For USA Basketball, the focus immediately shifts to the Paris Olympics

For USA Basketball, the focus  immediately shifts to the Paris Olympics
Austin Reaves shoots the ball during the FIBA Basketball World Cup game for third place between USA and Canada in Manila on Sunday. (AFP)
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Updated 11 September 2023
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For USA Basketball, the focus immediately shifts to the Paris Olympics

For USA Basketball, the focus  immediately shifts to the Paris Olympics
  • There will be no shortage of options because the Olympics are more appealing to most US players than the World Cup is

MANILA: There was a long flight awaiting USA Basketball on Monday. Manila to Los Angeles, about 13 hours on a chartered jet that didn’t have the Wi-Fi that’s necessary to communicate with the outside world from 30,000 feet. No texting, no emails.

That’s unfortunate. Those were 13 hours where recruiting for Paris couldn’t happen.

The World Cup is over. The US didn’t medal. The world proved again that the Americans, even with NBA players, are vulnerable on the international stage. And now, every bit of USA Basketball’s focus shifts to the Paris Olympics — where the challenge will be even tougher than the World Cup, which again reminded the Americans how much the FIBA game has changed.

“The narrative about USA Basketball and FIBA, and do we need reminders, we’re past that,” US coach Steve Kerr said. “These teams are really good.”

Kerr will be at the Olympics next summer. His staff — Erik Spoelstra, Tyronn Lue and Mark Few — are also committed to the Paris Games. USA Basketball’s team leadership, Grant Hill and Sean Ford, will spend the next few months trying to pick the right 12 players to accompany them to Paris.

The mission won’t change: gold or else. Silver won’t be enough, bronze won’t be enough, a repeat of Manila’s fourth-place finish would be a disaster. The US have gone to the Olympics in men’s basketball 19 times and has won 19 medals, the last four of them gold. On paper, it looks easy. It is not, not anymore. It probably never will be easy again.

“I don’t think as Americans and basketball players that we think that we can’t lose,” said USA Basketball legend Carmelo Anthony, who won four Olympic medals — three gold, one bronze — with the national team. “I think the fear of losing is what drives us and what keeps us going and wanting to win and feeling so bad after losses. We do a great job as an organization at (USA Basketball) as far as respecting the game ... But our players back in America, they know we have to compete.”

And now USA Basketball will find out which ones want to compete on the high-risk, high-reward stage.

Win or lose at this World Cup, the US brain trust knew it was going to have some serious roster decisions to make over the coming weeks and months. Some players from this World Cup team will almost certainly be retained for Paris — Mikal Bridges, Tyrese Haliburton and Austin Reaves clearly showed they fit in the international game, Josh Hart did everything the US asked, and Jalen Brunson and Anthony Edwards are among those who will get strong looks.

“I’ll never say no,” said Bridges, who had a moment that’ll go down in USA Basketball history — an intentional missed free throw and then a game-tying 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left — to give the Americans a chance in the bronze-medal loss to Canada in Manila. “It’s an honor, every time. Even though the outcome is not what we wanted, I wouldn’t trade these six weeks, seven weeks away for nothing.”

And then it becomes a matter of how many NBA stars that didn’t play this summer will want to play next summer on the bigger Olympic stage and give up six or seven weeks like Bridges and his teammates did this summer.

Stephen Curry has talked about it. Kevin Durant should have an Olympic spot for as long as he wants. If LeBron James wants to play, he’ll play. Bam Adebayo is planning to be in Paris after playing a significant role on the team that won in Tokyo two summers ago, Devin Booker and Jayson Tatum should be there as well, and Draymond Green wants to try to win more gold.

There will be no shortage of options because the Olympics are more appealing to most US players than the World Cup is. More prestige, more attention, brighter lights, bigger stage.

“What we’ve tried to do is really learn what wins a FIBA game,” Kerr said. “We’ve really studied everything about FIBA and the history of US basketball. When we’ve won, what has been the reason. When we’ve lost, what has been the reason. We study all that stuff.”

There is one big wild-card out there as well.

Joel Embiid.

The reigning NBA MVP is, in the international sense, a free agent. If he decides to play, and there’s no reason to think otherwise, Embiid will be wearing red, white and blue next summer at the Paris Olympics. Those are the colors of the uniforms USA Basketball will be wearing. Those are also the colors of the uniforms France will be wearing.

Embiid is a true rarity: He was born in Cameroon, has French citizenship and became a US citizen last year. And he’s never played on a senior national team, so it’s his call.

The Americans want him. The French want him. What he decides will go a long way toward determining who wins gold in Paris.

Let the recruiting begin.


Beijing half marathon top three stripped of medals: organizers

Beijing half marathon top three stripped of medals: organizers
Updated 31 min 17 sec ago
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Beijing half marathon top three stripped of medals: organizers

Beijing half marathon top three stripped of medals: organizers
  • Race’s bizarre finish saw China’s He Jie cross the line first after two runners from Kenya and one from Ethiopia seemed to deliberately allow him to win

BEIJING: The top three in Sunday’s Beijing half marathon have been stripped of their medals, organizers said, following an investigation into the finish that saw China’s He Jie controversially win.
“Today the 2024 Beijing Half Marathon Organizing Committee issued a decision on the investigation and handling of the men’s race results,” a state media report said Friday.
It added: “The trophies, medals and bonuses will be recovered.”
The race’s bizarre finish saw He cross the line first after two runners from Kenya and one from Ethiopia seemed to deliberately allow him to win.
He, the 2023 Asian Games marathon gold medallist, won by one second after his supposed rivals appeared to slow down toward the finish and waved him out in front.
All four were “punished” and their results canceled, China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported.
The Chinese Athletics Association said earlier this week they had met, issuing a statement vowing to make improvements to the sport in the country.


Rohit says India-Pakistan Test cricket would be ‘awesome’

Rohit says India-Pakistan Test cricket would be ‘awesome’
Updated 19 April 2024
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Rohit says India-Pakistan Test cricket would be ‘awesome’

Rohit says India-Pakistan Test cricket would be ‘awesome’
  • South Asian neighbors are bitter political adversaries, have not faced off in Test since 2007
  • They play only occasionally in shorter versions of game usually on neutral territory 

NEW DELHI: India captain Rohit Sharma has thrown his support behind any resumption of Test cricket against arch-rivals Pakistan, saying it would be “awesome.”
The South Asian neighbors are bitter political adversaries and have fought three wars against each other since they were partitioned at the end of British colonial rule in 1947.
Their cricket teams have not faced off in a Test since 2007. Instead they play only occasionally in the shorter versions of the game and usually on neutral territory in international tournaments.
Rohit appeared Thursday on a YouTube chat show hosted by former captains Adam Gilchrist of Australia and Michael Vaughan of England.
Asked by Vaughan if playing Pakistan in a Test series would be beneficial for the five-day game, Rohit said: “I totally believe that.”
“They are a good team, superb bowling line-up, good contest. Especially if you play in overseas conditions, that will be awesome,” added the 36-year-old.
“I would love to. It would be a great contest between two sides... so why not?“
Australia has said it would be prepared to host a series between the rivals.
India and Pakistan have not faced each other on either side’s soil in a bilateral series since 2012.
India last year refused to travel to Pakistan for the white-ball Asia Cup, prompting part of the tournament to be staged in Sri Lanka.
They last met at the 50-over World Cup in India in October.


Qatar beat Jordan to reach last eight of 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup

Qatar beat Jordan to reach last eight of 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup
Updated 19 April 2024
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Qatar beat Jordan to reach last eight of 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup

Qatar beat Jordan to reach last eight of 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup
  • A last-gasp 2-1 win leaves the hosts on six points from two matches in Group A of the tournament

DOHA: A stoppage time winner saw hosts Qatar defeat Jordan 2-1 on Thursday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup.

Qatar took the lead through Abdulla Al-Yazidi on 40 minutes, but Jordan equalized seven minutes into the second half thanks to Aref Al-Haj’s spot kick.

The match looked to be heading for a draw when Mohamed Al-Manai scored 14 minutes into stoppage time to break Jordanian hearts. The win Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Al-Rayyan made Qatar the first team to secure a spot in the last eight.

Qatar now sit top of Group A with a maximum six points from two matches. Earlier in the day, Indonesia beat Australia 1-0 at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha and are currently second in the table with three points. Jordan and Australia are third and fourth respectively with one point apiece.

Saudi Arabia return to action against Thailand on Friday before facing Iraq in their final Group C match on Monday (April 22).

The U23 Asian Cup, which runs until May 3, is also a route to this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.

The competition sees 16 nations split into four groups of four teams, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. The winners of both semifinals automatically qualify for the Olympics, regardless who wins the final.

The two losing semifinalists will contest third place, with the winners also booking a spot in Paris. The fourth-place finishers have one final chance with a play-off against an African qualifier.


Chasing 5th straight win, Nelly Korda is 2 shots back at Chevron Championship after a first-round 68

Chasing 5th straight win, Nelly Korda is 2 shots back at Chevron Championship after a first-round 68
Updated 19 April 2024
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Chasing 5th straight win, Nelly Korda is 2 shots back at Chevron Championship after a first-round 68

Chasing 5th straight win, Nelly Korda is 2 shots back at Chevron Championship after a first-round 68
  • She could join Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) as the only players to win five consecutive LPGA events
  • Defending champion and world No. 2 Lilia Vu withdrew because of a back injury

THE WOODLANDS, Texas: Nelly Korda, who is looking to tie an LPGA Tour record with her fifth straight win, shot a 4-under 68 on Thursday in the opening round of the Chevron Championship, leaving her two shots behind leader Lauren Coughlin in the year’s first major.

Coughlin shot a bogey-free 66 in windy conditions at Carlton Woods, which is hosting the event for the second time.

The top-ranked Korda is seeking her second major after winning the Women’s PGA Championship in 2021. She could join Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) as the only players to win five consecutive LPGA events.

Korda said she was battling fatigue from recent tournaments at the beginning of her round. She bogeyed her first hole, the par-4 10th.

