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Seeking the spotlight, athletics takes a leap in the dark

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PARIS, France, May 23With traditional competition shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, athletics has begun experimenting with imaginative and unusual ways to ensure that, somehow, the show goes on.

The Olympics and European Championships have been postponed and there no traditional meetings are scheduled until the Diamond League in Monaco on August 14, yet there has been a steady stream of creative initiatives to allow competition.

There have been long-distance pole-vault showdowns and solo races against the clock.

Micro meetings are planned and, in a sport built on direct competition, promoters of traditional meetings are looking at ways to stage meaningful one-runner races in arenas where no hands are clapping.

“In this period when nothing is happening, there is no bad idea, apart from taking health risks,” Remy Charpentier, the organiser of the Monaco meeting, told AFP.

The postponed London Marathon launched the 2.6 Challenge in which participants attempted solo events based on that number. Some sat in cornflakes, Mo Farah swung from a climbing frame but others ran or rolled.

Three of the world’s leading pole vaulters managed to compete while staying at home with the Ultimate Garden Challenge on May 3 as Swede Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis, the world record holder, took on Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie, and two-time US world champion Sam Kendricks.

Watched, World Athletics estimated, by more than a million people worldwide, Duplantis, jumping in his back garden in his native Louisiana and Lavillenie, in Clermont-Ferrand, both cleared a bar set at 5 metres 36 times in 30 minutes while Kendricks, in Mississippi, managed 26.

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“It’s already huge even to be able to do exhibitions again,” Lavillenie told AFP, adding that he was surprised to have felt “a little bit of adrenaline” with this ersatz competition.

The format was duplicated by three of the world’s top women vaulters jumping at their training grounds with Greek Olympic champion Ekaterini Stefanidi beating American Katie Nageotte and Canadian Alysha Newman.

As the lockdown eases in some parts of Europe, ‘Flight Night’ involving four German pole vaulters, is planned at a drive-in cinema in Dusseldorf on June 12 while six micro-meetings have been scheduled in the Czech Republic.

Those will start in Kladno on June 1 with three events — women’s javelin, men’s shot put and men’s 300m — on the announced schedule.

– ‘Athletics of 2030’ –

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Social distancing: Monaco hopes to hold a ‘traditional’ meeting but perhaps some things will change, last year winner Shaunae Miller-Uibo, with the pink hair, hugged Elaine Thompson after the women’s 200m © AFP/File / Valery HACHE

In addition to “private” initiatives, the big meetings are looking for a way to keep the show going, which is a problem in events where athletes compete at the same time.

The Oslo Diamond League event, on June 11, has been renamed “the Impossible Games” and will operate “in full observation of Norway’s coronavirus regulations and social distancing rules.”

The hour-long made-for-TV event will again feature Duplantis who will be at the Bislett stadium as will Norwegian Sondre Guttormsen while Lavillenie will vault in his French garden.

Two Norwegians will make solo attempts at records in little-run distances.

Double 400m hurdles world champion Karsten Warholm will try to break the world 300m hurdles mark and Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal attempt a 3,000m record with her pace set by a lights embedded in the side of the track.

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There is also a plan for two hurdlers to race each other over 200m.

Meanwhile, Monaco is hoping to run a normal event.

“We hope to stay with a traditional meeting, we still have three months left,” said Charpentier.

“You don’t have to be innovative at all costs but you have to do what works for you. If 22 players can play football in the Bundesliga, then 10 runners should be able to compete together.”

The former decathlete Alain Blondel, who was in charge of the cancelled Rabat meet, sees the crisis as an athletics laboratory “to build the athletics of 2030.”

“These innovations aren’t imitation athletics, you shouldn’t see it as a classic competition, it’s closer to a TV show based on an athletic performance,” he told AFP.

“We’re wondering what idea we can come up with that gives a bit of life.”

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SDT gives FKF temporary reprieve but CEO Otieno not off the hook

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By JEFF KINYANJUI

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The Sports Disputes Tribunal (SDT) Thursday afternoon offered temporary reprieve to Football Kenya Federation (FKF) by dismissing an application by Milton Nyakundi and other interested parties that sort to have the federation’s bank accounts frozen, assets and properties safeguarded until elections are held.

On March 17, SDT had ruled that the FKF National Executive Council (NEC) term in office had ended and thereafter Nyakundi filed an application seeking orders to freeze FKF bank accounts and all its assets and properties protected, arguing they were in danger of vandalism due to the vacuum.

In a ruling delivered on Thursday via Zoom, SDT Chairperson John Ohaga, however, dismissed the application.

Another application filed by interested parties had argued that the NEC and FKF President Nick Mwendwa were in contempt of court as they continued to operate and work for FKF despite the earlier ruling but Ohaga dismissed it.

“There is no concrete evidence that the NEC members have continued to work. Nick Mwendwa, as per the constitution of FKF, should continue serving until elections are held,” Ohaga read part of the ruling.

