Boxing: Cuba and the Cuba Domadores lead the way at the end of the WSB Regular Season

The World Series of Boxing is a league created by AIBA where boxers with few professional bouts compete in teams using the 10 point system. It was meant to be a bridge connecting amateurs to professional boxing. Entering in its fifth season and for the second Olympics this league offers Olympic qualification spots for athletes. An expanded 17 quotas (1 in -49kg, -91kg and +91kg and 2 in the other seven categories) are up for grabs to the top rank athletes at the end of the regular season.

The format of this league consisted of 16 teams that were split into 2 groups of 8 teams. Each team played the other team twice for a total of 14 matches while each weight category competed in a total of 7 events. The top team from each group goes to the semifinals while second and third qualifies to the quarterfinals. The regular season for the series began on January 15th 2015 and ended April 27th 2015.

In Group A it was the defending champions the Cuba Domadores which qualified to the semifinals finishing a perfect 14-0 in the regular season including a 63-7 individual bout record. Second place went to the Russian Boxing Team and third went to the Mexico Guerreros.

In Group B the Astana Arlans Kazakhstan also placed a similar dominate performance by finishing the regular season with a 13-1 record and will be the favourites to challenge the Cuba Domadores for the league title. Second place went to the Azerbaijan Baku Fires and third went to the Italian Thunder.

In terms of Olympic qualification it was Cuba that were the big winners by qualifying in 5 different categories (-52kg, -60kg, -64kg, -75kg and -81kg). Unsurprisingly many of the qualified athletes were former World and Olympic medalists including Yosvany Veitia Soto (bronze in 2013 Worlds), Lazaro Alvarez Estrada (gold in 2011 and 2013 Worlds, bronze in 2012 Olympics), Yasniel Toledo Lopez (silver in 2011 and 2013 Worlds, bronze in 2012 Olympics) and Julio Cesar la Cruz Peraza (gold in 2011 and 2013 Worlds).

Other nations with multiple qualified athletes included Russia in 3 categories (-56kg, -69kg and -75kg); including 2013 world silver medalist Vladimir Nikitin, Ireland in 2 categories (-49kg and -56kg); includeing 2008 and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Patrick Barnes and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Michael Conlan.

The other quotas went to Azerbaijan (-60kg), Croatia (+91kg), Italy (-81kg), Kazakhstan (-91kg), Mexico (-64kg), Morocco (-69kg) and Puerto Rico (-52kg).

For athletes participating in the World Series of Boxing there will be one more qualifying event, a combined final qualification event with athletes from AIBA Pro Boxing. Overall Russia leads all nations in qualification so far with 6/10 men’s events already qualified.

With AIBA trying to find some balance between professional, semi-professional and strictly amateur qualification has become a bit complicated given you have three disciplines all trying to qualify for one event. I am following the hierarchy set by AIBA, but like in all events it is up to the nation to confirm each spot and we could see cases where nations may withdraw their pro boxer in favour of their amateur boxer. But until the nation reveals their choice I will follow the hierarchy.

Quotas by Event

Men’s -49kg

  • Ireland (Patrick Barnes)

Men’s -52kg

  • Cuba (Yosbany Veitia Soto)
  • Puerto Rico (Jeyvier Cintron Ocasio)

Men’s -56kg

  • Ireland (Michael Conlan)
  • Russia (Vladimir Nikitin)

Men’s -60kg

  • Azerbaijan (Albert Selimov)
  • Cuba (Lazaro Alvarez Estrada)

Men’s -64kg

  • Cuba (Yasnier Toledo Lopez)
  • Mexico (Raul Curiel Garcia)

Men’s -69kg

  • Morocco (Mohammed Rabii)
  • Russia (Radzhab Butaev)

Men’s -75kg

  • Cuba (Arlen Lopez Cardona)
  • Russia (Petr Khamukov)

Men’s -81kg

  • Cuba (Julio Cesar la Cruz Peraza)
  • Italy (Valentino Manfredonia)

Men’s -91kg

  • Kazakhstan (Vassiliy Levit)

