In this week's Olympics update, we look at further surprising rowing news out of New Zealand, an interesting athlete survey result from the IOC, a heat-less World Cup format, a strong cast of familiar faces on the USA W4x invite list, and rowing taking its place in the continued growth of virtual sports.
NZ LW2x out of the Olympics
In another stunning bit of news in a stunning year, NZ Rowing that it will be withdrawing the NZ LW2x from the Tokyo Olympics.
The move is all the more surprising because the Kiwi crew of Zoe McBride and Jackie Kiddle won the World Championships in 2019, and looked to be the crew to beat in Tokyo.
We will not see McBride & Kiddle in Tokyo
When Zoe McBride opted for a sudden retirement a few months ago, Kiddle suddenly found herself solo; it seems almost inconceivable that, given the tremendous talent level in New Zealand, the NZ Rowing selectors could not identify a suitable replacement for McBride, and opted to scratch the boat from the Olympics instead.
The next crew to move up via the finish order of the LW2x at the 2019 Worlds is Canada (who would have been one of a half-dozen strong crews (including the US light women's double) challenging for a spot at the FOQR next month).
Another spot came loose when one of the South American qualifying spots was not claimed; FISA has now confirmed that there will be three (3) spots available in the LW2x at the FOQR in May.
Between FOQR and NZ, row2k's Erik Dresser is going to need to rewrite the next Road to Tokyo report like a million times.
IOC: No Podium Protests
A few weeks ago, we reported that the USOPC would not sanction US athletes who demonstrated for racial or social justice causes at US trials events.
Now the debate has bubbled up to the international athlete community. Surprisingly, according to this release from the IOC, "The Athletes' Commission (AC) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today received the full support of the IOC Executive Board (EB) for a set of recommendations in regard to Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter and Athlete Expression at the Olympic Games. Rule 50 provides a framework to protect the neutrality of sport and the Olympic Games."
The story goes on to summarize the results of the athlete's survey, and contains this nugget: "In the quantitative study, a clear majority of athletes said that it is not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views on the field of play (70% of respondents), at official ceremonies (70% of respondents) or on the podium (67% of respondents)."
In other words, the majority of international Olympic athletes disapprove of podium demonstrations. It's unclear how (or if) the USOPC will react to this with respect to US Olympians.
Time Trials are the new Heats
As has occurred a few times over the past few years, the heats at World Cup I in Zagreb will be conducted as time trials, rather than head-to-head heats.
Per the WorldRowing.com website, "The Tokyo Olympic time trial patterns will be practiced and will give NF's, World Rowing itself, Swiss Timing etc., valuable experience in the procedure."
Men's Quad time trials at the 2019 World Cup III
The provisional Tokyo 2021 regatta schedule currently shows that heats are currently scheduled for all events, but as detailed in the FISA rule book for 2021, time trials become an option if weather conditions and/or lane fairness considerations do not allow for side-by-side heats.
The USA M4x of Charles Anderson, Justin Keen, Eliot Putnam and Sorin Koszyk will be testing their international speed at this regatta; they are the only US entry at the event.
USA W4x Camp Invites Announced
USRowing has announced the invitations to the Women's Quad selection camp; the camp will select the four athletes that will represent the US in Tokyo in the event.
Many of the athletes on the list have shown their speed this year via the Women's Single and Women's Double at the two Olympic Trials events this spring. Notable invitations include Emily Huelskamp and Sophia Vitas, who raced in this crew for the US at the 2019 World Championships; Cicely Madden, who partnered Dr. Gevvie Stone enroute to 5th place at the Worlds in 2019; and Ellen Tomek and Meghan O'Leary, who placed sixth in the 2016 Games in Rio and who finished third at the Olympic Trials in the Women's Double a few weeks ago.
As a longtime doubles partnership, will selection the first time since 2013 that Ellen Tomek and Meghan O'Leary race against each other? Not quite - as one wag commented, "they race each other in the Alumni Eight at the Head of the Charles every year."
Meghan O'Leary and Ellen Tomek have great catch timing...even in separate boats.
IOC Jumps on Virtual Sports
The IOC has announced new series of events across five different sports
The following sports and gaming platforms will be a part of the new event:
- World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) - eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020, Konami Digital Entertainment
- Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) - Zwift, Zwift inc.
- World Rowing - Open format
- World Sailing - Virtual Regatta, Virtual Regatta SAS
- Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) - Gran Turismo, Polyphony Digital
The IOC is describing the event as "a stage to connect the physical sporting world with the virtual and simulation sports gaming community, providing an opportunity to engage with the Olympic Movement. Each International Federation will offer its corresponding event in a format that maximises online mass participation and prioritises inclusivity and participation through the OVS. The mass-participation Series allows participants around the world to compete from home or their training facilities in order to generate excitement in the build-up to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020."
Crossover events are not new; German LM2x athlete Jason Osborne recently won the first ever Zwift Cycling Virtual World Championship, but this is the first such push occurring via the IOC.
WorldRowing is a part of the IOC's eSports push