In “No Team Can Beat the Draft,” my colleague Neil Paine argued that the player-evaluation market in the NFL appears to be pretty efficient. No team or general manager has shown an ability to consistently pick players who earn better stats in their first five years than we would expect given where they were taken in the draft.Neil’s argument doesn’t imply that no teams are better at general draft strategy than others. Some add value by trading their picks for more valuable picks. Some get value by picking in the “sweet spot” — the area where the return on investment for a pick is the highest (typically late in Round 1 or early in Round 2) — more often than others. Some address their team needs better than others. And so on.Of course, there’s also a lot of uncertainty in how players are valued. For Neil’s analysis, that’s not particularly important, because any arbitrary metric will do: If someone drafts better players, they will generally have more fruitful careers as measured by most metrics. But one weakness that almost all of those metrics share is not really understanding how much each player contributes to the overall quality of a team. This is a completely open question in football, with a wide range of estimates.So rather than looking at how players perform, I thought I’d take a quick look at how teams making certain types of picks perform overall over the next five years, relative to how we would expect teams of their strength to perform over the same period.For example, here’s how teams perform relative to their SRS (Simple Rating System, or margin of victory adjusted for strength of schedule) depending on where in the first round they drafted (using data from 1970 onward):Teams drafting in the top five slightly exceed expectations, while teams in the early and mid-round underperform; teams who draft late in the round do better than we’d think (again, this is in addition to the fact that teams who draft late are generally stronger).This is completely consistent (and, in fact, supports) the Massey-Thaler analysis, which suggests that early first-round picks are somewhat valuable, mid-round picks are not, and then the value of picks rises steadily until peaking in the second round.If we use this result to adjust for when a team makes its picks, we can start to look for other patterns, such as how teams have done after drafting players of certain positions in various spots.For the following table, I first calculated each team’s expected performance (in SRS) over the next five years based on its record, its SRS in the previous year and where it was making their draft pick. Then I compared that expectation to its actual performance, broken down by its draft slot and the position of the player it drafted. Here are the results for the eight positions most commonly drafted in the first round:Granted, these results are noisy. A lot of the difference is likely just variance, but slightly more results seem statistically significant than we would expect. A couple of the strongest results also reflect plausible theories:First, teams who take quarterbacks in the first five picks tend to perform better than expected (unsurprisingly), but teams who take QBs later in the round typically perform worse. This is the result I was hoping to find, based on the theory that marquee quarterbacks are easy to identify, but sorting out the rest is difficult. In other words: If the top QBs are off the board, it’s probably not worth spending a first-round pick (and more money) speculatively.Second, tackles possibly aren’t as valuable as people think. Guards didn’t make the list because a lot fewer of them were taken in the first round, though for those that were, the teams who took them did better than average. This could be explained by tackles being poorly-valued by the market relative to guards.
10Patrik EliasCCzech Rep.89.934.8124.7 14Daniel AlfredssonRWSweden92.828.2121.0✓ 1Nicklas LidstromDSweden75.583.4158.9✓ PlayerPoscountry*Off.Def.TotalWon Gold? 5Alex OvechkinRWRussia126.223.8150.0 6Marian HossaLWSlovakia110.533.6144.2 2Joe ThorntonCCanada112.842.1154.9✓ 20Henrik SedinLWSweden75.432.7108.1✓ Russia’s not-so-golden generation of pro starsOlympic golds among skaters with the most NHL Point Shares, 1998-2018 *Players are listed with the national team they played for in the Olympics.**As of Feb. 18, 2018Source: Hockey-Reference.com 7Zdeno CharaDSlovakia49.288.7137.9 8Sidney CrosbyCCanada110.724.7135.4✓ 9Patrick MarleauCCanada96.232.1128.3✓ 3Jaromir JagrRWCzech Rep.119.833.7153.5✓ 19Henrik ZetterbergLWSweden79.328.9108.2✓ Perhaps it’s no coincidence that in the first Olympic hockey tournament devoid of NHL players since 1994, the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) are dominating. Buttressed by Datsyuk and Kovalchuk (who both left North American hockey in the last five years but are both still good enough to play on most top lines in the NHL), they’ve often decimated their opponents in Pyeongchang, and the OAR team looks as likely as any other to win the gold this weekend. But even if they win it all, it won’t truly count as the kind of Olympic dominance that Russia’s been lacking of late.On top of the the fact that OAR medals don’t count in the national team’s tally, there’s also the matter of never beating the best hockey players the world had to offer. Remember, the Soviet and Unified teams only ever beat groups of amateurs, and although there are plenty of professionals and ex-NHL players skating in South Korea, it would be incorrect to say these Olympics are an exhibition of the globe’s top talent. If the Olympic Athletes from Russia go on to win gold this weekend, they’ll join a long line of champions who beat some pretty good hockey teams — but never quite had to face the best on the planet.Who knows if the NHL and the International Olympic Committee will ever come to terms and allow the sport’s best players to return to the world’s most significant international ice hockey tournament. If not, all-time Russian greats like Ovechkin and Malkin could finish their illustrious careers without ever capturing Olympic gold. And if the NHL stays home again in four years, even a (presumably) restored Team Russia won’t really get a chance to measure itself against the world’s best players.Perhaps Russia will just have to content itself with basking in the on-ice brilliance of president Vladimir Putin: Eight goals by one team might be impressive, but who needs Olympic gold when you have a player who’s capable of netting eight goals by himself? 13Daniel SedinCSweden90.330.9121.1✓ 18Pavel DatsyukCRussia82.129.1111.2 15Chris ProngerDCanada49.669.6119.2✓ What do Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin have in common? They’re all infinitely gifted hockey men from Russia — who’ve never won a gold medal at the Olympics. In fact, no Russian men’s hockey team has ever won gold at the Olympics.That is, of course, slightly disingenuous — between those great Soviet teams of the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and the Unified Team (made up of players from the just-collapsed USSR) that reached hockey’s mountaintop in the French Alps in 1992, teams from what is now Russia have won an astounding eight Olympic golds. But the Russian Federation has never reached such great heights. In the last six Olympics, the country’s hockey teams have only won two medals: a silver at Nagano in 1998 and a bronze at Salt Lake City in 2002. And this year’s team won’t be the one to end the drought. Although Russian athletes have been playing great, they are officially competing as Olympic Athletes from Russia after a widespread doping scandal led to the country being formally banned from this year’s Winter Olympics. Since these athletes aren’t technically playing under the Russian flag, any medals they win can’t contribute to the country’s medal total. Whatever happens, the Russian anthem won’t be playing in Pyeongchang.That one-in-three rate for acquiring medals of any color at the last