Men’s +91kg

  • Croatia (Filip Hrgovic)

Quotas by Nation

  • Cuba – 5
  • Russia – 3
  • Ireland – 2
  • Azerbaijan – 1
  • Croatia – 1
  • Italy – 1
  • Kazakhstan – 1
  • Mexico – 1
  • Morocco – 1
  • Puerto Rico  – 1

References

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Shooting: China and South Korea Win Big at 1st Pistol and Rifle World Cup

China and South Korea won five quotas a piece at the third shooting World Cup, the first for rifle and pistol events. The event was held in Chongwon, South Korea from April 8th to 16th 2015. In total 24 quotas were up for grabs across the 10 events; 3 quotas for the air pistol and air rifle events and 2 for the other six.

The men’s 10m air rifle was won by Hungary’s Peter Sidi with a score of 208.2. While Yang Haoran and Zhu Qinan of China finished second and third respectively they were not given a quota because China has already qualified two quotas in this event. Therefore the other two quotas went to Kim Sang Do of South Korea and Nicolas Schallenberger of Germany whom finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Asia again has shown its strength in the men’s 50m pistol event where Zhang Bowen won the event giving China its second quota in the event. South Korea’s Park Daehun won the other quota by finishing in second. Currently 6 out of the 7 known quota places have been given to Asian countries.

While Snjezana Pejcic of Croatia won the women’s 10m air rifle event she did not gain an Olympic quota because she has already won a quota in the women’s 50m rifle 3 positions event. Instead the three quota places went to athletes finishing second to fourth, namely Ivana Maksimovic of Serbia, Apurvi Chandela of India and Michaela Arvidsson of Sweden.

The women’s 25m pistol has a different format relative to the other pistol and rifle events where like in the shotgun events there is a semifinal and a head to head final. In the end it was 2008 Olympic silver medalist Otryadyn Gundegmaa of Mongolia that won the event over China’s Lin Yuemei with a score of 7-3. By virtue of reaching the finals both athletes qualify a quota for their nation.

In the men’s 50m rifle prone it was multi-Olympic medalist Matthew Emmons from the United States that won the event and secured an Olympic quota. The second quota went to South Korea’s Kim Hakman whom despite his slow start was able to grab second place.

Jin Jong-oh of South Korea set a new finals world record in the men’s 10m air pistol event with a score of 206.0. However, because Jin Jong-oh already qualified in the men’s 50m pistol he was not given one of the three quotas. In fact you would have to go to sixth place before you could award all of the quotas since both Jitu Rai of India and Hoang Xuan Vinh of Vietnam also qualified previously in the 50m pistol. The quotas went to second place Naung Ye Tun of Myanmar, Serbia’s Dimitrije Grgic and Leonid Ekimov of Russia.

Another finals world record was set in the women’s 50m rifle 3 positions where Snjezana Pejcic of Croatia reached a score of 463.0. However she did not get a quota because she already qualified to this event back at the world championships. Second place Petra Zublasing of Italy also did not gain a quota because she already qualified in the women’s 10m air rifle. The two quota places went to Germany’s Selina Gschwandtner whom finished in third and Zhao Huxin of China.

The women’s 10m air pistol was won by Liubov Yaskevich of Russia with a score of198.3. The other two quotas went to Zhang Mengxue of China and Kwak Jung Hye of South Korea whom finished 0.1 ahead of Anna Korakaki of Greece to take the last spot.

In the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol it was France’s Jean Quiquampoix that won the event and secured the first quota place. The second quota place went to third place finisher Song Jong-ho of South Korea because second place Oliver Geis had already secured his spot during the World Championships.

The final event of the world cup was the men’s 50m rifle 3 positions. The winner was China’s Hui Zicheng while Matthew Emmons from the United States and Han Jinseop of South Korea finished second and third respectively. However because both of those athletes already qualified a quota the final quota went to fourth place Ole Bryhn of Norway.

