The Slightly Confused Sports Awards for 2015

Sportsman of the Year

Ashton Eaton – USA – Athletics

2015 was the year the greatest athlete in the world just got a little bit greater.
For someone who grew up on the exploits of Daley Thompson, Ashton Eaton is the equivalent of the second coming in terms of athletic excellence but maybe without the rough and occasional offensive edges to the Thompson character that we seemed to ignore at the time.
The only thing missing from Eaton’s CV in 2015 was the sight of him in a blue vest with a stylized “S” on the front and a red cape flying onto the pole vault mat.
Maybe 2016 will fix that omission.

Sportswoman of the Year

Simone Biles – USA – Gymnastics

In March 2013 Simone Biles made her international debut at the American Cup in Worcester, USA.
By the end of 2015 she was a ten-time world champion and has an outside chance of sweeping all six gold medals at the Rio Olympics. It would certainly be no surprise to see her match her achievements of the 2015 World Championships and win four titles.

Team of the Year

The Mercedes F1 team

I freely admit this is the most boring of my choices and that the awards really deserves to go to the designers, aerodynamicists and strategists more than Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. However the 2015 season saw Mercedes dominate to an extent that they ruined the sport as a spectacle. In the long run this will do damage to F1 but that’s hardly their fault – any sportsperson or team has to strive to be as good as they possibly can be. Whether the sport can prosper has to depend on strong leadership from the rules makers.

Moment of the Year

Japan beats South Africa in the Rugby World Cup

Japan had qualified for every World Cup since the inauguration of the event in 1987 but had only scored a single victory against fellow fall guys Zimbabwe in 24 years and 7 tournaments. Their performances against the world’s top nations had veered between poor and humiliation with the nadir coming with a 145-17 disaster against New Zealand in 1995.

This time it would be different.
With a mix of high risk/high reward attack, obdurate defence and accurate kicking Japan kept the score level until five minutes from time. South Africa kicked a penalty to go 32-29 ahead but Japan mounted one final heroic attack. With the clock on zero South Africa were penalized in front of the posts and well, you can see what happened next in the embedded video.

In the words of Daley Thompson, yes that Daley Thompson.
Whenever the little guy beats Goliath, it so enriches our lives and let’s us all believe that the impossible is possible. Thank you Japan

Anti-Sportsman of the Year

Viktor Chegin – Athletics

Once upon a time in a land far away that people called Mordovia, a mysterious ogre built a castle and stacked it full of wondrous machines and magic potions. Very soon all the villagers from miles around benefited from the kindness of the ogre and walked with a spring in their step and they become known as kings of the world. As time passed the rest of the kingdoms became suspicious of the Mordovians and sent the wise Prince Dick of Wada down from the great frozen north to investigate. The ogre denied he had done anything wrong but Prince Dick found large quantities of dragon’s blood, ground griffin’s claw and essence of powdered orc (or EPO for short) in the castle’s strongrooms. In the magical kingdom of Iaaf the young emperor said “we really should do something about this” and placed a curse on Mordovia so that no one could leave the kingdom for at least six months. Enraged by this the Mordovians burnt the castle to the ground but not before they implicated the former Grand Vizier of Iaaf and his court magician in a massive bribery scandal. Chegin the ogre was never seen again (probably).

For a less tongue-in-cheek explanation click Here

Sports Commentary of the Year

Jim Maxwell – Australia – Cricket

Australia 33-7 within an hour of the start of the 4th Test.
“If you’re an Australian and you’ve just switched on, switch off and go and do some gardening instead”.

Don’t Believe the Hype Award

Mixed Martial Arts

The most hyped men’s fight of 2015 ended in bizarre fashion when one of the world’s most feared fighters, Jose Aldo of Brazil, made a mistake which even the novice of boxers would be embarrassed by and literally led with his chin against Conor McGregor of Ireland. It was a fight that should be remembered for the sheer incompetence of the Brazilian rather than any great Irish heroics. The fact that the sport is so well marketed shouldn’t eclipse the fact that most of the fighting is tedious and uninspired.

The Be Careful What You Wish For Award

The IAAF

The year ends with Sebastian Coe under mounting pressure as head of the IAAF. Whilst accepting the possibility that the legal issues surrounding the organization in France might make him weary of talking too much about the case it’s clear that his links to Nike and a few unhelpfully vague statements have weakened his position. But let’s not be certain that the removal of Coe will help the sport of athletics move on from recent controversies. Unless he’s actually tied directly to the mismanagement and/or criminal activity connected to the investigation on Russia, a weakened Coe forced to make amends for the sins of his predecessor might well be the most effective figurehead for the sport.
If you look at the results of the last IAAF election you’ll note that any possible replacements come with a more conservative, “Let’s keep things in-house”, attitude that seems not to be realistic anymore and are more friendly to the workings of certain federations and governments. Better the devil you know this time?

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Farewell Charlie Sifford

Guest Post by Bill Mallon

Charlie Sifford died yesterday and if you are not a major league golf fan, or an old fossil, like me, you have no idea who that is, but you should. Charlie Sifford was an African-American golfer who played on the PGA Tour in the later 1960s and 1970s, but it wasn’t quite that easy. Through the 1950s no African-American could play on the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour was, in that era, run by the PGA of America, which is now the club professional branch of the sport. The PGA of America had a “caucasians only” clause in their bye-laws which prevented people like Charlie Sifford from playing in their events.

 

This clause was only tested in the early 1960s by two other black pioneers of the sport – Ted Rhodes and Bill Spiller. Rhodes played in the 1948 US Open, which is not administered by the PGA Tour or PGA of America, but could not play in standard PGA Tour events. In that era, African-American players had their own tour, similar to the Negro Leagues in baseball, called the United Golf Association. The tour was started in the 1920s and was later run by Joe Louis (the boxer) and Billy Eckstein, a big band leader, and Louis often played in events as an amateur. Rhodes and Spiller dominated that tour, as Sifford would later, and Lee Elder after him. Their major championship was the National Negro Open, which Sifford won seven times.

Rhodes and Spiller were the first pioneers of the game for African-Americans. They sued the PGA of America for the right to play in their events, and won the suit, but the PGA reacted by changing the titles of all their events to invitationals and invited only white players to play. It was not until the mid-1960s that the PGA relented and allowed all players to participate, which, similar to Major League Baseball and the demise of the Negro Leagues after the early 1950s, also led to the demise of the United Golf Association.

Sifford was a great player. Frank Beard, a one-time leading money winner on the PGA Tour, later in life told him, “We always knew how great a player you were, Charlie,” which brought a tear to Sifford’s eye. Sifford faced death threats when he played in the South, was continually harassed, and it was said that one time he pulled his ball out of a hole he was playing, only to find that some neanderthal had left feces for him at the bottom of the cup. He overcame all this to win two PGA Tour events, the 1967 Greater Hartford Open, and the 1969 Los Angeles Open, but one tournament Charlie Sifford never played in was The Masters.

In that era, winning a tournament on the Tour did not automatically qualify you for The Masters. The invitations were much more at the whim and fancy of the Augusta National, which is located in the deep South, and Sifford was never invited. One method of invitation, in the 1960s and 70s, was that all former Masters Champions were given a vote to invite one player not otherwise qualified. Only the Augusta National ever knew the results of those votes, but Sifford was never the one chosen.

Every year at The Masters, an honorary ceremony occurs at the start of the tournament in which former players hit ceremonial tee shot. It started in 1963 with Fred McLeod and Jock Hutchison hitting the tee shots – and they would actually go on to play nine holes. After they passed, Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen took over the honor of hitting the ceremonial tee shots, and only a tee shot. In the last few years, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Jack Nicklaus have done the honor.

Around 2006 I wrote a letter to Billy Payne, who I had met during the Atlanta Olympics, where he was the chairman of the Organizing Committee (ACOG). In that letter, I suggested to Payne that a nice tribute to Sifford’s career would be to invite him to participate and hit one of the ceremonial tee shots. I received back a nice thank-you-very-much letter from one of his minions, but Charlie Sifford never played or hit a tee shot at Augusta National during the Masters. And he should have.

Sifford was the Jackie Robinson of golf, and he should be better remembered. Like Robinson, who was followed by great baseball players such as Larry Doby, Don Newcombe, and Willie Mays, many top black players from the United Golf Association tour came to the PGA Tour, several of them with great success. Lee Elder, who won the National Negro Open four times, won four times on the PGA Tour, and eight on the Champions Tour, and in 1975 became the first African-American to play at The Masters.

There were others. I played the PGA Tour from 1975-79, and during that time, played with Elder numerous times. I also played with Rafe Botts, Jim Thorpe, Curtis Sifford (Charlie’s nephew), Chuck Thorpe (Jim’s older brother), Pete Brown (the first black to win a PGA Tour event, in 1964, which also did not get him into the Masters), Bobby Strobel, and a guy named Nate, who I played with in my first event at Phoenix, but I am sorry to say his last name now escapes me.

If you count that up, that is at least 9 African-American players on the PGA Tour in 1975-79, all following the large shoes of Charlie Sifford. Today, there is one, although he is a big one, Tiger Woods. When Tiger came along in 1996-97, people talked of the Tiger effect and how it would lead to a golf boom, especially among African-Americans. The boom never occurred, and in fact it went the other way, and there has especially been no boom among African-American golfers.

Golf is an elitist sport, and always has been. It costs a fair amount of money to play golf, as opposed to putting up a net and shooting hoops, or finding some old beat-up ball in the ghettos of Brazil and kicking it towards some nondescript goal. The socio-economic status of many African-Americans in the United States has never lent itself to allow them to play golf easily, not to mention the discrimination they have experienced by many golf clubs. Prior to the 1960s, many African-Americans got into golf and learned the game through the caddy yard, but golf carts have made caddies at most clubs an endangered species. The loss of that avenue into the sport, and the demise of the United Golf Association has meant that few African-Americans have had the opportunities to make it to the top of the sport in the last few decades.

So its been difficult for blacks to make it in golf. When they do, each and every one of them owes a tip of their cap to Charlie Sifford, the man who blazed the trail. All honor to his name.

About the Author
Bill Mallon played on the PGA Tour between 1975 and 1979 and made the cut at the 1977 US Open. After leaving the tour he became a orthopaedic surgeon, author on the history of the Olympic Games and consultant statistician to the IOC.

How Britain’s sprint relay women were robbed of a place at London 2012

Many of you may remember the controversy concerning the Great Britain women’s 4 x 100 relay team missing qualification for London 2012 and allegations that the then GB head coach Charles van Commenee was, at best, unenthusiastic about the team’s attempts at qualification.
Now, nearly two years later it seems that, due to a retrospective doping ban on an Olympic finalist, they actually did earn a place at their home Games.

The athlete in question is Semoy Hackett, a Trinidadian who reached the final of the 200m in London, and the story starts at the 2011 Trinidad and Tobago National Championships. It was there that Hackett failed a drug test for Methylhexaneamine and earned a retrospective drug suspension that disqualified her nation from 4th place in the 4 x 100 m at the 2011 World Championships. This also had the effect of voiding times that would have helped Trinidad qualify for an Olympic sprint relay place.
After serving a six month suspension she returned in early summer 2012 to qualify for a place at the Olympic Games. In early June she helped her American college, Louisiana State, win the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships but again she tested positive for the same drug.


Semoy Hackett
This is where things get interesting – in an interview with Baton Rouge newspaper, The Advocate, LSU Coach Dennis Shaver said that the University had told by the NCAA of the failed test in late June.
This may have been too late for the IAAF to set the full disciplinary process into action but it’s possible that Trinidad may have considered voluntarily removing Hackett from the Olympic team or even withdrawing the relay team completely. None of this proved possible as the test findings were only released when it was announced that Louisiana State had been stripped of their title in November 2012. After the announcement it was reported by the Trinidad Athletics Federation and IAAF that they had not yet been advised of the failed test by the NCAA. In this regard, the IAAF were innocent bystanders.

Eventually Trinidad cleared their athlete of any misdemeanour but, on the eve of her competing at the 2013 World Championship, the IAAF appealed the case to the Court of Arbitration of Sport.
The case never actually reached the court as the two parties made an agreement before which resulted in Hackett being banned for 28 months and losing all results since the NCAA meeting.
And if Hackett lost her results then so too do the Trinidad 4 x 100 women’s relay team. Their two best times were set on the same day which now sits in the middle of the period where her results were annulled. The Trinidadians, who originally placed 11th of the 16 qualified relay teams for London 2012, now find themselves with only one valid time and ineligible for Olympic qualification.
So that brings us back to Great Britain’s female sprint relay team who missed London after finishing 17th on the qualifying table. With Trinidad dropping out they move up to 16th and earn a theoretical place at the 2012 Olympics.

All this is probably no comfort to the British sprinters who missed out on a place at a once-in-a-lifetime event but at least they can say they earned a place at the Olympics. Small consolation.

