based training instead of doing massive hours,” Gentle said. “Ï was trying to do all those little things right, when you are not under the pump.”Gentle, who returned to mostly full training in November, has had two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, as have nearly all of Australian Olympic athletes heading to Tokyo.“I knew that my long-term goal was still a long way away,” Gentle said of her pandemic-forced mindset. “But once I got back into it, I thought, ‘we are training for the Olympics now . . . it’s probably going to happen.’ It was good that what I had done last year was the best preparation.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

No room for error with new Olympic team show jumping format

No room for error with new Olympic team show jumping format

The IOC spoke and international equestrian federation officials listened. So there’ll be a new wrinkle to the high-profile team jumping competition at the Tokyo Games — three-person teams instead of four for the the first time at the Olympics.That means the worst score won’t be thrown out, as it was in the four-person team format. And there’ll be more pressure on the three riders to get it right on the jumping course or potentially see their team miss a medal chance.The move came when the International Olympic Committee “encouraged” the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) to keep their total number of athletes under 200, including dressage and eventing. The team jumping change should also make it easier for the public and television audience to keep track of the scoring as the competition unfolds.“Like all sports in the Olympic movement, we received a clear message from the IOC president — ‘change or be changed’ — inviting the Olympic sports to make their events at the Olympic Games more universal, more exciting, easier to understand and more attractive, particularly for new young audiences,” the FEI said in a statement to The Associated Press.The quota suggested was 200 athletes, and the FEI has come in right on the number for Tokyo — 75 for individual and team jumping, 65 for eventing and 60 for dressage.Another benefit to the reduction in the team jumping numbers — 60 — means that more countries that can be represented among the individual riders. One example: Sri Lanka-born Mathilda Karlsson, who was adopted by Swedish parents and raised there, is expected to give the south Asian country of her birth its first equestrian competitor at the Olympics.The reduction, though, will be most noticeable in the team jumping event. There will be just 20 teams in the first round, with only the top 10 teams, or 30 riders, going through to the final.Robert Ridland, the chef d’equipe of the U.S. jumping team which won a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, wasn’t surprised by the change.“I’m actually in favor of it, it’s an excellent move,” Ridland told the AP in a telephone interview. “The IOC wanted it, and I think it’s going to make it much more understandable for the first-time viewer. You have to take the opportunity to broaden your appeal.”Ridland was speaking from Rotterdam, where the U.S. team finished seventh at a Nations Cup event in the Netherlands. The Nations Cup still has four-person teams and the FEI’s signature series will continue with that format despite the Olympics switching to three.The Rotterdam event made Ridland, who rode for the U.S. at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and has been chef d’equipe and U.S. team technical advisor since 2013, realize how much more understandable the Olympic three-person format will be.“When dealing with the second half of the second round of the Nations Cup, it’s always complicated,” he said. “This new format will eliminate the confusion as far as scoring goes. The lowest number will win, similar to golf. It conforms to other sports.”US Equestrian announced its jumping team for the Tokyo Games earlier this week — Kent Farrington, Laura Kraut, Jessica Springsteen and McLain Ward. Only three of those riders will be eligible for the team event.Ward, who won gold on U.S. jumping teams at the 2004 Athens Games and the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Farrington, return from the team which won silver at Rio. Both will be riding new horses, though — including Ward on Contagious, a 12-year-old gelding well-named for an OIympics delayed a year by the coronavirus.Springsteen, the 29-year-old daughter of rock star Bruce Springsteen, is the “youngster” of the group and is making her Olympic debut. Farrington is 40, Ward is 45 and Kraut is 55, and the trio have competed at a combined seven Olympics.Ridland said that riders of championship experience “will have an edge, to some degree.” He adds that as team leader he had to deal with the reality of a three-person team at the 2016 Olympics.Four-time Olympian Beezie Madden’s horse, Cortes ‘C’, sustained a tendon injury during the first round at Rio and had to be withdrawn from the final round. So the Americans were unable to throw out their worst score, yet still finished second behind France.“So you deal with it,” Ridland says. “It’s part of the complexities of our sport.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports