US Olympic and Paralympic athletes (like the LTA4+) will have more rights to express themselves
This week in our occasional updates leading up to the Olympics, we look at recent communications from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee regarding social justice protests by athletes, national and international crew announcements, and a handful of other Olympic news.
USOPC to Permit some Podium & Anthem Protests
In an open letter to Team USA Athletes, USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland laid out the new guidelines for demonstrations or political statements at US Trials.
"You made it clear there is a deep desire for Team USA athletes to speak on these issues, and to lead as a positive force in our community," said Hirshland. The Trials Guidance document released by the USOPC details a complex array of steps and permissible displays for athletes.
In a nutshell, "athletes will NOT be sanctioned by the USOPC for engaging in an Racial and Social Justice Demonstration at Trials." Examples of permitted displays include "orally advocating for equity/equal rights for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color individuals, or other historically underrepresented, marginalized or minoritized populations, holding up one's fist at the start line or on the podium, or kneeling on the podium or at the start line during the national anthem."
The guidelines also list "impermissible elements" such as hats or clothing displaying hate symbols or hate speech, or "making hand gestures affiliated with hate groups," which explicitly violate the USOPC's rules. Additionally, advocating for something outside the scope of a racial or social justice cause would also be a violation.
German Men's Eight Announces Unchanged Lineup for 2021
Many countries with wide-ranging rowing squads, like Great Britain or Germany, will often do a formal squad announcement at the start of the international regatta season. The German Men's sweep squad announcement, in addition to staking their Olympic ambitions very high, contained the somewhat unusual news that the Germans would be starting the season with the same lineup that raced in (and won) the only international regatta in 2020, the European Rowing Champs last October.
"Our selection in early 2020 was very difficult, and we did not want to put the athletes through the same wringer again this Spring," said coach Uwe Bender in explaining the decision to go with an unchanged crew.
The squad announcement also contained this nugget: the GER M8+ has rowed 3,000 km together, intact in this lineup, since last fall, whew.
Swapping Two Oars for One?
The recent US Olympic Women's Sweep Camp Invite list of 25 athletes that are competing for seats in the US Women's Eight, Four and Pair contained few surprises, save one: Gevvie Stone, recent runner-up in the women's single at the US Olympics Trials I.
Stone has not represented the US in sweep rowing since 2006; spoiler alert: it did not turn out too badly. Her coxswain that year? Current USA W8+ coxswain Katelyn Guregian.
Gevvie Stone strokes the 2006 USA U23 W8+
Stone is currently slated to compete with Kristina Wagner in the Women's Double at the USA Olympic Rowing Trials II, April 12-15 at Mercer Lake, NJ.
Fellow women's sweep camp invitees Tracy Eisser and Kristine O'Brien, who won the women's pair at the 2020 US National Selection Regatta in Chula Vista so long ago, will make use of their right to race at a World Cup regatta this spring. A top-two finish at either the April 30- May 2 World Cup in Zagreb, Croatia, or the May 21-23 World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland would give Eisser & O'Brien the option to declare for the Olympic team in the event.
Eisser & O'Brien at the USA NSR in long-ago February 2020
Other Olympics Briefs
Para athletes will now have more time to be classified ahead of the Paralympics