Congratulations to Kosovo, which won its first medal in a major Games, with Nora Gjakova's bronze in the women's 57kg judo. The nascent independent nation was granted Olympic recognition by the IOC in December, and entered the 2015 European Games with as its debut. Aside from Gjakova, Kosovo also boasts Majlinda Kelmendi, the two-time world champion in judo's 52kg division as their best hope for a medal at Rio. Kelmendi is injured and not competing in Baku, but did carry her nation's flag at the opening ceremonies.
A Lone Argentinean Gold
Argentina's Nicolas Cordoba won the lone gold not won by either Brazil or host Colombia at the 2015 South American Gymnastics Championships in Cali, with his victory in the high bar at the start of the week, and to close out the competition. Brazil did end the Championships with 18 medals overall to top the table, including a sweep of all of the women's golds, including the team and all individual events.
Paris Opens 2024 Bid
Paris officially announced its candidacy for the 2024 Summer Games, joining the race against Boston, Hamburg, and Rome. The city hosted the Olympics in 1924, but lost out on bids in 1992, 2008, and 2012 when it was considered the frontrunner. Fourth time might be a charm.
And In Other Bid News
China announced this week an investigation on charges of corruption against Xiao Tian, the vice chairman of the Chinese Olympic Committee. This comes weeks ahead of the IOC vote on the site for the 2022 Winter Games, for which Beijing is one of the two candidates. While some argue that such public attempts to root our corruption - real or not - may enhance an improving an image of transparency for the nation, it also could cast a pall over an Olympic decision for IOC members tired of palls.
And In Even More Other Bid News
Rome 2024 won official city council support this week, after being called a potential 'MafiaCapitale' by leading opponents of the bid. The council vote, largely ceremonial anyway, was 38-6 in favor of the bid proceeding.
And Even Tokyo 2020 Has Controversy
Not to be left out of the controversy mix, Tokyo 2020 finds itself in a home-grown image problem of its own. (What Olympics would it be if it didn't have one?) The much argued-about new Olympic stadium seems to be a go, after governmental reassurances this week. White elephant? Turtle? Yep...
Asian Fencing Championships Start
The 2015 Asian Fencing Championships in Singapore started on Thursday with an upset, as Korea's Olympic champion Kim Ji-Yeon lost in the women's sabre semifinals to China Shen Chen. Competition continues through the 30th. China also won the men's epee with Jiao Yunlong to sweep the first day.
Sprint Track National Championships Drama
These would be quiet weeks in athletics, without many international track and field events - if it weren't for the various national championships held in advance, and as trials for, the upcoming World Championships. And, as typical, the Jamaican and U.S. sprint competitions are creating lots of buzz. Usain Bolt (with byes anyway into the Worlds) drops out of the Jamaican trials. Yohan Blake doesn't make it out of the semifinals, while Asafa Powell posts the third-fastest time this year in the 100. Meanwhile, Tyson Gay made an emphatic champion's return on the U.S. side, just beating new sensation Trayvon Brommell. And, on the women's side, former world champion Carmelita Jeter failed to make the 100 meter team, which will be comprised of newer faces Tori Bowie, English Gardner, and Jasmine Todd. And then, stalwart Sanya Richards-Ross failed as well to make even the final of the 400, and world best so far this season Francena McCorory didn't make the individual cut in the event, which was eventually won by Allyson Felix (she's running the 400!). Lots of new faces and lots of eager competition...the Beijing Worlds will be exciting! (p.s., man, the U.S. is deep)
World Hockey League Semifinals Set
The quarterfinals of the FIH's World Hockey League Semifinals are set, for both the men's and women's tournaments in Antwerp. On the men's side, Australia and surprising Belgium lead the way, with upstart Malaysia also in the mix. For the women, the Netherlands and New Zealand were the group winners to lead the next round. A lot is on the line in these next games, as all semifinalists qualify for the Hockey League Finals at the end of the year, and the top three for both men and women qualify for the Olympics.
The inaugural European Games ended in Baku this weekend, on a mixed note overall. To be fair, a major new multi-sport event in an already-crowded sports calendar was sure to be tough to draw in top-flight senior competition. With the FINA Worlds next month, swimming was limited to a junior-level event. Track and field was the bottom-rung of the European team event. On the other hand, judo doubled as the European Championships (France winning both men's and women's team events). Overall, competition was smooth and, well, competitive. Russia ended the two weeks on top of the medal table - by far, with 164 medals, far out-pacing second place Germany's 66. Host Azerbaijan ended in third, with 56. Those medal totals alone should alert to the not fair comparison to widespread elite competition. But, baby steps. Then again, the 2019 Games - only four years away - are not scheduled in any host city yet after the Netherlands withdrew. (My guess is Russia stepping in...)