six Olympics must be jarring — unacceptable? — for a national team so accustomed to slicing its opponents to bits at international ice hockey tournaments. The Soviets are rightly famous for their dominance at the Olympics, but they also cleaned up at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Ice Hockey World Championships: Between 1954 and 1991, they won 22 championships, finishing in second on seven more occasions.1They also won bronze five times. And while the Russian Federation team has had some success in the same competition — they’ve won five World Championships2Plus three silver and four bronze. — it doesn’t have the same luster as capturing gold on the world’s biggest winter athletics stage. This quadrennial shortfall must be a disappointment to Russian hockey fans (and their, uh, hockey role-playing president).Russia’s multigenerational stretch of frustration at the Olympics looks more grim when it’s juxtaposed with the success of Canada and Sweden. The best players to come out of each of these two nations in the past two decades — for example, Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews for Canada, and Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Lundqvist for Sweden — have at least one shiny piece of golden hardware to show for their efforts at the Olympics. Even the Czechs, led by a 25-year-old Jaromir Jagr, grabbed gold at Nagano ’98. Back when the Olympics were played by amateurs, the Soviets were almost unbeatable3Mainly because those Soviet players were amateurs in name only.; not long after the tournament allowed NHL talents to participate, the Russians all but disappeared from the conversation.4A confounding factor here is that the 1988 rule change allowing professional players in the Olympics shortly predated the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Just as the quality of competition was improving, the Russian team would have had a smaller pool of talent to draw from, as a number of countries broke from the USSR to become independent. 16Martin St. LouisCCanada87.927.0114.8✓ 4Jarome IginlaRWCanada119.333.8153.1✓ 12Sergei GoncharDRussia68.056.2124.2 11Teemu SelanneRWFinland99.924.6124.5 Point Shares** 17Evgeni MalkinLWRussia93.519.0112.5
Kyrie Irving318.90.610.4 Tim Duncan6220.127.116.11 Stephen Curry418.23.23-0.2 PlayerAppearancesAvg. Game ScoreExp.Act.Diff. Game Score is a metric that summarizes a player’s statistical production, set to roughly the same scale as points per game.Source: Basketball-Reference.com 2011MIADAL55.913.7 Larry Bird520.63.13-0.1 According to our measure, James is firmly in the middle of this pack of historical greats. That’s probably still a knock if we’re judging his candidacy for the title of absolute GOAT, but adjusting for competition does end up softening the blow of LeBron’s raw Finals record. Individually, James has outplayed almost all of his peers on the game’s biggest stage, but he’s seldom been in a position to convert those performances into championships.And in many ways, 2018 was the ultimate microcosm of James’s Finals career. He went into the series as a massive underdog, after carrying his undermanned Cavs through a grueling Eastern Conference playoff run. Even as James was scoring 51 points in Game 1, JR Smith’s late blunder probably cost Cleveland its best chance to make the Finals competitive. (It also reportedly spurred James to punch a whiteboard in the locker room after the game, injuring his hand for the rest of the series.) Still, according to Game Score, James had one of the best individual NBA Finals of any player since the merger (on a per-game basis) … and for all of his efforts, the Cavs still got swept. He might have been the only player ever, in any sport, who could earn Finals MVP speculation while being on the wrong side of a sweep.This is LeBron James’s fate, it appears. And because of it, we have to measure him relative to his conditions, rather than in the typical vacuum of ring-counting analyses. Perhaps that will be one of James’s enduring legacies: He caused us to bring a new level of nuance to the usual debates about Finals records. Shaquille O’Neal622.63.840.2 2007CLESAS27.5%10.6 Dwyane Wade517.72.031.0 YearTeamOpponentPre-Finals W%Finals Game Score/GWon Finals? Scottie Pippen618.104.22.168 Kobe Bryant716.75.050.0 2017CLEGSW9.629.6 Michael Jordan624.54.16+1.9 2013MIASAS67.422.5✓ 2016CLEGSW27.426.5✓ LeBron James922.62.830.2 K. Abdul-Jabbar816.23.751.3 James Worthy616.12.730.3 Julius Erving421.22.21-1.2 Clyde Drexler319.81.21-0.2 Source: Basketball-Reference.com Hakeem Olajuwon322.214.171.124 Magic Johnson921.14.051.0 LeBron has seldom had much of a chance in the FinalsPre-series odds (via Elo ratings) for LeBron James’s teams in the NBA Finals 2015CLEGSW21.424.6 2012MIAOKC30.823.6✓ Pau Gasol316.31.920.1 Isiah Thomas317.61.920.1 Kevin Durant325.92.42-0.4 Count the (adjusted) ringsNBA championships won vs. expected (based on pre-series Elo ratings) for players with at least 3 Finals appearances and an average Game Score of 15.0 per game, 1977-2018 2018CLEGSW19.628.3 Finals Wins James’s Cavs and Heat teams have generally gone into the Finals with far less than a coin flip’s chance of winning the series. And although James played poorly (especially by his standards) during his first two appearances — including a 2011 matchup with the Dallas Mavericks, in which Miami was favored and could have won if James had only performed better — he’s been playing at a progressively higher level as his Finals career has gone on. With the Warriors’ juggernaut always advancing out of the Western Conference in recent years, though, it hasn’t mattered.So in that sense, it’s not really a surprise that James has that 3-6 record in the Finals. In fact, if you add up the pre-series odds in the table above, you get an expected championship count of 2.8 for James — meaning he’s somehow running 0.2 titles above expectation, despite his record. Although that trails Jordan (who won 1.9 times more than we’d expect from the pre-series odds), it’s better than Bryant, whose 5-2 mark is exactly even with what the probabilities would have expected.Here are those numbers for every player who averaged at least a Game Score of 15.0 across a minimum of three NBA Finals appearances since the ABA-NBA merger: Another year, another NBA Finals defeat for LeBron James. After his Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the Golden State Warriors Friday night, ending a four-game championship sweep, James’s Finals ledger now lists only 3 wins against 6 losses. It’s a mark completely out of step with those of his historical peers, including Michael Jordan (6-0), Tim Duncan (5-1), Kobe Bryant (5-2), Shaquille O’Neal (4-2) and Stephen Curry (3-1). It’s also probably the No. 1 stumbling block in James’s case as the NBA’s greatest-ever player.But, as is usually the case when you dig deeper than simple ring-counting, things are more complicated than they initially seem. For instance: According to the pre-series Vegas lines, Jordan was favored in all six of his Finals bids, while James has been an underdog seven times in his nine trips to the Finals. One of the hallmarks of James’s career has been dragging terrible teammates to the brink of a championship (and none might have been worse than the crew he brought to face the Warriors this season). That’s great for boosting a player’s tally of Finals appearances — but it leads to a terrible record in the title round itself.Because of this, any analysis of rings won has to account for the differing levels of expectation a player’s teams have going into each series. And by that standard, James has actually won more championships than we’d reasonably expect him to, even after falling to the Warriors this year.We can measure a player’s Finals record versus expectation by using FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings (which measure a team’s relative quality at any given moment) to calculate his teams’ pre-series odds of winning the Finals. Add up those probabilities over an entire career, and you get the number of titles we’d expect a player to have won, adjusted for who he played and how good his own team was. Here’s how James’s Finals career breaks down against expectation: 2014MIASAS20.922.5