FKF CEO Barry Otieno could, however, land in trouble as Ohaga directed that a letter he allegedly wrote to Fifa asking them to protect the federation from the SDT is being investigated by National Security Agencies.

Otieno has been on record denying writing the letter and has signed an affidavit to that effect. If found guilty of lying to the tribunal, he could face “imprisonment of not more than seven years” as revealed by Ohaga during the ruling.

“A full investigation to unearth the authenticity of the letter by relevant authorities will commence. If found guilty of perjury, the penalty for false declaration term is imprisonment not exceeding 7 years,” Ohaga read.

“We had called for a round table discussion by stakeholders, potential candidates and other interested parties and this will come for mention on 2nd June 2020. This is to see how best to convene this round table. It is under the jurisdiction of the SDT to assist parties set up alternative dispute resolution mechanisms,” he said.

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Rudisha undergoes surgery after nasty injury

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By BERNARD ROTICH

World 800 metres record holder David Rudisha is recovering at St Luke’s Hospital in Eldoret after undergoing surgery on Thursday for an ankle fracture.

According to a statement from One4One Sports Marketing and Management, Rudisha sustained the injury after twisting his left ankle at his rural home in Kilgoris, Narok County, on May 19.

“During a walk on his compound, the 31-year-old stepped on uneven ground and initially believed it was not a serious injury,” read the statement in part. “He continued with training that would cause further harm on his ankle but after lack of improvement over the weekend he underwent an examination and was diagnosed with an ankle fracture at St Luke’s Hospital in Eldoret.”

According to his surgeon and Team Kenya lead doctor Victor Bargoria, the injury – which he described as Supination External Rotation – was a fracture on the left ankle. He fixated it with a 1/3 tubular plate and 3.5mm screws.

The statement further said that Rudisha, who was preparing for his third consecutive Olympics next year, will be out for training for 12 to 16 weeks and could return to training in September.

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Speaking to Nation Sport on phone Bargoria said Rudisha was in stable condition.

“The patient is in good condition and I will be seeing him again today (Thursday) before we now start rehabilitation and within some few weeks he should be fine,” said Bargoria.

During the 2012 Summer Games in London, Rudisha clocked 1:40.91 breaking the world record (1:41.11) previously held by Danish Wilson Kipketer.

In 2016, Rudisha defended his Olympics title in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil after winning in 1:42.15.

In an earlier interview with Nation Sport, Rudisha was optimistic that he will be in good shape to participate in the Tokyo Olympics Games which were postponed to next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I was expecting to come back this year in a big way but again the virus halted my plans but we just have to wait. My injury had healed and my medical specialist had given me a clean bill of health,” said Rudisha who is managed by Mitchell Boeting.

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Toulouse join Lyon, Amiens in appealing to top French court

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By AFP

TOULOUSE, FRANCE

Toulouse have joined the growing number of clubs appealing the way the season ended by taking the French league to the country’s highest administrative court, regional media reported on Thursday.

Toulouse, last in Ligue 1 when play was halted by the coronavirus have appealed to the Council of State, La Depeche du Midi said.

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The club has consistently refused to confirm whether it is appealing but in two emails sent on Tuesday to sponsors and supporters and posted online, it acknowledged that they had been dead last in the table but said they were obliged to “assert” their “rights”, without mentioning the court.

Amiens, 19th in the table and also relegated, and Lyon, who were seventh and missed European football, have already lodged appeals. Ajaccio, left just outside the promotion places in Ligue 2, are reportedly also planning legal action.

The last Ligue 1 games were on March 8. At the urging of the government, the league board voted on April 30 to declare the season over with, for most Ligue 1 teams, 10 rounds of matches to play.

Toulouse, bottom for many months and with only three wins and 13 points from 28 games, were 14 points from potential safety.

Amiens were 10 points better off, but still four points away from the lifeline of a playoff spot.

The league ranked teams by the ratio of points won to games played, but that did not change any of the placings in the final table.

“The Board of Directors of the Professional Football League saw fit to act on April 30, 2020, to relegate our club to Ligue 2 on the basis of a provisional ranking established 10 rounds from the end,”

Toulouse said in an email about next season’s ticket prices on Tuesday.

“This may have surprised some people, but we have made a conscious decision to contest this decision. It is our responsibility to defend sporting fairness and to assert our rights, despite our 20th place.”

Earlier, Amiens also insisted they had been victims of an injustice.

“Amiens are still fighting against this decision which we find unfair, incoherent and unfounded,” Amiens president Bernard Joannin told AFP.

While the league decided to confirmed the two automatic relegations and promotions, it scrapped the playoff between the 18th team in Ligue 1 and a second-division club.

Ajaccio, along with the two clubs just behind it in Ligue 2, appealed to the French Olympic Committee but lost.

The Corsican club responded by saying: “We maintain that AC Ajaccio are destined to play in Ligue 1 next season.”

A first hearing of the supreme court is scheduled for June 4.

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