“I (could) definitely still feel maybe a little bit of tiredness, so it took me a while to get going,” she said. “I felt the nerves definitely at the start of the round. Once I made the turn, I was just playing free golf.”

She made her first birdie on the par-4 14th hole, something she half-jokingly credited to a snack.

“I actually had an apple on 13, and that gave me actually a nice boost,” she said. “I felt a lot better after that. Maybe I should have apples more often.”

The 25-year-old finished with six birdies, including four in the final six holes.

“Two of them were par 5s, so I got to take advantage of that with my length,” she said. “Hit a really good tee shot, and then I was just on the front of the green on 17, and the other one I was just on the fringe, too. I two-putted pretty much for birdie on those. Then I had wedge shots in on the other two, too. Taking advantage of my length and hitting good tee shots.”

Marina Alex and Japan’s Minami Katsu also shot 68. Lydia Ko was one of five players at 69.

The 31-year-old Coughlin, who played in college at Virginia and has never won on the LPGA Tour, made three birdies in a four-hole span from Nos. 2-5. She believes her game has benefited from her recent decision to make husband John Pond her full-time caddie.

“He’s really good at talking through everything when I want to get really fast and make a decision really quickly,” Coughlin said. “He is really good at putting all the work in, all the extra work, all the extra walking ... making sure the strategy is really good and double checking everything. But ... he’s always been really good with how he talks to me and communicates what he thinks I need to do and how I need to do it.”

Defending champion and world No. 2 Lilia Vu withdrew because of a back injury. She issued a statement on Instagram saying she had “severe discomfort” in her back during warmups.

“I have been dealing with a back injury for a while now,” Vu said in the statement. “Some days are better than others, and today was unfortunately not a good day. During my normal warmup routine, I had severe discomfort in my back and I felt that I could not compete up to my standards and made the decision to withdraw from the tournament ahead of my tee time.”

She added that she was returning home to see her doctors and determine the next steps.

Later in the day, last year’s runner-up Angel Yin withdrew because of an injury after shooting 78.

A win by Ko would put her in the LPGA Hall of Fame. She won the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in January for her 20th LPGA title.

The 26-year-old New Zealander admitted that she still gets nervous before tournaments despite all her experience and success.

“It doesn’t matter what event we’re playing or what circumstances, when you’re younger you want to get away from the nerves,” Ko said. “To some extent as long as you can control it the nerves are good for you and you’re able to excel and get the adrenaline to hit some shots that you may not be able to execute when you’re just practicing.”


Defending champion Swiatek sails into Stuttgart quarterfinals

Defending champion Swiatek sails into Stuttgart quarterfinals
Updated 19 April 2024
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Defending champion Swiatek sails into Stuttgart quarterfinals

Defending champion Swiatek sails into Stuttgart quarterfinals
  • The top seed will face former US Open champion Emma Raducanu for a place in the semifinals
  • Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk saved five match points at 5-4 in the final set to defeat fifth seed Zheng Qinwen of China, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5

BERLIN: World No. 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek progressed to the quarterfinals of the WTA Stuttgart clay court tournament by beating Elize Mertens in straight sets on Thursday, her ninth win in nine career matches at the French Open warm-up event.

Swiatek beat the unseeded Belgian 6-3, 6-4 to maintain her bid to capture a third successive title in the German city and be handed the keys to a third luxury car from the sponsors after also winning the tournament in 2022.

“There’s always space for a Porsche. If not, we’ll make it. I’ll build an underground garage,” said Swiatek after playing her first clay-court match since lifting the French Open title last June.

The Pole burst out of the blocks to set up a 5-1 lead in the first set, before going 0-30 down but recovering to serve out the set.

Swiatek was broken early in the second but served her way back into the set, winning with a forehand on her fourth match point after Mertens had saved the previous three.

“This is not an easy tournament. Everyone is really motivated to win that car,” Swiatek added.

The top seed will face former US Open champion Emma Raducanu for a place in the semifinals.

Raducanu, who helped Britain qualify for the Billie Jean King Cup finals last weekend, took down Czech teenager Linda Noskova 6-0, 7-5.

It will be a first quarterfinal appearance for Raducanu in 19 months. She has been plagued by a raft of injuries since her 2021 Grand Slam breakthrough and missed much of last season.

Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk saved five match points at 5-4 in the final set to defeat fifth seed Zheng Qinwen of China, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.

World No. 27 Kostyuk will face US Open champion Coco Gauff on Friday for a place in the semifinals.

Elena Rybakina beat Veronika Kudermetova 7-6 (7/3), 1-6, 6-4, continuing her strong form in 2024.

The Kazakh world No. 4, who has already claimed titles at Brisbane and Abu Dhabi this year, beat the Russian in two hours 33 minutes.

“I know I have my weapon, my serve. I know I can always serve it out in tough moments. Not always, but this is a strength,” Rybakina said.

Rybakina will be playing in her seventh quarterfinal of the season on Friday where she will face Jasmine Paolini who put out Ons Jabeur 7-6 (10/8), 6-4.

Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova defeated Anastasia Potapova 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 in her last 16 clash.