The end of Ilyumzhinov’s reignResults for World Chess Federation (FIDE) presidential elections Nigel Short🇬🇧 EnglandTBD– Ilyumzhinov’s dual tenures in Kalmykia and at FIDE were dogged by scandal.Once dubbed the “King of Kalmykia,” Ilyumzhinov allegedly used his homeland as a base of operations for illicit activity and intimidated those who stood in his way.In expert witness testimony submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice and obtained by ABC News and FiveThirtyEight, Louise Shelley, the founder and director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University in Washington, D.C., wrote that, “Under the Ilyumzhinov regime, the Kalmyk public and law enforcement agencies were repeatedly accused of interfering in election campaigns, engaging in corrupt activities, [and] covering up and profiting from organized crime.”The allegations, which Ilyumzhinov denies, go beyond corruption. Shelley testified that Ilyumzhinov’s regime “was tainted with gross human rights violations, including suppression of political opposition and harassment of human rights activists.”Perhaps the “grisliest,” she noted, was the assassination “linked to Ilyumzhinov’s name.”“But when you start to touch the purse, when you start to uncover concrete things that touch on money and concrete people, then they kill.”As Ilyumzhinov prepared to welcome players and delegates from more than 100 countries to Kalmykia for the 1998 Chess Olympiad, the mutilated body of a local journalist was discovered in a pond on the outskirts of Elista, the region’s capital city.Larisa Yudina had been the editor of Sovietskaya Kalmykia, an opposition newspaper affiliated with Yabloko, Russia’s most prominent liberal party. According to two of Yudina’s former colleagues, Valery Badmaev and Batyr Boromangnaev, Yudina had discovered details about a scheme involving Kalmykia’s so-called “offshore zone,” a tax haven from which many of Russia’s best-known oligarchs benefited.Yudina’s colleagues said she was poised to report that money paid by companies registered in the offshore zone was flowing into a presidential fund and foreign bank accounts instead of Kalmykia’s budget.“In Russia, you can criticize about some kind of general questions as much as you like,” said Badmaev. “But when you start to touch the purse, when you start to uncover concrete things that touch on money and concrete people, then they kill.”The subsequent federal investigation into Yudina’s murder quickly yielded three suspects — Sergey Vaskin, Vladimir Shanukov and Andrey Lipin — and uncovered a direct link to Ilyumzhinov. The leader Vaskin, a former police officer, was a onetime member of his campaign team.The three men were convicted, and in a Russian court filing detailing their sentences, the judge presiding over the case described how one of the men posed as a disgruntled former employee of an Ilyumzhinov-controlled agency that Yudina was investigating. He appeared to be eager to provide Yudina with compromising documents, luring her to an apartment where she was beaten and stabbed to death.“Her professional activities are creating headaches for some influential people in the republic,” Shanukov testified Vaskin told him. “In connection with that, she needs to be removed.”But in the end the authorities and the court found that “the involvement of other persons in the commission of the crime is not established.”Almost immediately after Yudina’s body was discovered, Yabloko launched its own investigation into the murder, fearing a cover-up by local authorities loyal to Ilyumzhinov. Valery Ostanin, a former police officer with 20 years’ experience, was given full access to the case materials.He called the murder the most “bestial” he had ever encountered. “There was blood on every wall and even on the ceiling,” Ostanin said.According to Ostanin, there was credible evidence linking the murder to Ilyumzhinov, including a flurry of communications between Vaskin and members of Ilyumzhinov’s administration shortly after Yudina’s body was discovered. Yet the investigation stalled, he said, as case materials went missing and key investigators were transferred away.In an interview, Ilyumzhinov acknowledged his acquaintance with Vaskin and his familiarity with Yudina’s reporting, but he dismissed the accusation he had any involvement in the tax scheme or her murder, claiming that he “investigated it specially so that there wouldn’t be conversations” and personally invited the federal agents from Moscow to launch their probe.“There was a trial, there was an investigation, it was proved. The issue is finished,” Ilyumzhinov said. “Let me accuse you or your father of killing John Kennedy or Martin Luther King. It’s absurd.”No charges were ever brought against Ilyumzhinov. In his childhood years, Ilyumzhinov wrote in his autobiography, he “seemed to be living two lives,” one as a troublemaking child, the other (after a lesson from his grandfather) as a chess obsessive.“I became fascinated by chess; I would sit at the checkerboard for hours forgetting everything,” Ilyumzhinov wrote of his childhood. “The 32 white and 32 black checks on the board seemed to me to encompass the duality of the whole world.”After a stint working in a factory and then military service, Ilyumzhinov entered the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, one of Russia’s most prestigious universities and widely known for producing two types of graduates — diplomats and spies.He graduated in 1989, having studied diplomacy and Japanese in the midst of perestroika, an era when the Soviet authorities began to allow limited types of private enterprise.“I wanted to become a millionaire,” he said. So rather than enter, say, the foreign ministry, he became a car salesman. Ilyumzhinov said he made a small fortune importing Japanese and other luxury cars and wrote that he turned some “huge profits” on various high-risk, high-reward ventures.According to Michael Khodarkovsky, a professor of history at Loyola University Chicago who has both studied in and written on Kalmykia, Ilyumzhinov quickly established himself among a new breed of post-Soviet powerbrokers.“His early biography is very murky,” Khodarkovsky said. “After the Soviet collapse, people [like Ilyumzhinov] knew what strings to pull and quickly accumulated sizable fortunes.”With wealth came power, as impoverished institutions looked to Ilyumzhinov and his considerable resources for a financial bailout.He was elected to the Russian parliament in 1990, at which point, he wrote, he “began to allot money from [his] personal funds” to fill the gaps in the state’s budget. A few years later, in 1993, he was elected president of Kalmykia.He was 31 years old. His first decree was to make chess obligatory in Kalmyk schools.FIDE came calling shortly thereafter, and Ilyumzhinov harbors no illusions about the reason behind the sudden interest in his leadership.“Why was I elected? Because FIDE was bankrupt then,” Ilyumzhinov told us. “There was no money. And so they asked me.”In 1995, he was unanimously elected president of FIDE, giving him control of the sport that had long ago captured his imagination. He immediately moved to close FIDE’s debts, spending $2 million, he said, from his personal fortune.It would become apparent, however, that both Kalmykia and FIDE had traded a short-term problem for a long-term ruler whose alleged activities were destined to make headlines around the world for more than two decades.Some headlines were just weird — he has repeatedly claimed he was abducted by aliens in 1997. Others spoke to something more wicked. 