LAST LAP — November

HERE’S THIS MONTH’S collection of short takes on generally off-track activities that have gone/will go a long way towards shaping the way the sport is headed.

Distance standout Grant Fisher has traded in his Bowerman TC kit and moved on from the powerhouse training group. (KEVIN MORRIS)

7 Top-Level Meets To Highlight Indoor Season

WA’s World Indoor Tour schedule for ’24 has been released, with 7 gold-level meetings scheduled, including the first ever in Asia. The 4 levels — Gold, Silver, Bronze, Challenger — total 54 meets.

This year’s scoring events in the Gold level are women’s 400, 1500, 60H, HJ, LJ and men’s 60, 800, 3000/5000, PV, TJ, SP. An athlete’s best three results counts toward their point score, and the athlete with the most points in their event group wins a $10,000 prize and gets a Wild-Card entry to the World Indoor in Glasgow.

Each Gold meet will offer at least $7000 in prize money for each scoring event, with $3000 to the winner. The Gold schedule:

January 27 — Astana, Kazakhstan
January 30 — Ostrava, Czechia
February 04 — Boston, Massachusetts (New Balance GP)
February 06 — Toruń, Poland
February 10 — Liévin, France
February 11 — New York, New York (Millrose Games)
February 23 — Madrid, Spain

The U.S. has no Silver or Challenger meets but has 1 Bronze (Sander Invitational on 1/27).

The London DL Remains A Go

Britain’s Diamond League meeting will stay on the schedule for next year even after news that this year’s edition of the popular London affair took a financial hit despite a sellout audience of 50,000.

UK Athletics CEO Jack Buckner told insidethegames, “We always thought going back to the London Stadium for the first year given where we were would be challenging. But as a board we thought: ‘Do you know what? It’s the right thing to do.’”

The meet was subsidized to the tune of $181,000 from UK Sport, but with no sponsorship or broadcast income, it reportedly lost something from $500,000 to over a million dollars.

Buckner added, “In terms of a long-term strategy, whilst last year was a bit disappointing, we felt there were enough positives in it, and that it’s the right place to be. And if we can sell it out every year and build that audience and get the commercial income in we can have a really good event there.”

In another challenge to the sport in Britain, organizers in Birmingham confirmed that the World Indoor Tour meet scheduled for February has been canceled because of the city’s financial problems. The cancellation raises questions of whether the city will be able to stage the ’26 European Championships as planned.

New Training Setup For Grant Fisher

Some 9 months before the Olympics, Grant Fisher has announced his departure from the Nike Bowerman TC and the coaching of Jerry Schumacher, saying the club “has been a huge and defining part of my life for the past 4 years. My time there has been transformative for me as an athlete and as a person, but I no longer see my best future being with the club moving forward.”

In his tenure with the club Fisher has gone from an NCAA 5000 champion for Stanford to the American Record holder at 3000, 5000 and 10,000. At 10,000, he placed 5th in the ’21 Olympics and 4th in the ’22 Worlds.

There has not yet been an announcement of Fisher’s destination, which has fueled much speculation. “This is a big change but one that I am excited about and ready for,” his Instagram post concluded.

The announcement comes as the BTC has undergone changes, with both Schumacher and assistant Shalane Flanagan having taken coaching positions at Oregon.

Miler Cooper Teare left the club a few days after Fisher, saying, “Moving forward I feel it’s in my best interest to go another direction.”

OT Marathon Heat Concerns Remain

With afternoon starts still on the schedule for the February 03 Olympic Trials marathons in Orlando, some 84 of the competitors signed a petition asking USATF to move the start times to between 6 and 7 a.m., saying that heat and humidity would put the safety of the athletes at risk with the current schedule of 12:10 (men) and 12:20 (women).

USATF CEO Max Siegel agreed to meet on a Zoom call with a number of key athletes, including Sara Hall, Emily Sisson and Jared Ward, to discuss the matter.

According to the petition, every day in February last year in Orlando had a high of 70 (21C) or greater, with high humidity each day, making safety an issue, as well as making it more difficult to hit Olympic qualifying times.