New UCI Logo
The Union Cycliste Internationale has re-branded with a new logo, which aims to "strengthen the UCI's identity and to increase its visibility across all applications." Is it me, or is this not really a big change?
Europe's U-21 Football Moves to the Final
The new champion of men's U-21 football in Europe is about to be crowned, as the semifinals were completed to close out this week. Portugal and Sweden will meet each other in the final on the 30th, after taking out Germany (5-0!) and Denmark, respectively. Rivalries between the four will be renewed at Rio 2016 as all four qualified for the Olympic U-23 tournament with their semifinal placements. Defending U-21 champions Spain surprisingly failed to qualify for this year's tournament.
And the FIFA Women's World Cup Moves to the Semifinals
Elsewhere in football, the women completed the quarterfinals to set up a couple of intriguing semifinals this week. An improving U.S. team will take on Germany, and defending champion Japan will meet surprise England. The match of the tournament saw Germany heartbreakingly (if you're a French fan) take out France in the quarters over penalty shootout, while England eliminated hometown Canadians, who had strong hopes of making it to the finals. Now that England is in the semis, and possibly can be the top European team...again, how wrong is it that they can not represent the U.K. at the Olympics. The sport needs their participation in qualifying.
As Does UEFA's Women's U-17
The future World Cup stars from Europe shined this week, as the women's football championship for U-17 moved into the semifinal phase. Both finalists from last year - champions Germany and runners-up Spain are in the running again, and will face Switzerland and France, respectively on July 1.
Mountain Bike Marathon Worlds
Getting back to UCI, the Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships were held this week in Val Gardena, Italy. (I can't imagine anything sounding more grueling on a bike) The men's podium had a familiar look: gold medalist Alban Lakata of Austria previously won in 2010, and has three second-place finishes, including last year. This year's silver medalist, Christoph Sauser of Switzerland has a 3-1-2 medal record before 2015. And bronze medalist Leonardo Paez of Colombia has a previous silver and bronze. The women's side was just as routine: winner Gunn-Roita Dahle Flesja of Norway was the gold medalist five earlier tries; in second was Denmark's Annika Langvad, who won in 2011 and '12; and in third was Germany's Sabine Spitz, who has one win and five silvers to her credit. Congrats to all! (But let's get some fresh blood out there)
Serbia Tops Europe in Women's Basketball
The FIBA EuroBasket Women's tournament ended after three weeks of competition, with Serbia the champions for the first time, after a 76-68 victory over France. Defending champions Spain recovered from their semifinal defeat against the French to win the bronze, over Belarus. With the gold, Serbia also qualified for the Olympic tournament for the first time.
And Also in Water Polo
Serbia is having a great summer - winning the U-20 World Cup (men's soccer), the EuroBasket (women's basketball), and now the FINA Water Polo World League Super Final, the annual top league competition. Serbia defeated Croatia in the final, and in a confidence-builder for the Olympic hosts, Brazil won third place over the U.S.
The Road to Volleyball's Grand Prix Finals Begins
28 national teams have entered the annual premier league-style competition, with play beginning as Cuba defeated Australia 3-0 in the first match. Six teams will enter the final round, starting July 22 in Omaha, Nebraska.
The FIVB Beach Volleyball Worlds began in The Hague this week, with wins by both of the top Dutch pairs; #10 seed Marleen van Iersel & Madelein Meppelink on the women's side, and #9 Reinder Nummerdor & Christiaan Varenhorst on the men's. Competition continues through the 5th.
A New U.S. Track League?
Citing the 2016 World Indoor Championships in Portland and the 2021 World Championships in Eugene as an inspiration, TrackTown USA announced a new track and field series to start in 2016. It's been tried before, but good luck!
The Island Games Start
Featuring 16 sports like archery, badminton, and swimming exclusively for island territories such as Greenland, Sark, and the Shetland Islands, the XVI Island Games began this weekend in Jersey. Since 1985, Jersey, Isle of Man and Guernsey have been the top powers. If ever there was a stage for Yns Mon or Gotland to make a mark...
As Does The World Police and Fire Games
The 2015 World Police and Fire Games opened in Fairfax, Virginia this week. Not familiar? Open to any active law enforcement or fire fighting professional throughout the world, the event usually attracts over 12,000 competitors from around the world, in 61 sports. That's a lot...and second only to the Olympics in number of participation. And even better...all events are free.
And the U-19 Basketball Championship
The FIBA Men's U-19 Basketball World Championship started in Heraklion, Greece, with 16 teams to compete through the week. In the first matches, the U.S., the defending champions, won, along with Croatia, Spain, and host Greece.