2006Kirsan Ilyumzhinov🇷🇺 Russia64%– Garry Kasparov🇷🇺 Russia36%– Whatever lingering suspicions surrounded Ilyumzhinov following the murder investigation, they don’t appear to have loosened his grip on power. He remained firmly entrenched in his Elista headquarters for more than a decade after Yudina’s killing, where throughout his rule a trio of flags waved overhead — one for Russia, one for Kalmykia, and one for FIDE.In the months following the murder, Ilyumzhinov was re-elected president of FIDE. He ran unopposed.According to Garry Kasparov, then the world’s top player and now an outspoken critic of both Ilyumzhinov and the Kremlin, chess insiders were more than willing to look the other way.“[It] just put on display the indifference of the world of chess,” Kasparov said in 2017, “for the source of money that was being used to fund chess activities.”“It’s not a secret. He can go like he is just there for chess, for the chess tournament, but he can deliver a message. And the message won’t get screwed up.”Ilyumzhinov maintained a packed travel schedule that saw him unexpectedly but repeatedly appear beside some of the world’s best-known strongmen leaders, typically under the auspices of promoting the game.In 2003, Ilyumzhinov flew to Iraq, less than two days before the start of the U.S. invasion, where he reportedly met with Saddam Hussein’s son, Uday. In 2011, he flew to Libya, amid an ongoing NATO bombing campaign, where he played a chess match against Moammar Gadhafi. And in 2012, he flew to Syria, shortly after the outbreak of civil war, where he met with Bashar Assad to, in Ilyumzhinov’s telling, deliver chess textbooks to Syrian schoolchildren.At times, he appeared to be doing much more than promoting chess. Over the years, Ilyumzhinov has repeatedly been alleged to act as an informal envoy for the Russian government.His son David confirmed that Ilyumzhinov served a unique role. “It’s not a secret,” David told us. “He can go like he is just there for chess, for the chess tournament, but he can deliver a message. And the message won’t get screwed up.”With 188 national chess federations scattered across the globe, Ilyumzhinov’s opportunities for chess diplomacy were all but endless.“It offers unique opportunities to be used as the unofficial embassy,” Kasparov said. “So Ilyumzhinov can go to different places as the president of the chess federation. … He’s a very useful ambassador. If you can call it ambassador.”Ilyumzhinov, however, scoffed at questions about his association with other autocrats.“If tomorrow Kim Jong Un from North Korea [contacted me],” Ilyumzhinov said. “I would also travel there and develop chess.”He denied working directly for the Kremlin but acknowledged that his trips served a dual purpose. He described himself as a “people’s diplomat,” one who promoted not only chess but also “peace and stability.” He became “friends,” he said, with businessmen and politicians around the world with whom he might have casually shared information over lunch.Peskov, who also serves as the chairman of the board of trustees of Russia’s national chess federation alongside other senior Russian officials, denied any connection between the Kremlin and Ilyumzhinov.“He used his influence, and he used his authority to promote chess globally,” Peskov said. “And he’s got certain results. He was very successful.”But Ilyumzhinov’s globetrotting — which his longtime deputy Georgios Makropoulos said was often the largest line item in FIDE’s annual budget — contributed to another fiscal crisis for the federation.Several chess insiders agreed that the FIDE president’s well-publicized association with oppressive regimes made would-be sponsors increasingly wary of association with FIDE.Rex Sinquefield, an American philanthropist and the biggest benefactor of American chess, bankrolls his own tournaments rather than doing business with FIDE.“It’s not a group we could work with,” Sinquefield told us. “There’s a fundamental question of integrity and honesty, and it’s pretty clear to me the mess they’re in.”But just as in Kalmykia, Ilyumzhinov’s money and Kremlin connections would make him especially difficult to remove from his perch atop chess.The first serious challenge to his presidency came in 2010, when the Russian former world champion and onetime Communist Party apparatchik Anatoly Karpov ran against him. Karpov initially managed to win the support of the Russian Chess Federation until an armed raid of its headquarters, reportedly ordered by a then-senior Kremlin advisor Arkady Dvorkovich, appeared to persuade its officials to reconsider.The second serious challenge came in 2014, when Kasparov ran against him. He appeared to attract significant support to his reformist agenda until what Kasparov described as “direct interference” by the Russian Foreign Ministry and the network of Russian embassies, including, he said, threats of retaliation and outright bribery, accusations Ilyumzhinov dismissed.“What do I need votes for,” he asked us, “if I practically kept that organization running for 23 years?”It would ultimately take an intervention of the highest order to precipitate Ilyumzhinov’s downfall — and it came from President Barack Obama’s Treasury Department. Kalmykia, where Ilyumzhinov was born in 1962, would seem an unlikely springboard to power, but that’s where his rapid rise began.One of Russia’s harshest and poorest regions, it is a sweeping stretch of arid grassland home to a largely Buddhist population that was once targeted for exile and extermination by Joseph Stalin. 2018Arkady Dvorkovich🇷🇺 RussiaTBD– YearCandidateCountryVote share 1995Kirsan Ilyumzhinov🇷🇺 Russia—– 1996Kirsan Ilyumzhinov🇷🇺 Russia65%– Vladimir Putin speaks with Ilyumzhinov during a meeting in the Kremlin in 2006. Like in other elections around the world, Russia has been accused of meddling in FIDE’s election for the top spot in international chess. DMITRY ASTAKHOV / AFP / GETTY IMAGES But what’s next for Ilyumzhinov? His work, he said, is far from over. He said he will focus on philanthropic efforts to further his new goal of “teaching 1 billion people to play chess.”He also suggested he might play a role in the reconstruction of war-torn Syria.“Maybe I will do business there,” Ilyumzhinov said. “They are inviting me to get into it.”According to Ilyumzhinov’s son, David, Ilyumzhinov’s “connections” remain valuable, and his presence can provide a measure of protection and influence in Russia’s notoriously ruthless business environment.“He just partners,” David said. “Sometimes he goes in as cover, so that people won’t have problems. … It’s kind of lobbying but in a different way.”Ilyumzhinov wavers between aggrievement and acceptance. He laments that the institutions he believes he saved have now turned on him, calling him “a fool” and telling him to “get out of here.” But he also adopts a kind of Buddhist serenity, claiming he “never look[s] back” and declaring “what’s past is past.”“When people do nothing, just criticize, then I’m silent,” he said. “Because I have nothing to say to them. Like with the aliens. Why do aliens not argue with us? Because they are on a different level. I am on a different level to people. Why should I discuss or talk?”He points to the Buddhist temples and “chess palaces” he built in Kalmykia and in countries around the world, monuments to the money he poured into his passions.“Is that corruption?” he asked. “It’s a gift from me. Look how many I have built. I built that with my own money. In every region. They are real. They stand. Is that corruption? You Western people, you don’t know. You Western people don’t understand. You are a different mentality. I give.” The actual Chess City in Elista, on the left, and a model of its original, grander plan, featuring a chess-decorated castle, on the right. The neighborhood sits largely neglected in the Russian desert. PATRICK REEVELL Bessel Kok🇳🇱 Netherlands36%– In 2015, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Ilyumzhinov “for materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of the Government of Syria,” which had employed brutal measures to maintain control of its territory amid a popular uprising.U.S. officials provided few details about the exact nature of the activity that led to the sanction but alleged that Ilyumzhinov owned or controlled the Russian Financial Alliance Bank alongside Mudalal Khuri, its chairman, who “has had a long association with the Assad regime and represents regime business and financial interests in Russia.”According to a former U.S. Treasury Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, being placed on the U.S. list of sanctioned individuals not only freezes all U.S.