The Chegin Connection

For those of who don’t know of Victor Chegin, here’s a crash course in the man behind one of the most successful dynasties in track and field athletics. Chegin is the head coach at the Centre for Olympic Preparation in Saransk, a city of 300,000 in the Russian Republic of Mordovia. This is one of only two performance centres in the world dedicated to walking and regularly contributes more than half the Russian walkers at major championships. Backed by an annual budget believed to be more than 2 million dollars, Saransk has produced a production line of European, World and Olympic medallists since Irina Stankina won a world title in 1995 in Gothenburg.
Unfortunately there is a dark side to the Russian successes as 16, that’s right 16, of Chegin’s walkers have been banned or suspended for various doping infringements. You can also add a marathon runner to the list. The list as it stands is as follows:

***Update*** 30/07/2014
A 17th walker (18th overall) joined the list of shame today
Stanislav Emelyanov
European champion over 20km in 2010 or so everyone thought. The IAAF have announced that, due to abnormalities on his biological passport, he has been suspended for 2 years and his results have been voided since the day before he won his European title in 2010.
************

The list of shame

Igor Yerokhin
2008 Olympian who served a suspension between Olympics. Returned to finish 5th at London 2012 but that result was voided when examination of his biological passport showed problems which eventually led to him being given a life ban.

Tatyana Mineyeva
European U23 champion currently serving a ban for blood doping.

Dementiy Cheparev
World Youth medallist who tested positive for Fenoterol.

Ekaterina Medvedeva
2012 World junior champion currently serving a ban after testing positive for EPO.

Pyotr Bogatyrev
2013 European U23 20km champion banned after bio passport problems.

Irina Yumanova
World Youth medallist suspended after a positive test at this year’s Russian Championships. Awaiting a full hearing.

German Skurygin
Briefly world champion in 1999 until the drug tests came back. Returned in 2003 to win World Championship silver. Died at the age of 45.

Valeriy Borchin
Olympic champion in 2008, World champion in 2009 and 2011. Served a 12 month ban between 2005 and 2006 and was then involved in a bizarre series of events before the Beijing Olympics.
Russian news agency All Sport reported in the week before the Games started that Borchin had failed an out of competition test for EPO. Borchin denied the allegation and the matter was never elaborated on by the Russian authorties.

Sergey Morozov
Morozov set a time at the 2011 Russian Championships that broke the existing 20 km world best though it was never ratified as a record due to a lack of post-race drug testing. He is currently serving a life ban after twice testing positive for EPO.

Vladimir Kanaykin
World record holder and World Championship medallist over 20 km. Missed Beijing Olympics after testing positive for EPO.

Viktor Burayev
World Championship medallist over 20 km. Missed Beijing Olympics after testing positive for EPO.

Aleksey Voyevodin
Winner of medals at European Championships, World Championships and Olympic Games. Missed Beijing Olympics after testing positive for EPO

Nadezhda Mokeyeva
An 18 year old, one of the world’s top juniors, suspended after a positive test at this year’s Russian Championships. Awaiting a full hearing.

Tatyana Akulinushkina
19 years old. Recently completed a ban for Fenoterol.

Artur Grigoryev
Currently serving a ban for Carphedon.

Yelena Lashamanova
The undisputed star of women’s race walking at the current time. This weekend it was announced that the current world and Olympic champion had tested positive for the experimental drug GW501516. After promising results in medical tests research on GW1516 was abandoned after it was discovered to cause cancerous tumours in rodents.

And the odd man out.
Not a walker but a marathon runner.
Mikhail Lemaev
Marathon runner who competed at the 2009 World Championships. Another who was banned after analysis of his biological passport.

It has to be said that no evidence directly linking Chegin to any doping programme has ever been published although many top name coaches and competitors have expressed extreme distrust. Olympic medallist Jared Tallent of Australia has directly called on the IAAF to ban him and that feeling is by no means unique in the walking community. In theory the proposed changes in the WADA code for 2015 could make a suspension of a coach easier to happen but, of course, they have to prove that he is the mastermind behind the doping programme or at least neglectful in his duties to his athletes. Perhaps we’re being unfair to Chegin, maybe he’s not the cynical manipulator many believe to him to be but, at the very least, answers have to be given as to why so many of the charges have turned to the dark side of the sport.

With thanks to Jared Tallent and Steven Mils for alerting me to the rogues gallery.

Stars of Track – The Next Generation

As we approach the midpoint in the Olympic cycle, it seems as good a time as any to look around for new talent in the world of sport. So what better than a video wall of the brightest young stars in the world of athletics?

The rules for inclusion? Simply that they were teenagers at January 1 this year.
There’s no guarantee any of these will be World or Olympic champion though I’d be shocked if none of them went to become household names in athletics. Most probably we’ll be seeing some in Rio 2016 and a lot more in Tokyo.

