The End of the Old Guard?

Review of the week: 12 – 18 October 2015

British Team Cycling at the 2012 Summer Olympics – Women's team pursuit

Boxing came to Cuba under American influence. Although it would later convert to communism, the United States helped it to become independent from Spain in 1902, and Havana staged world title fights. Its first professional world champion was Eligio Sardinas, or Kid Chocolate, in 1931, long before Fidel Castro puffed on his first cigar.

But now the student has surpassed the teacher. In Doha, at the World Amateur Boxing Championships, Cuba maintained its decades long period of dominance by winning four golds, while the US finished with no medals of any colour, for the second time in a row.

And new nations are emerging as well. From Central Asia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan won multiple medals but no golds this year, Morocco won its second world title, and Ireland won its first, for Michael Conlan. Ireland has fared well at recent Olympics too, in a regime started by a Cuban coach. The former student has now become a teacher.

In cycling, Great Britain has also overtaken more traditional powers in the last twenty years. The women’s pursuit team which won at London 2012 (above) continues to beat all comers, from Europe at least, although world champions Australia will be tougher.

At those same European Championships, two members of the team won two more gold medals each, Laura Trott in the scratch race and the omnium, and Katie Archibald in the individual pursuit and the elimination race. But in the sprints, the British seem to have been usurped by the Dutch, who surprisingly won the individual events for both sexes.

France, the old guard of cycling, had appeared to be making a comeback. But its six time world champion, Francois Pervis, was disappointing, taking home a single silver medal.

20140826 - press conference - FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship - France men's national volleyball team 01

In volleyball, the roles were reversed. The French team (above), without much history of success, became European champions, while Italy and Poland were shocked by Slovenia.

But neither France nor defeated finalist Slovenia is guaranteed to travel to Rio because the European Championship is not used as a qualifying event. There is a long way to go.

The old guard did have some victories this week. At the World Championships of 470 class sailing, Matthew Belcher of Australia won a sixth gold in a row. And the Olympian, Natalia Partyka of Poland, secured European singles and team titles in para table tennis.

But the last word belongs to Zimbabwe’s women’s football team. In an earlier round of the Olympic qualifying tournament, it could not afford to travel to the Ivory Coast and conceded the match 3-0. But the Ivory Coast withdrew and it went on to play Cameroon which it beat to qualify. French cyclists and US boxers surely know how Cameroon feels.

Next week: Doha goes from one major global event to another – IPC World Athletics

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