-based assets but “really is a scarlet letter in the financial system.”“Banks around the world will stop doing business with those people,” the former official said. “I mean a lot of banks, even non-U.S. banks.”Ilyumzhinov vehemently denied allegations that he had assisted the Assad regime, but the sanction created a legitimacy crisis for him at FIDE. Despite that, Ilyumzhinov continued to enjoy a level of state support that revealed how important chess remains to Putin and his inner circle.Peskov called the sanctions “illegal,” pointing out that Ilyumzhinov has never been convicted of any crime.“We’re living in a world of allegations and fake news,” Peskov said.Ilyumzhinov did all he could to combat the sanction. He wrote letters. He hired a lawyer. He even appealed directly to “His Excellency” President Donald Trump, whose alleged affinity for Russia had been dominating headlines for months.“I know that you are completely and utterly committed to the principles and ideals of America,” Ilyumzhinov wrote to Trump in September 2017 in a letter obtained by ABC News and FiveThirtyEight. “I ask you to use your power and authority to allow me to come to New York and face law enforcement … Mr. President! What I’m asking is not vital for either FIDE or Ilyumzhinov. This is required by the principles of justice and human rights.”None of his efforts appeared to make much progress, so with his colleagues within FIDE urging him to step down, he focused on doing what he did best.Running for reelection.“You are managing the responsibilities well,” Putin said. “You have accumulated lots of experience and have every chance to win … and I’d like to wish you success.”By 2017, he appeared set to face his own deputy Makropoulos and English grandmaster Nigel Short, each of whom sought to cast themselves as reformers of a corrupt federation too close to the Kremlin.In response, Ilyumzhinov began mobilizing state support behind his candidacy. In July, he secured Putin’s endorsement in a segment on Russian state-owned television. “I feel that Russia should not concede this position,” Ilyumzhinov told Putin. “And I have decided to run again for the post of the president of FIDE.”“You certainly deserve this position,” Putin replied. “You are managing the responsibilities well. You have accumulated lots of experience and have every chance to win. In any case, you have deserved the right to present your candidacy and fight for the position, and I’d like to wish you success.”In October 2017, the U.S. Chess Federation received a letter, which was obtained by ABC News and FiveThirtyEight, from the Russian Embassy in the U.S., urging the federation to support Ilyumzhinov’s candidacy.“Chess is developing steadily,” wrote Russian Minister-Counselor Denis Gonchar. “And Mr. K. N. Ilyumzhinov enjoys high credibility according to his merit in the chess world.”But just as a financial crisis gave Ilyumzhinov power, it would ultimately be a financial crisis that took it away from him.In January of this year, the Swiss bank UBS moved to close FIDE’s accounts, notifying the federation of the “termination of [its] business relationship.” Bank officials, Makropoulos told us, made it clear in private meetings that FIDE’s accounts had become toxic.Despite the financial problems, Ilyumzhinov remained undeterred. He bolstered his presidential ticket with an American named Glen Stark. But this would-be chess official, it was soon discovered, was neither named Glen Stark nor was he American; he was, in fact, a Russian named Igor Shinder allegedly peddling inflated credentials.This strange scandal appeared to be too much, and Ilyumzhinov’s candidacy suffered an abrupt end — he stepped aside in favor of the Kremlin’s new chosen candidate, former deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich.Ilyumzhinov characterized his departure differently. He is merely stepping down, he said, because he has already “fulfilled all the tasks” before him and, like an undefeated boxer in his heyday, he has “already beaten the strongest.”“If you have beaten Tyson and everyone, why go on, right?” Ilyumzhinov said. “You’re already top.” Georgios Makropoulos🇬🇷 GreeceTBD– Whether he’s on the ballot or not, the upcoming chess election, like every chess election since 1995, is about one thing: Ilyumzhinov.And like so many elections around the world, the Russians are allegedly meddling in it.Chess leaders have convened in Batumi, Georgia, this week to elect the federation’s first new leader in 23 years. On Wednesday, they will choose between three men — Greece’s Georgios Makropoulos, England’s Nigel Short, and Russia’s Arkady Dvorkovich.Makropoulos, Ilyumzhinov’s longtime deputy, is the de facto incumbent put in the awkward position of running on reform, framing the election as a choice between the federation’s political independence and continued “Kremlin control.” And Short, the longshot challenger, appears to have made more accusations than progress — he hoped for “the removal of the Makropoulos administration, which is nothing but a giant cancerous tumour on the body of chess.”But the Kremlin-preferred candidate is the late-entrant Dvorkovich, the former deputy prime minister, who oversaw Russia’s staging of the FIFA World Cup earlier this year. Dvorkovich has supported Ilyumzhinov in the past — he reportedly ordered the raid on the Russian Chess Federation in 2010 — and in many ways represents a continuation of the sport’s alignment with the Kremlin.The contest is facing mounting allegations of Russian interference, including an intervention by Vladimir Putin himself.In a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in July, Putin appears to have offered Netanyahu a deal to shore up support for his chosen candidate.“The Russian president asked the prime minister for Israel’s support in favor of former deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich’s candidacy,” wrote an Israeli official in a cable obtained by ABC News and FiveThirtyEight. “Putin, in turn, said he would support Israel as the host of the next world championship.”Dvorkovich disputed the interpretation that Putin was pressuring the Israelis to support him, telling the BBC that the Russian president “didn’t do anything wrong” and was merely “informing” his counterpart of an “important” election.Makropoulos has also accused Russia of trying to boost Dvorkovich’s candidacy by promising money, positions of power and gifts — including 2018 FIFA World Cup tickets — to officials who have a vote in FIDE’s election.Dvorkovich acknowledged inviting chess officials to the World Cup but denied providing them with tickets, and responded to Makropoulos’s claims by filing a defamation suit.Peskov said the Kremlin has had no involvement in the candidacies of either Ilyumzhinov or Dvorkovich and rejected any allegations of interference.“It’s a free vote,” Peskov said, “and we simply don’t have any means to interfere and we don’t have the slightest intention to interfere.”So Ilyumzhinov’s legacy-defining battle rages on without him. Chess has been established as an effective instrument of “soft power” for the Russians, the former Treasury official said, and a “feather in the cap” like the Olympics or the World Cup that allows Russian leaders to project a polished image to visiting politicians and businessmen.Ilyumzhinov has endorsed Dvorkovich, hopeful that under the former deputy prime minister, the “status” he says he brought to the organization will be “maintained,” but he dismissed the suggestion of holding a position under the new administration should a Russian keep the post.