After this world cup China now leads all nations in the overall quotas with 16 while South Korea has moved up to third with 10. Overall this is good news for Asian nations as it makes things easier for them to qualify at the Asian qualifiers. The next pistol and rifle World Cup will be held next month in the United States where the host nation could be in line for a big performance as they only have 3 quotas in pistol and rifle events.

Quotas by Nation

  • China – 5
  • South Korea – 5
  • Germany – 2
  • Russia – 2
  • Serbia – 2
  • France – 1
  • Hungary – 1
  • India – 1
  • Mongolia – 1
  • Myanmar – 1
  • Norway – 1
  • Sweden – 1
  • United States – 1

References

Opinion: Will Golf Follow the Same Path as Tennis at the Olympics?

In 2009 Golf was one of two sports chosen to be part of the 2016 Olympics. The decision was criticize not only by people who dislike the sport, but even among fans of the sport. Does it really encompass Olympic values, are there enough nations competing, is it even a sport were questions asked by people without the full knowledge of the sport. The golf supporters weren’t any better; the schedule is already too full, will the top players choose to compete, does golf need the Olympics? All these questions were also asked when Tennis made its re-entry to the Olympics in 1988.

While some of the top players went to the 1988 Olympics the field was severely lacking with many of the top players, especially in the men’s draw not participating. Who can blame them; while nations do compete in the Davis or Federation Cup tennis for the most part was considered an individual’s sport and with no money or even ranking points at the time, a gold medal was considered nothing more than a trophy. Of course if you ask the men’s and women’s singles winners at the 1988 Olympics, Miloslav Mecir and Steffi Graf respectively they may give you a different answer, but that was the general overall feeling at the time.

It has been almost 27 years since the 1988 Olympics which means there are very few active players that remember a time when tennis wasn’t played at the Olympics. Many of these players have watched their idols win medals and the joy they’ve shown which makes them in turn want to become Olympians. For example while about half the top players declined to play in 1988 by 2012 only 18 top men and 17 top women missed the Olympics; 18 of them were due to nations only allowed to bring 4 athletes per gender while 9 were due to injuries. Of the 8 remaining six of them did not meet minimal Davis/Fed Cup requirements while Mardy Fish was eligible to compete, but declined. The status for Florian Mayer is unknown.

While the minority would rank Olympic gold as the pinnacle of tennis, today it is at least seen as the next best thing after winning the Grand Slam while others feel a gold medal is comparable to winning a Grand Slam. This is despite the ATP and WTA tours only giving ranking points that would place it between 1000 and 500 level events (between 2nd and 3rd tier at the tours) which essentially means the Olympics is the 15th most important event in a calendar year. Of course reasons for the low point value could be because of the 4 athletes per nation limit and the associations not wanting an event which shows up once every four years messing with the rankings.

Where does this leave golf? Well if history is going to repeat itself the strength of the 2016 field will be called into question. While the International Golf Federation has done a decent job on getting commitments from the highest ranked players and while no player has flat out declined a spot yet it will be interesting to see who competes when the rankings and acceptances are published.

The International Golf Federation also has not done itself any favors with its qualification format. Unlike in tennis where 4 athletes per nation can compete golf only allows 4 athletes per nation to compete if they are all in the top 15, after that only 2 athletes per nation will compete. Looking at the Olympic rankings in golf and assuming everyone accepts the lowest ranked man is ranked 340 and the lowest rank women is ranked 450 meanwhile in 2012 tennis whom has a similar size field the lowest non-wild card ranked athletes were 72 for men and 70 for women and that’s taking into account injuries and declined spots.

Even if the strength of field for golf is like 1988 tennis I do believe the sport will head in the same direction and maybe in about 20 years people will begin ranking Olympic gold alongside the four Opens in golf. The unfortunate part however, is that golf won’t have the same luxury tennis had when it first joined. With the increase competitive nature of summer Olympic events golf is only guaranteed to be an Olympic sport for 2016 and 2020, after that it risks being removed. Their first impression in 2016 will be very important (though the golf course controversy in Brazil isn’t helping) as the IGF will need to work extra hard to assure at least the top 15 eligible athletes attend and hope that the magic of an Olympic medal ignites the desire for other golfers to play at the Olympics.

