Olympic News Roundup: Changes at the USOPC; Next American Track Star Emerging

SwimSwam will periodically update you on the biggest news around the Olympic and Paralympic world, outside of aquatic sports. Read on to learn about the changes within the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, American teenager Erriyon Knighton taking the track world by storm, cricket’s bid to be included in the 2028 Olympics, and an update on two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner’s ongoing detainment in Russia.

USOPC leadership to change

Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), discussed the organization’s restructuring during a recent interview with The Sports Examiner

After ruffling some feathers with the firing of longtime Chief of Sport Performance Rick Adams, Hirshland is reorganizing the USOPC into five divisions. She’s recruiting for a new position that encompasses the previous Chief of Sport and Athlete Services roles. 

“It’s a very broad role, with several functions,” Hirshland said. “It isn’t a new Head of Sport Performance. It’s a broad-based leadership role that will oversee a number of the areas for us as an organization.”

Additionally, USOPC Board Susanne Lyons is stepping down at the end of the year, ending a 12-year run on the Board. Hirshland hopes that Lyons’ successor could ultimately become the third American representative on the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Olympic rower Anita DeFrantz was elected to the IOC in 1986 and David Haggerty, President of the International Tennis Federation, joined her in 2020.

“Certainly the hope is the new Board Chair would be considered for an IOC seat,” Hirshland said. 

According to The Sports Examiner, former U.S. Ski and Snowboard Chair Dexter Paine and former EY Global Vice Chair for Public Policy Beth Brooke have been mentioned in talks regarding Lyons’ replacement. 

Whoever takes over will inherit a lot of spending money. The USOPC is set to receive almost half a billion dollars from its partnership with Los Angeles 2028 Olympic organizers from 2021-28. They have a sales goal of over $2.5 billion listed on their LA28 budget. 

Bolt’s record under threat?

Erriyon Knighton is barely 18 years old, and only three men in history (Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, and Michael Johnson) have run the 200m faster than the 19.49 he posted Saturday at the LSU Invitational in Baton Rouge. It was the world’s fastest time in the event since the 2012 Olympics. 

After breaking Bolt’s junior sprint records last year, Knighton obliterated his own U20 mark of 19.84 set at last year’s Olympic Trials. Last summer in Tokyo, where he was the youngest male track and field athlete to represent the U.S. since Jim Ryun in 1964, he finished fourth in the 200m with a 19.93. 

Less than a year later, the 6-foot-3 Tampa native has already shaved a half-second off those times. For context, Bolt’s best time as an 18-year-old was 19.94. The Jamaican legend’s seemingly untouchable world record of 19.19 might just be in jeopardy by Paris 2024 if Knighton keeps up his current pace. 

Next up for Knighton are the USATF Outdoor Championships in June and the world championships in July, if he makes the team. Both meets take place in Eugene, Oregon, where he went 19.84 last summer.

In other track news, a pair of Olympic hurdles champions won events at the Penn Relays on Saturday in Philadelphia, which drew a television audience of 225,000 on ESPN2 – the only Olympic-sport event to draw an audience of more than 200,000 last week. 

400m gold medalist Sydney McLaughlin prevailed in the 100m hurdles with a 12.75 and 800m gold medalist Athing Mu triumphed in the 600m with a 1:22.74, the fourth-best time ever in the event. Devon Allen, who recently signed with the Philadelphia Eagles football team as a wide receiver, won his third 110m hurdles race in a row this season in 13.11, the second-fastest time this year. Allen had close competition from Jamaica’s 2016 Olympic champion, Omar McLeod (13.22).

Cricket’s Olympic bid gets boost 

A $3 million bid by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to have cricket included in the LA28 Games was enhanced by Sunday’s news that a 10,000-seat cricket stadium will be built in Irvine, California. 

The odds of cricket’s addition have been considered low ever since it was left off a provisional list of 28 sports for 2028 last year. But with infrastructure now in the works, there might be enough to change the Los Angeles 2028 Local Organizing Committee’s mind before an official proposal is made next year. Even if the bid falls short, the stadium at Great Park will serve as the home for Major League Cricket’s Southern California-based franchise. 

“Our investment in Major League Cricket (MLC) in America is based on our belief in the exciting future of cricket in the USA and is well-aligned to our strategy of establishing Knight Riders as a global brand in T20 cricket,” said Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan, who is part of Knight Riders Group – a backer of the project and founding investor in MLC. “Plans to build a world-class cricket stadium in the greater Los Angeles area is exciting for us and MLC. This will no doubt have a transformational impact for cricket in one of the world’s most iconic metropolitan destinations.”

Cricket hasn’t been included in the Olympics since 1900.

Griner’s status updated to ‘wrongfully detained’

More than two months after her arrest in Russia, the U.S. State Department has updated the status of WNBA star Brittney Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, as “wrongfully detained.”

The State Department is expected to be more active in negotiating Griner’s release. According to ESPN, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson has agreed to take the case. Richardson has worked privately for years as an international hostage negotiator. 

Griner, who plays for a Russian team during the WNBA offseason, was detained in February while entering the country at a Moscow-area airport. Russian prosecutors allege that she illegally brought vape cartridges containing hashish oil. Griner hasn’t been formally charged yet, but a hearing is scheduled for May 19.

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Amadeus Quix
4 months ago

“NEXT AMERICAN TRACK STAR EMERGING”

I thought this was in relation to Dean Farris retiring from swimming and preparing to dominate track and field…

Awsi Dooger
4 months ago

There’s no such thing as current pace. Finding those extra three tenths is exponentially more difficult than dropping from 19.8 to 19.49. A swimming site should be well aware of that because it’s just like finding 3 more tenths in 50 meter freestyle, especially if that 50 meter world record was considered legendary and untouchable.

Knighton’s problem is he isn’t particularly marketable. He’s got an arrogant sourpuss attitude and facial expressions. I hope he matures and gets rid of that. The sport needs a young American male superstar. Athing Mu is such a gem both in talent and personality. Note her playful pose after the Penn Relays interview last weekend.

Last edited 4 months ago by Awsi Dooger
the olden days
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
4 months ago

If there was an 18yo swimmer who went 17.93 in the 50 free, this swimming site would go bananas with speculation that said swimmer could make a run at 17.63 in the coming years. It’s a safe bet that an 18yo athlete is going to get better.

AThomas
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
4 months ago

“Knighton’s problem is he isn’t particularly marketable. ” Yeah, other than he will be the fastest man on foot in the history of humanity.

Pvdh
4 months ago

18 yo going 19.49 is….I don’t even believe it’s real

Breezeway
4 months ago

Knighton is going to be a beast. Expect a big summer from him

Beachmouse
Reply to  Breezeway
4 months ago

Watching a dominant runner like that just explode off the turn in the 200M is a thing of beauty. The guy who finished second in the race finaled in the event last year at the Olympics so the field was not weak either.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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