“For what?” he scoffed. “I’m not a bureaucrat.” 1998Kirsan Ilyumzhinov🇷🇺 Russia—– Anatoly Karpov🇷🇺 Russia37%– 2002Kirsan Ilyumzhinov🇷🇺 Russia—– Jaime Sunye Neto🇧🇷 Brazil35%– In the days following the 2016 election, a large group of Russians gathered in New York to watch one of their own wage war in miniature.They were at the World Chess Championship, where a patriotic Russian grandmaster was challenging the Norwegian defending champion in Manhattan’s South Street Seaport. Members of Russia’s business and political elite gathered in the venue’s dimly lit VIP lounge and whispered over martinis as their countryman tried to restore Russia to its former chess glory.One person was especially conspicuous, and he wasn’t even there.Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has lorded over the sport as the president of the World Chess Federation, more commonly known by its French acronym FIDE, for more than two decades. But the game’s most powerful figure had been barred from the country hosting its highest profile event. Ilyumzhinov was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury in 2015 for providing financial assistance to Bashar Assad’s government in Syria as the regime inflicted a shocking degree of violence upon its citizens and purchased oil from the terrorist group ISIS.The sanction was an extraordinary allegation to level against a sports chief, but Ilyumzhinov is no ordinary chief, and chess is no ordinary sport.For years, he served simultaneously as the president of a Russian region and the steward of its national pastime. His authoritarian rule in those dual posts established him as a uniquely valuable Kremlin asset and has led his critics to bestow him with other, less flattering titles. Stooge. Spy. Madman. And perhaps worse.Now, after a 23-year reign atop the game, Ilyumzhinov is days away from the end of his colorful tenure. An election to replace him takes place this week.In a series of interviews with ABC News and FiveThirtyEight, former U.S. government officials, political rivals, criminal investigators, Russia experts, chess insiders, and top players dissected Ilyumzhinov’s career, revealing new details about the mysterious provenance of some of his wealth, the Kremlin connections that critics say kept him in power, and the ongoing battle for the sport over which he presided. Ilyumzhinov replaced a resigning president in 1995, and in 1998 and 2002, he was unopposed. The 2018 election is scheduled for Oct. 3.Source: FIDE The portrait that emerges offers a window into how Russia has used sport as statecraft, allegedly currying favor and peddling influence around the world under cover of an ancient board game.Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, denied that Ilyumzhinov had ever acted on behalf of the Kremlin.“He never represented Russia and the Russian Federation as a kind of envoy,” Peskov told us. “Of course, we’ve been proud of our citizen to be such a successful head of FIDE.”In a wide-ranging and often baffling one-on-one interview, Ilyumzhinov disputed or deflected the allegations against him, portraying himself as a builder and benefactor whose career defies easy classification.“I am simply a citizen of Russia and a simple person,” Ilyumzhinov said, “who sort of travels around the whole world.” 2014Kirsan Ilyumzhinov🇷🇺 Russia64%– 2010Kirsan Ilyumzhinov🇷🇺 Russia63%– Elista’s Chess City is one such gift, a relic of the city’s once-favorite son. Built by Ilyumzhinov to host international chess tournaments, it is a convention center surrounded by a semi-gated community that is now home to the city’s small upper class. Its tidy suburban streets are lined with about 150 houses, many of which appeared to be empty, with crumbling facades and broken windows.It is a rundown fantasy sitting neglected in the desert.As his tenure with FIDE comes to a close, Ilyumzhinov envisions a different fate for himself. Asked directly why he was useful to the Kremlin, he bristled at the suggestion that his useful days are behind him.“Why ‘was’? Have I flown away to the moon?” he asked. “I’m staying around!” Halley Freger, Emily Ruchalski and Jinsol Jung also contributed to this report.This story was initially developed with the support of The Hatch Institute, formerly The Contently Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that offers editorial guidance and financial support to aspiring investigative reporters. Madden has since joined its board of advisers.This story was featured in the Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, episode of ABC News’ daily news podcast, “Start Here.”
OSU junior Shelby Hursh (19) during a game against Penn State on April 6 at Buckeye Field. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorTo obtain its sixth straight win, the No. 23 Ohio State softball team had to be carried by its pitching Wednesday evening, downing Dayton 1-0. OSU junior Shelby Hursh pitched a complete game with 13 strikeouts, taking her season record to 13-3.Redshirt junior outfielder Alex Bayne recorded the Buckeyes’ only hit of the game on her 18th home run of the year, bringing her within one of the program’s single-season home run record.“One swing of the bat can matter, so just being there for my team is important,” Bayne said. “And them helping me stay up is really awesome.”The Flyers went down in order in the top of the first inning, giving OSU the chance to grab an early lead on Bayne’s solo shot to left center field. Through the following two innings, both teams remained hitless, as Hursh and Dayton sophomore Manda Cash, who struck out nine through six innings, continued to best batters.“(Hursh) pounded the zone,” said OSU coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly. “We didn’t mix it up, and sometimes we try and finesse the outside corners, which is where we get into trouble with walks.”Dayton got its first runners aboard in the fourth inning with singles from freshman Kyle Davidson and junior Krista Gustafson but could not continue the streak to bring them home. The Flyers threatened the Buckeyes’ defense again in the fifth with a leadoff double from sophomore Kailee Budicin, and junior Katie Ryan reached first on a fielder’s choice with one out.OSU kept its composure and got out of the jam but went down in order in the bottom of the inning, leaving the game in a tight, one-run game.“Her wind-up was something we haven’t seen before, so we just had to zone in on every pitch,” Bayne said of the left-hander Cash.Again, the Flyers got their leadoff batter, junior Gabrielle Snyder, aboard on Hursh’s only walk of the game, but sophomore Becca Gavin caught her stealing on a snap throw to second base in the top of the sixth. Hursh added two more strikeouts to silence Dayton’s bats and give her opponents one last chance to score.“We haven’t been faced with a lot of low-scoring games, so I actually really enjoyed Shelby rising to not even allow a run,” Schoenly said.In the bottom of the sixth, Bayne headed to first base on her second walk of the day and stole her fifth base of the year, but seniors Cammi Prantl and Erika Leonard left her stranded. In the final inning, Dayton went down in order to give OSU a piece of momentum heading into this weekend.“I just want to keep a positive attitude for my team. If I don’t get it done in an at-bat, I know that I can make a difference next at-bat,” Bayne said. “Just embracing every moment.”Schoenly shared Bayne’s optimism of Wednesday’s close outcome, expressing pride in her players’ composure and confidence.“It kept them super hyped, and I think that’s going prepare them for down the road here,” the coach said.That road leads the Buckeyes to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to take on No. 3 Michigan in a decisive Big Ten weekend series. Friday’s game, the first of three, is set to begin at 6 p.m.