References

Paul Fein. How Important Is an Olympic Gold Medal in Tennis? Access on March 19 2015.
Wikipedia. Tennis at the 2012 Summer Olympics – Qualification. Access on March 19 2015.
IGF. Golf and the Olympic Games. Access on March 19 2015.

Opinion: Is an Olympic Great Britain Football Team Possible?

Sometimes there are large gaps between Olympic qualification events, especially during the off-season. Instead of leaving this blog idle for so long I plan to fill it up with some other pieces. So if there are no Olympic qualifying events for longer than a week I will post something like an opinion, fun facts or a comment on the current world rankings in a sport. Please remember my opinions are just opinions and it is okay to disagree with it.

Over the past few months the English Football Association has been trying to get approval to send a British football team to the 2016 Olympics. This was met with disapproval from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Football Associations claiming that the 2012 Olympics was a special one-time thing. FIFA eventually stepped in and claimed that unless the four home nations can come up with an agreement they would not authorize it, effectively ending the debate.

The main fear that the home nations have in a united Olympic team is they feel other football associations will attempt to get FIFA to merge the four nations into a single team for all international competitions. To some people this sounds ludicrous; there are several sport federations that have separate associations for the home nations (though Northern Ireland is sometimes combined with the rest of Ireland) yet they are able to compete together for the Olympics. Would FIFA be able to force the home nations to merge?

In article 10 (admission), paragraph 5 in the FIFA Statues states that the four British Associations are recognized as separate members of FIFA, which essentially entrenches them into FIFA law. To remove this line the statute would have to undergo an amendment which would require 75% vote approval from the 209 associations during the FIFA congress. Even if the line is removed the home nations are still protected under paragraph 6 which allows non-independent regions to operate provided it has the authorisation of the dependent country, in this case the United Kingdom. The nations are further protected via paragraph 7 where the statute cannot affect the status of existing members.

Therefore the only way to remove one of the four home nations is through expulsion. There are three ways a nation can be expelled from FIFA; it fails to fulfill its financial obligations, it seriously violates the statutes, regulations, decisions or code of ethics of FIFA or it loses its representation status for the country. The first two things would be self-inflicted, but the third one can be cause for concern. Should a Great Britain Olympic team be created it would be fair to say that a Great Britain (or United Kingdom) Football Association would need to be created which would then cause it to be the parent country of the home nations thus giving it some controlling powers where hypothetically it can shut down the four associations causing them to effectively merge.

That scenario is a bit of a red herring because if a Great Britain Football Association was ever created the home nations would do everything to make sure such a thing will never happen. Other than a complete overhaul of the FIFA statute effectively the only way for the home nations to merge would be if the home nations wanted to merge. The four nations are way too entrenched in the world of football to be cast aside. The main issue comes down to trust; do the nations trust each other enough to let them have a little control over their affairs? With very strained relations and football often being used as a political tool the answer is no.

Another option that may be available is instead of a combined team a qualified nation could use the name Great Britain and only use players from their own nation. However, this was the original plan in 2012 where only English players were supposed to compete, but the British Olympic Association claimed that it would be discriminatory and allowed selection from all four nations. Going back would be hard to do and there is no guarantee that the BOA would not try to force a combined team in the future. So in the end it likely comes down to a combined team or no team.

But even before a team could be sent a more complicated issue would have to be resolved with FIFA, nationality. FIFA rules state that players can only compete for one nation with one change of nationality allowed should the player have not played in a senior level match or under special circumstances like a nation illegally revoking their citizenship. This would essentially prevent many of the top players from competing for Great Britain and the ones that do compete will likely not be able to switch back to their nation. For the 2012 Olympics FIFA made an exception, but that was a one-time exception so something similar would have to be set in place for any of this to work.

Can a Great Britain team be created without risking the identity of the home nations? Yes, but until relations between the four nations improve it is unlikely we will see a Great Britain football team any time soon.

References