Kayla Harrison's golden streak continues; more Olympic notes
Kayla Harrison has been there and won that, but eight months after becoming the first U.S. judoka to win gold at an Olympics, Harrison isn't about to throw away her talent the way she throws her opponents. Last weekend, she used a familiar arm bar to win the 70kg division at the Pan American Open in Buenos Aires, proof that she isn't slowing down since capturing gold at 78kg in London.
Harrison trains under former world champ Jimmy Pedro, but Pedro's father, Jim Sr., advised last year that it would be okay to step aside if she happened to take gold in London. "Go ahead, retire. You'll have earned it," the senior Pedro, a respected competitor in his day, said at the time. "Take your victory lap. You can't go any higher than winning the Olympics." But Harrison told SI last year, "I really can't see stopping if I can still be at my best. Win or lose, I can still learn new things, and that's exciting. What would I do if I watched the next Olympics on TV and wished I was there?"
The first time Olympic gold medalist has been rightfully celebrated not only for her achievement, but also her courage in confronting a tortured past. She has kept a remarkable sunny-side-up disposition -- and no apparent resentment for the sport -- despite being abused by her first coach Daniel Doyle, who is serving a ten-year jail sentence.
Getting famous Olympians to endorse Olympic bid cities is a bit like presidential candidates trying to win primaries by luring party luminaries into their camps, and with no U.S. bid city in the fold for 2020, U.S. athletes are fair game for endorsements. Tokyo recently got the nod from Carl Lewis, the supreme sprinter who had one of his finest meets in Tokyo at the '91 World Championships. "I'll be at the Games wherever they are," Lewis said recently while standing in the city's Olympic Stadium, "but I hope it's here." Lewis won the 100 meters in world-record time in Tokyo and anchored the U.S. 4x100-meter relay team to gold.
In a case of lousy timing for Istanbul, one of Tokyo's fellow bidding cities, Asli Cakir Alptekin, the Turkish Olympic champion at 1,500 meters in London, was cited for so-called "abnormalities" in her blood samples this week, just as the IOC's evaluation commission was set to visit Istanbul for the requisite site visit. The commission will release a report on the technical merits of the bid, but potential doping cases can adversely impact a bid's impression, especially as the general membership will select the host city for the 2020 Games in September. Madrid is the third city under consideration. Cakir Alptekin's countrywoman Gamze Bulut finished second in the London race and could be moved up from her silver-medal finish. Maryam Jusuf Jamal of Bahrain won bronze in the race and Russia's Tatyana Tomashova was fourth. Abnormalities in the samples -- base results that differ significantly from sample to sample -- can be grounds for doping offenses. Cakir Alpetkin served a two-year suspension for a test in 2004 at the World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy, where she placed sixth. As a result, she may face a lifetime ban this time, if she is found to have doped.
Consider Detroit the mecca of U.S. figure skating. Not only do ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the only U.S. medalists at the recent world championships, train there, but now Skate America, the signature annual invitational meet will take place there Oct. 15-18. The event originally had a regular home in Lake Placid, site of the 1980 Olympics. It kicks off the international grand prix season, of particular significance in an Olympic year.
It's time for a recount at US Rowing. The governing body of rowing in the U.S. held its annual elections for spots on its board of directors on Feb. 4 with little fanfare, until the organization discovered evidence of unauthorized access to an online voting system that, in theory, could have impacted election results. The federation has hired a Colorado Springs-based law firm to investigate the results after one of its non-voting followers spoke up and said he was able to log in to VoteNet, the system used to count votes.
The U.S. Women's curling team earned a spot for the Olympics this week by finishing fourth at the World Championships in Riga, Latvia. Scotland won gold, followed by Sweden and Canada, which beat the U.S., 8-6, for the bronze medal. The Scots, who compete under a separate flag at world championships, qualified the Olympic place for Great Britain. The men's world championships begin on Mar. 30 in Victoria, B.C.