Junior Letecia Wright, who competes in sprints and hurdles for the Ohio State women’s track and field team, shares her perspective from the Big Ten Indoor Championships at Penn State this past weekend.For the past two years of my college career, my team has been ninth at the Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships. When the team scores went up at the end of the track meet, our heads would look down.However, things changed this year. For the first time in my collegiate years of running, my team finished second out of 10 teams. I remember at the end of the meet this weekend my fellow juniors were crying and hugging each other. We knew our team had accomplished something we were not expected to do.Weeks leading up to Big Ten, my team and I realized we had a chance to do very well. We had multiple people ranked in many individual events and our relays were ranked in the top five in the conference.We left to drive six hours to Penn State last Thursday. During the long bus ride, the whole team laughed, watched movies and projected how fast we were going to run that weekend.Come Friday morning, we were up bright and early at Penn State practicing for the first day of war on Saturday. During our practice, everyone practiced their respective races and field events.After practice, I could feel the anxiety in the room during our team meeting. We all knew the first day of Big Ten was going to be a war and everyone had to run fast to make it back to finals on Sunday. I went to sleep with butterflies sitting in my stomach and dreams of winning going through my head.The first day of Big Ten Championships, our team shattered several school and personal records. Our two multi-event competitors both placed top eight and started the day off right.We also had three 60-meter hurdlers, three short sprinters, a 600-meter runner, two 400-meter sprinters and countless others make it back to finals on Sunday. Our distance medley relay got fifth, which also gave us good points for the first day of competition.Everyone left the meet excited because everyone ran their fastest times. A few also qualified for NCAA Nationals.Going to sleep Saturday was hard for me. I knew my team could do well, but I never imagined we would finish second overall as a team. I also never imagined that we would have as many girls place top eight to put points on the board.The final day of Big Ten came and it was a true war. Sophomore Shaniqua McGinnis caused an upset in Happy Valley by beating Penn State’s best 400-meter runner and giving us 10 crucial points.While warming up, I took a fall over a hurdle and hit my head. I really wanted to win and run faster, especially after watching Shaniqua win. Sadly, I did not win the hurdles because of a small mishap at the start. Luckily, my other teammate won it, I battled back for second and freshman Christienne Linton got seventh.These were big points for my team. After this moment, I was crushed about not winning, but had to move on because the rest of the day was filled with many personal records and places for my teammates.The meet was filled with great performances by all the multi-event, sprinters, distance and field event girls. At the end of the meet, we cried, hugged and expressed how proud we were of each other.Even with some of the disappointments we had during the meet, we all worked hard to run fast and support everyone. Now some of us get ready for NCAA Nationals and outdoor season.Though the Big Ten Championships were a great present, we now have to look to the future.
When Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta thinks his team needs a boost, he’ll sometimes show highlights of former OSU players to amp up his Buckeyes. One of Matta’s favorites involves a player still on his roster. During the final minutes of an 81-68 win against Jacksonville on Dec. 17, 2008, then-OSU junior David Lighty raced up the sideline and stole a pass to help move the then-No. 16 Buckeyes to 7-0 — all while playing on a broken foot. “He broke his foot in that game and continued to play the last five minutes,” Matta said, “and played harder than anybody I had ever seen.” At the time, Lighty’s injury was a blow to a Buckeye team looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2007–08 season in which it didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. With Lighty’s foot recovering in time for a potential return to OSU at the tail end of the season, Matta debated bringing back the forward for a potential postseason run. “Part of me wanted to see how good that team could have been,” Matta said. “He was such an intricate part of it.” Matta ultimately decided against bringing back Lighty during the 2008–09 season, and the Buckeyes went on to make the 2009 NCAA Tournament, falling to Siena in the first round. With Lighty being granted a medical redshirt for that season, Matta recalled realizing that the injury could end up paying dividends for OSU in the long run. “I remember when he broke his foot and you’re visualizing ahead, and we knew we were going to have a big incoming class coming in that year,” Matta said. “I remember saying to myself, you know, this could be good to have David Lighty as a fifth-year senior guiding those guys.” Matta’s prophecy has turned into a reality this season, with Lighty playing a key role on a Buckeye team that is 24-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country. Lighty said there was never any doubt in his mind that his injury two seasons ago was a blessing in disguise. “I always look at it as a positive thing,” Lighty said. “Being with these guys one more year and being able to develop my game another year and especially having the chance and opportunity that we have right now to leave Ohio State, hopefully, as a national champion would be great.” Playing on a team with freshmen Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft, who weren’t yet in high school when he was playing his first season at OSU, Lighty has made his impact mostly on the defensive end of the floor, something Matta says Lighty is the best in the country at doing. When the Buckeyes were tied with Northwestern during the final minutes of their Jan. 29 matchup, it was Lighty who made a key steal that resulted in the game-winning free throw from Sullinger. The win gave the Buckeyes their 22nd consecutive win, a feat that Lighty — the player who’s been a part of the most wins in OSU history — has accomplished twice in his career. The other time came during his freshman season, 2006–07. Matta made a point of praising Lighty for the accomplishment following the game. “Of the four teams he’s played on, two … have won 22 games in a row at some point in his career,” Matta said. “That’s incredible.” Matta isn’t the only one to realize the impact Lighty has had on this year’s team. A freshman when Lighty broke his foot in 2008, junior guard William Buford said that what Lighty has brought to this year’s Buckeyes has been invaluable. “You’re always going to need Dave. He brings all the energy to the team,” Buford said. “He’s the most talkative guy when we’re on the floor. He’s the heart and soul to this team.”