Here’s part 1 – the male athletes.

Men
100 m Trayvon Bromell (USA)
Born 10 July 1995 St. Petersburg, Florida, USA
Student at Baylor University. Joint World Junior record holder over 100m. Broke 10 second barrier although run was wind assisted.
Best – 100m – 10.01, 200m 20.59

200 m Zharnel Hughes (AGU)
Born 13 July 1995 Anguilla
Pan-American Junior champion 2013. Beat Yohan Blake’s Jamaican schools 100m record though arguably better at 200.
Best – 100m – 10.12, 200m 20.32

400 m Christopher Taylor (JAM)
Born 1999 Jamaica
Jamaican 400m prodigy. At 14 the youngest on this list.
Best 400m – 48.54

800m/1500m Robert Kiptoo Biwott (KEN)
Born 28 January 1996 Kenya
World Youth Champion over 1500m 2013. Diamond League Shanghai winner 2014
Best 800m – 1.44.69, 1500m – 3.36.77

5000m/10000m Hagos Gebrhiwet (ETH)
Born 11 May 1994 Atsbi-Wonberta, Ethiopia
World Championship silver medallist over 5000m 2013. World Junior cross-country champion 2013.
Best 5000m – 12:47.53

110m hurdles David Omoregie (GBR)
Born 1 November 1995 Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England
5th fastest junior ever over 110m hurdles.
Best 110m Hurdles (99.0cm) – 13.23, 110m Hurdles – 13.92

400m hurdles – Jaheel Hyde (JAM)
Born 2 February 1997 Jamaica
World Youth 110m hurdles gold medal 2013. Moved up to 400 hurdles to fine effect.
Best 110m Hurdles (99.0cm) – 13.53, 400m hurdles – 49.49

High Jump  – Randall Cunningham  Jr. (USA)
Born 4 January 1996 Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Son of NFL legend Randall Cunningham. Also highly regarded as a football quarterback. Has joint US / South African citizenship.
Best – High Jump – 2.21m

Pole Vault – Hussein Assem Al-Hizam (KSA)
Born 4 January 1998 Saudi Arabia
Jumped 5.27m at age 15.
Best – Pole Vault – 5.32m

Long Jump – Anatoliy Ryapolov (RUS)
Born 31 January 1997
World Youth long jump champion 2013.
Best – Long Jump – 7.90m

Triple Jump – Lázaro Martínez (CUB)
Born 3 November 1997
World Youth triple jump champion 2013.
Best – Triple Jump – 17.24m

Shot Put – Jacko Gill (NZL)
Born 20 December 1994 Auckland, New Zealand
World Junior shot put champion 2010,2012 (youngest ever world junior champion in 2010). World Youth shot put champion 2011.
Best – Shot put – 20.38m, Shot Put (6kg) – 23.00m, Shot Put (5kg) – 24.45m

Discus – Róbert Szikszai (HUN)
Born 30 September 1994
European Junior discus champion 2013.
Best – Discus Throw – 59.22m, Discus Throw (1.750kg) – 64.75m

Hammer – Bence Pásztor (HUN)
Born 5 February 1995
World Youth hammer champion 2011. World Junior hammer silver medal 2012.
Best – Hammer Throw – 69.20m, Hammer Throw (6kg) – 80.25m

Javelin – Simon Litzell (SWE)
Born 11 February 1997
Currently leads World Youth rankings.
Best – Javelin Throw (700g) – 80.04m

Decathlon – Jirí Sýkora (CZE)
Born 20 January 1995
Only junior decathlete to score 8000 points in 2013-14. Favourite for 2014 World Junior gold.
Best – Decathlon Junior – 8047

Walking – Toshikazu Yamanishi (JPN)
Born 15 February 1996
World Youth 10km track walk champion 2013.
Best – 10 Kilometres Race Walk – 41:14 (Road), 41:53.80 (Track)

Hello, Good Evening and Welcome

A quick introduction.
My name is Hilary Evans, male (just to avoid any embarrassment later), and I have an unhealthy interest in pretty obscure areas of sport.

I’ll be using this blog to, very occasionally, post things that don’t fit anywhere else.
If you’re looking for more regular posts try http://olympstats.com/ which is an Olympic history/statistics blog to which I contribute.

The name of the blog is a tribute to a old teacher of mine. “The trouble with you, Evans, is that you seem slightly confused most of the time”, he said. Almost certainly he was right.