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Olympic Notes

IOC’s elder member quits amid turmoil

By John Powers
December 6, 2011
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Joao Havelange, the International Olympic Committee’s oldest member but far from its patriarch, quit the world’s most exclusive club before he could have been booted out for reportedly taking $1 million in kickbacks during his time as president of the international soccer federation.

The 95-year-old Brazilian, who was elected to the IOC in 1963 during the Avery Brundage era, was all but certain to be suspended if not expelled this week by the Olympic executive board in the wake of last year’s BBC documentary alleging that he took a seven-figure payout 14 years ago from ISL, which held the television rights to the World Cup, the planet’s most popular and lucrative sporting event outside of the Games.

Though Havelange stepped down in 1998 from FIFA’s top job, he’s still its honorary president. His IOC resignation is another black eye for the soccer federation, which is dealing with charges of vote-buying in the choice of Russia and Qatar as the 2018 and 2022 Cup hosts.

Not a done deal

The IOC and USOC still are dickering over their future revenue split, which they’d hoped to settle on by last summer.

“We are close, but the last part of the distance has to be solved and we still hope to solve it,’’ said IOC marketing commission chairman Gerhard Heiberg, who said a deal probably wouldn’t be done in time for this week’s board meeting. “We are not in a hurry.’’

Until there’s an agreement, though, the USOC won’t put up a candidate for the Games, leaving Reno-Tahoe, which would like to bid for the 2022 winter version, twiddling its thumbs.

Rave reviews for Sochi

IOC officials gave two thumbs-up to Sochi’s preparations for the 2014 Winter Games during a recent visit to the Black Sea resort with Jean-Claude Killy, who heads the coordination commission, declaring it would be a “grandiose event.’’

The organizers say all of the venues in the mountain cluster will be completed by year’s end and ready to stage international test events in skiing, snowboarding, and biathlon in February and March.

Keeping it together

Lindsey Vonn’s triple-gold weekend at Lake Louise was even more remarkable since it was the Olympic champion’s first competition since the announcement of her divorce from husband/mentor Thomas, whose last name she will keep.

“It’s definitely a lot more than I expected considering everything that’s going on,’’ Vonn said after she’d won both downhills and the super G to become the first woman to post a three-race sweep at the Canadian resort since Germany’s Katja Seizinger in 1997.

Taken with her earlier giant slalom triumph at Soelden, her victories gave Vonn a 136-point lead over Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg in her bid to reclaim the overall crown she relinquished last season after winning three in a row.

It was a superb few days for the US Alpine corps as Bode Miller won his first Cup downhill in three years on the Birds of Prey course at Beaver Creek (“a miracle,’’ he said) and both Ted Ligety (giant slalom) and Julia Mancuso (super G) made podiums.

Kikkan Randall is picking up where she left off on the World Cup cross-country circuit. After winning a couple of sprint crowns last season, Randall collected gold in Duesseldorf, Germany, last weekend, then teamed with Sadie Bjornsen to win an historic relay silver. She’s ranked first in the sprint standings and fifth overall.

Change to Whistler

This weekend’s World Cup will be the first elite international luge event on Whistler’s super-fast “Elevator Shaft’’ track since Georgian slider Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed there during an Olympic practice run last year. Besides using the same lower starting lines it switched to for the Games, the international federation has modified the curves and given the racers an extra week of practice, as it will do before the 2013 global championships.

After winning his first World Cup two-man medal in two years at last weekend’s World Cup bobsled opener in Austria, US pilot Steve Holcomb just missed his first four-man gold since early last season, finishing six-100ths of a second behind Russia’s Alexsandr Zubkov. On the women’s side, Elana Meyers picked up a bronze with new brakewoman Katie Eberling behind two German entries. No medals for the inexperienced American skeleton sledders, who were without two-time overall champion Katie Uhlaender, who was competing in the American Open in her quest to make the Olympic weightlifting team.

Heavy medals

Who would have bet that Tucker Fredricks would have more World Cup speedskating medals at this point in the season than teammate Shani Davis? Fredricks won a 500-meter race last weekend inside the Dutch speedway at Heerenveen, giving him four podium finishes at the holiday break. Davis has been blanked since his 1,500 silver in the season opener and had two seventh-place showings last weekend.

Vermont grad Lowell Bailey had a career week at the World Cup biathlon opener in Sweden, placing fifth in the sprint, ninth in the 20-kilometer race, and 13th in the pursuit to rank seventh overall. With Tim Burke (ninth in the pursuit) 15th and Jay Hakkinen 27th, the US males are seventh in the Nation Cup, their highest placement.

On solid ice

Alissa Czisny and dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White will be defending their titles at this weekend’s Grand Prix figure skating final in Quebec City, where all four US entries have a good chance at the podium. Jeremy Abbott was the 2008 men’s titlist while Maia and Alex Shibutani are reigning world dance bronze medalists.

By placing second to Italy at the recent World Cup in Japan, the US women’s volleyball team earned an Olympic berth, knocking off the champions en route to their best showing. The American men, who ended up sixth behind qualifiers Russia, Poland, and Brazil, will get another chance at a London spot at the North American event in Puerto Rico next spring.

The world sailing championships in Perth, Australia, this week and next will be for more than medals. Olympic berths will be on the line in all 10 classes and the US team will be determined. In the chase will be Boston’s Stuart McNay (men’s 470), Erin Maxwell of Wilton, Conn. (women’s 470), and Rob Crane of Darien, Conn. (men’s laser).

Torres in the swim

Even after reconstructive knee surgery and a two-year rehab, swimmer Dara Torres is on track to make her sixth Olympic team after finishing second in the 50-meter freestyle at the US winter nationals at Atlanta. “I thrive on challenges, which is psychotic,’’ said the 44-year-old mom, who was 17 when she won the first of her 12 Games medals. “This is kind of a huge challenge.’’

The US taekwondo fighters went 4 for 4 at the Pan American regional qualifying tournament in Mexico, with three-time Olympic medalist Steve Lopez (80 kilograms), sister Diana (57 kg), Paige McPherson (76 kg), and Terrence Jennings (68 kg) all earning berths for the US for London. That quartet will face the top challengers from next month’s fight-offs in March to see who gets the individual tickets.

Strong showing

The Chinese outmuscled the rest of the planet at the world weightlifting championships in Paris, winning six gold medals and 13 overall, more than their Russian and Kazakh neighbors combined. Nothing shiny for the Americans, although Sarah Robles and Chioma Amaechi both finished in the top 14 in the 75-plus kilo class to help their teammates grab two Olympic entries. The US can earn more at continental qualifiers next year . . . The Brazilian curlers, who failed to beat their US rivals for a world championships berth in 2009 and 2010, are hoping the third time’s the charm. They’ll take on Olympic medalist Pete Fenson and his rink at the end of next month in Bemidji, Minn., with the winner joining defending champion Canada at the April global tournament in Switzerland.

John Powers can be reached at; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, personal interviews, and wire services was used in this report.

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