Hall tweeted after the meeting that all parties including NBC were fine with moving the time earlier, but the holdout was the local organizing committee, that she said wanted the later time to potentially get more West Coast viewers. Neither USATF nor the LOC have made any public statements on the issue since the meeting.

Family Feud In Norway

In a shocking revelation, the three Ingebrigtsen brothers (Henrik, Filip and Jakob) have gone public with charges that their father/former coach, Gjert Ingebrigtsen, had “used physical violence and threats as part of his upbringing. We still feel discomfort and fear, which has been in us since childhood.”

They said, in a commentary under all of their names that ran in the Norwegian media, that was why they had broken with him: “We have lived with it, and in adulthood we have moved on. At least we thought so. In retrospect, we realize that it was naive. But two years ago, the same aggression and physical punishment struck again. It was the drop that made the cup run over.”

They added, “We should have contributed to stopping the situation earlier. The fact that we didn’t do it weighs on us. Two years ago we had enough. From this moment we chose to break with our father. Then it also became impossible for us to continue with him as coach.”

Gjert currently coaches Norway’s Narve Gilje Nordås, who took the 1500 bronze in Budapest, just a hair behind Jakob’s silver. Dad responded through a lawyer, “The statements they make are baseless. I have never used violence against my children. That I have had weaknesses as a father, and have been too much of a coach, is a realization I have also come to — albeit far too late.”

Police have opened an inquiry into the case, an inspector saying, “Investigations into cases concerning abuse in close relationships are cases which, by their nature, require a thorough investigation over some time.”

A Doping Problem In India?

WADA is investigating the Delhi State Championships in India, following news that many of the attending athletes fled the scene after news broke that drug testers had arrived, along with investigators determined to check athlete ages. In one event, the Junior boys 100, 7 of the 8 lanes in the final were left empty. In the steeplechase, one athlete crossed the finish and kept running to evade investigators.

Video emerged from the meet that showed large quantities of drug paraphernalia left in the stadium bathrooms.

India rates second only to Russia in the number of doping violations. The president of the Indian federation, Adille Sumariwalla, vowed to launch his own investigation as well. “We will have a fully-fledged inquiry and maybe we are going to look at passing some rules that if something like this happens how are we going to handle it. There is no rule set by WADA by which we can actually take action on the seven.”

The news comes as India is making a strong push to be awarded the 2036 Olympics.

De Grasse Changes Coaches Again

Andre De Grasse has returned to the coaching of controversial Rana Reider, who helped him to win 200 gold in Tokyo in ’21. In between, the 28-year-old Canadian and hurdling wife Nia Ali have been working with John Coghlan.

De Grasse told CBC, “At the end of my season, my partner Nia and I made the decision to move our family back to Jacksonville. It’s a much better setup for our kids with schools and extracurricular activities.”

Reider, who admitted to a consensual relationship with an 18-year-old athlete, is serving a one-year probation from U.S. SafeSport. That still allows him to coach elite sprinters. De Grasse will be a rejoining a group that now includes Trayvon Bromell and Tokyo 100 champ Marcell Jacobs.

“Obviously there were some distractions in 2022,” said De Grasse, “but those issues have been resolved and I enjoyed my first week of training with the group.”

Coghlan said there were no hard feelings. “He’s in a great position going into an Olympic year, to be honest. He’s way ahead and probably in a better position now going into an Olympic year than 2020.”

The Latest On The Russian Front

The IOC has banned the Russian Olympic Committee after it added sports councils from four occupied regions in Ukraine, saying the “Unilateral decision constitutes a breach of the Olympic Charter because it violates the territorial integrity of the NOC of Ukraine.”

The banning of the ROC means that the organization is cut off from millions of dollars of IOC revenue. IOC head Thomas Bach, however, has assured the Russians that they can be directly invited to the Paris Games to compete as neutrals: “We do not punish or sanction athletes for the acts of their officials or government.”

Russian IOC board members such as former vaulter Yelena Isinbaeva will still get full privileges, as Bach says, “They are not the representatives of Russia in the IOC. They are the representatives of the IOC in Russia.”

Meanwhile, WADA still has the Russian anti-doping agency, RUSADA, in the non-compliant column because of “non-conformities” in government legislation on doping. That case is now headed to the CAS, with the Russians appealing the determination. ◻︎

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