Dale Oen's death shocks Olympic world; U.S. hoops with tough draw
Less than two years after U.S. swimmer Fran Crippen died during an open-water race in Dubai, the swimming world lost another star athlete at just 26 years old when Alexander Dale Oen passed away during a training camp in Flagstaff, Ariz. on April 30. The reigning world champion in the 100-meter breaststroke suffered cardiac arrest and was found on his bathroom floor by one of his teammates. Dale Oen would have been a favorite to win the race at the London Olympics.
The Norwegian was a self-proclaimed water rat, who started out as a poor swimmer, but liked it too much to stay away for long. He liked to fish and wakeboard, and enjoyed being near the sea. He trained to keep up with his older brother, Robin, and their parents often drove the siblings 75 miles to practice at 5:30 in the morning. "I truly admire their glow and work ethic," Alex said. "It's easy finding the power within yourself when you have family like that."
Even though Dale Oen won a silver medal in 2003 at the European junior world championships, a new coach, Stig Leganger-Hansen, convinced him he was too light and put him on a strict regimen of dryland training and weights. At the Athens Olympics in 2004, he went out too fast in the first 50 meters and finished 21st, badly missing out on the final eight. "Then and there," he said recently, "I decided that I was never going to watch the 100-meter breaststroke final from the stands again. That was the beginning of what is today my career so far."
Dale Oen finished second to Japan's Kosuke Kitajima at the Beijing Games four years later, but finally overcame Kitajima at the worlds in Shanghai last summer. His powerful technique was as close to flawless as many coaches have seen. He wrote words that sound as though they came from a Lou Gehrig speech, though there was no known medical issue affecting him. "I am very lucky to be doing what I love the most," he said this year. "I sometimes feel like time doesn't stretch out to those I want to share it with. In my world, I am one of the luckiest humans alive."
Earlier this week, the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the British Olympic Association's decision to impose lifetime bans for serious drug offenses. In doing so, it set a precedent that other national Olympic committees will need to follow, while also polarizing the sporting landscape in the country that will host the next Olympics.
Hardliners see this is a shallow victory for the World Anti-Doping Agency that pushed hard to limit the bans. Among other things, the current ruling prevents there from being a sort of uniformity in the severity of penalties that can be administered across all sports and in all countries. Some federations maximize their penalties at two years, but the International Weightlifting Federation handed out 28 four-year bans in 2011. The decision will likely make it easier for suspended athletes to appeal future bans and may subject them to conflicting jurisdictions, irrespective of CAS.
Because of this ruling, sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar will be allowed to participate at the London Games. The arbitration ruling has met with approval from former world champion hurdler Colin Jackson and Jonathan Edwards, an Olympic champ in the triple jump, though others, such as Paula Radcliffe, the country's best known distance runner and a staunch anti-drug advocate, have expressed disgust over the ruling. Britain's Roger Black, an Olympic silver medalist in the 400 hurdles, said simply, "It's a sad day."
The U.S. wrestling team is a step closer to fielding a full squad at the London Olympics, as Shawn Bunch qualified his spot in the 132-pound freestyle class at a qualifying tournament in Taiyuan, China last weekend. The top three wrestlers in the tournament, featuring athletes from non-qualified nations, received Olympic berths -- Bunch placed third, defeating Bazar Bazarguruev of Kyrgyzstan to earn the spot. The U.S. team has now qualified 17 of 18 possible wrestling slots, and is missing only the 211.5-pound class position in Greco-Roman competition, a place the team can still win at a final meet in Helsinki next weekend. Though Bunch secured the place for the team, he must still earn the right to wrestle in London himself, by winning a secondary Olympic trials to be held in weight classes that were not yet qualified for the Games at the time of the primary U.S. trials in Iowa City last month.
It isn't quite the group of death, but the U.S. men's basketball team drew a tough opening bracket in the qualifying round of the Olympics. The defending champs will face African qualifier Tunisia, European silver medalist France and 2004 gold medalists Argentina; two other teams will join the group from an Olympic qualified in July. In that round, the U.S. will likely see some familiar faces from the NBA's San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker of France and Manu Ginobili of Argentina. The U.S. team has an enormous pool of talent, but has already suffered injuries to Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose, two players originally expected to make the cut.
It may sound like a broken record, but another IOC member has been disgraced by a plagiarism scandal. South Korean member Moon Dae-sung, an Olympic taekwondo champon in 2004, was stripped of his thesis called "Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching and its effect on taekwondo athletes" after sections were found to have been copied from another college student. Moon, 35, was chosen to the IOC's Athletes' Commission in 2008 and been eyeing a political career in his homeland. He withdrew his membership in the influential Saenuri party after the revelations last week. Last month Pal Schmitt, a longtime IOC member from Hungary and the nation's former president, was also exposed for having plagiarized sections of his doctoral thesis.