Junior Nick Gray will run the men’s 60-meter-dash, 200-meter-dash and 4×400-meter-relay this weekend at the Music City Challenge in Nashville, Tennessee. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State AthleticsOhio State will open up its roster by sending 53 athletes to Nashville, Tennessee, for the Music City Challenge, a two-day meet filled with tough competition and national implications. There will be 12 events on Friday and Saturday with at least one NCAA national championship qualifier.In the past two meets, Ohio State opted out of sending its full roster. This week, Ohio State is sending its full team, marking the season debuts for several athletes.Men’s previewThe 60-meter dash is filled with highly competitive sprinters who should create a close end result. Ohio State’s junior Nick Gray and senior Zack Bazile, as well as Southern Mississippi’s Cra’vorkian Carson and Memphis’ Davon Demoss, have top times that are separated by just .04 seconds. Carson has the fastest time at 6.64, which ranks 11th overall in the country, while Bazile is the slowest at 6.68, ranked 21st in the nation. The athletes with the top-16 marks will go to the national championship meet.“In the 60 meter, it’s important to focus on body technique, how fast I’m getting out and not focus on what’s going on in the outside lanes,” Gray said. Gray currently has a season-high mark of 6.66. That time would tie him for the last national championship qualifying spot, but that race was not counted by the NCAA. Since that race, Gray has been hampered by small injuries.“My goal for this track meet is to leave healthy and not hurt,” Gray said. Gray said he does not feel pressure to beat his personal record because he is currently more focused on his better events, the 200-meter dash and the 400-meter dash. Gray will make his season debut in the 200-meter dash and will run in 4×400-meter relay. Bazile has primarily been a jumper throughout his collegiate career, but ran a 60-meter-dash in 6.68 seconds two weeks ago.“Zack’s always wanted to run on the track,” assistant coach Joel Brown said. “He has the opportunity to do that this year and it is turning out well for him.”Redshirt sophomore Kendall Sheffield will make his track debut for Ohio State. Sheffield’s personal record in the 60-meter dash is a 6.70. He also plays cornerback for the Ohio State football team. Bazile also is expected to have a big meet outside of the 60-meter dash. He has the farthest long jump by .35 meters heading into this meet. While Bazile set a personal best in triple jump this year, Southern Mississippi’s John Warren has the better mark on the season. In the men’s 800-meter run, Ohio State junior Alexander Lomong has the top time this season. It will be the first 800 of the season for three of Virginia Tech’s runners, all of whom have faster personal records than Lomong.The Buckeyes are having their best season in school history in pole vault. Cole Gorski has the pole vault record a 5.45 meters set last week, and junior Coty Cobb is ranked third all-time (5.35m).They will be facing off against some tough familiar foes. Cincinnati’s Adrian Valles has beaten both Buckeyes and has the third-highest jump in the country at 5.61 meters. Michigan State’s Tim Ehrhardt has a personal record higher than Gorski’s, but Gorski beat Ehrhardt earlier this season.Women’s previewThe weight throw will be a showdown of the top-three collegiate throwers in the country and an Olympian. Junior Sade Olatoye is currently third with a throw of 22.76 meters, behind Cincinnati’s Ann Echikunwoke (23.69) and Mississippi’s Janeah Stewart (23.83). The top three will square off against Gwen Berry, a member of Team USA.Olatoye, Stewart and Echikunwoke also will compete in shot put. Freshman Anavia Battle will run in the 60-meter dash and the 200-meter dash. She is coming off first place finishes in the 60-meter dash (7.45) and 200-meter dash (23.79). Both finishes are the two best times this season for Ohio State. Brown said Battle is doing less weight training than her teammates and is focused more on bodyweight training and explosiveness to stay on track for this meet.Senior Mikaela Seibert has the farthest personal best in triple-jump heading into this meet of all competitors, but Cincinnati’s Irati Mitxelena has the farthest mark of the season.
Then-junior forward Freddy Gerard celebrates as Mason Jobst scores an empty net goal during the third period of Ohio State’s 5-1 victory over Denver in the NCAA Tournament. Credit: Nick Hudak | For The LanternWhat was originally expected to be a low-scoring game turned out to be a high-scoring affair, as Ohio State (16-5-4, 9-3-3 Big Ten) defeated Notre Dame (14-9-3, 7-7-2 Big Ten) 4-2, its fourth straight win. Ohio State senior forward Freddy Gerard led the team with two goals, scoring what would be the deciding goal on a power play midway in the third period to secure the win for the Buckeyes.Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik said that he has seen a more consistent team as of late during the Buckeyes’ winning streak. “I think we’ve had a pretty good season, I think we’ve been more consistent lately,” Rohlik said. “I think we were a little up-and-down at the beginning but I like the consistency that our team’s brought and I think that’s the correlation of having some success.”The second period showed surprising offensive aggression from Notre Dame: a team that is primarily known for its defense. After the first period goal from Gerard and the third goal of the season by Ohio State sophomore forward Austin Pooley, assisted by freshman forward Quinn Preston and junior defensman Matt Miller, the Fighting Irish stepped up, scoring two goals in 34 seconds: one by freshman forward Michael Graham on a power play and the other from junior forward Cam Morrison. Notre Dame nearly doubled the Buckeyes’ aggression, having shot on target 11 times versus Ohio State’s six in the second period.The Buckeyes showed an increased aggression that was seemingly absent in the third period, shooting on target 11 times in total, something that led to the power play that helped lead Ohio State to the victory. “I thought we did a good job at third coming out, skating, moving our feet,” Pooley said. “And I think when we move our feet like that we’re going to eventually draw penalties and we did a good job at that in the third.”Nearing the end of the third period, Notre Dame put the pressure on Ohio State. With their goalie pulled, shot after shot came at redshirt senior goaltender Sean Romeo.Adding eight saves in the third period, Romeo recorded 27 saves on 29 shot attempts in the Ohio State win. “He’s a big-time player, a big-time goalie,” Rohlik said about Romeo. “You’ve seen that out of him before. He made that ESPN save there tonight at the end. Incredible.”Ohio State senior forward Brendon Kearney added a goal with one second left on the game clock, sneaking the puck away from the Fighting Irish and shooting it straight into Notre Dame’s empty net.Ohio State will play Notre Dame again at home at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Ohio State junior attack Tre Leclaire (44) passes the ball during their match against Rutgers at Ohio Stadium on Mar. 31. Ohio State lost 6-14. Credit: Willow Mollenkopf | For The LanternNo. 1 Penn State’s offense was too much for No. 9 Ohio State to handle, with the Buckeyes losing their second straight game with a 13-8 defeat to the Nittany Lions, leaving Ohio State without a win in Big Ten play so far.On a wet and slippery Sunday night in State College, Penn State’s offensive efficiency and star players proved to be the key difference. Penn State junior attacker Mac O’Keefe scored three goals, while redshirt junior Grant Ament added two goals and six assists in front of the home crowd.The Buckeyes (7-2, 0-2 Big Ten) were not able to capitalize on the shots they saw, scoring on eight of 37 shots and picking 16 ground balls to Penn State’s eight. However, Penn State made the most of its opportunities, making 13-of-26 shots and saving 14 shots to Ohio State’s seven.Penn State (9-1, 2-0 Big Ten) scored within the first four minutes of the first quarter with a goal from sophomore midfielder Brian Townsend and added to another goal before Ohio State tied it with two straight goals from junior attacker and leading scorer Tre LeClaire. Both teams would score back-to-back goals to keep the game tied at the end of the first. LeClaire finished the game with four of Ohio State’s eight total goals on 10 shots, five of which were on goal. The second quarter started strong for the Nittany Lions, with Penn State’s two prolific stars making the difference. O’Keefe scored two straight goals to stay as the second to top scorer in the country and Ament was the player on both assists, adding to his already nation-leading assist total. The Buckeyes would add a goal, but Penn State would get two more, one of which came from O’Keefe for the hat trick.Ohio State made a strong run to get back into the game, scoring three goals in the third quarter — including LeClaire’s third of the day — but Penn State had an answer for the Buckeyes every time they made a run, answering with three goals in the quarter.The final quarter about Penn State ending the Buckeyes hopes, scoring two straight before LeClaire found the net again, but it wasn’t as enough as Penn State scored again to end the game with the five-goal victory.Ohio State moves on to face Johns Hopkins at noon Sunday.