Noelle Pikus-Pace

U.S. Olympic Skeleton Team named

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The U.S. has not won a skeleton medal since the sport was reintroduced to the Olympics in 2002, but it’s sending a team that could yield men’s and women’s podium finishers in Sochi.

The team was announced Saturday, and it included the names everyone expected:

Women
Noelle Pikus-Pace — 2010 Olympian
Katie Uhlaender — 2006, 2010 Olympian

Men
Matt Antoine
John Daly — 2010 Olympian
Kyle Tress

Noelle Pikus-Pace is the best U.S. hope for a skeleton gold medal. She has won three of seven World Cup races this season, her second campaign since coming out of retirement after finishing fourth at the 2010 Olympics. Pikus-Pice has two children, Lacee and Traycen, is the 2007 World Champion and 2013 World Championships silver medalist. She is thought to be vying for Olympic gold with Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold.

Katie Uhlaender finished 11th at the 2010 Olympics, won the 2012 World Championship and then attempted to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team in weightlifting. She ranks 14th in the World Cup this season, which has been plagued by effects of a preseason concussion from a crash. She is the daughter of former MLB outfielder Ted Uhlaender, who died one year before the Vancouver Olympics.

Matt Antoine won his first career World Cup race this season among three podium finishes in seven races. He can win a medal in his first Olympics, four years after being the best U.S. skeleton slider not to make the Olympic Team.

John Daly ranks ninth in the world this year, just as he was last year. Daly was 17th at his first Olympics in 2010 and is the co-star of the YouTube hit series Your Daly Nitro with U.S. bobsledder Steve Langton. He is a former college decathlete and BMX racer.

Kyle Tress is 11th in the world this year, writes books and was an extra in “CSI: New York,” one of the “Transformers” films and “Gossip Girl.” He also co-founded SledBox Interactive, a software development company.

List of athletes nominated to U.S. Olympic Team

Helen Maroulis dominates for world title after making history in Rio

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Helen Maroulis, after becoming the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic wrestling title, had quite a year.

She grappled in a cage with Conor McGregor. She lifted Teddy Roosevelt. The Maryland native cracked steamed crabs with Cal Ripken Jr. And spent three months in Norway.

Then, she came back to competition. And dominated once again.

Maroulis won the world title at 58kg on Wednesday, mercy ruling all five of her opponents by a combined 53-0 margin and finishing the day with a torn thumb ligament.

“This was really special to me because I didn’t just go to Rio, do things right there and then come back and everything crashed and burned,” said Maroulis, who has won three straight global titles (the Olympics sandwiched by two worlds). “I heard people say everything in the book [after Rio]. Maybe I just had a good day or this or that. Three years in a row, I achieved the goal I set.”

The 25-year-old took seven months off after Rio — her coach told her that she might lose worlds because of it — but looked and felt reinvigorated on Wednesday.

“I was, like, counting down the days before Rio, like don’t focus on vacation after. I was so overwhelmed and tired,” Maroulis said. “But this, I’m like, man, I love this. I could do this all over again.”

She improved to a 78-1 record since taking bronze at the 2014 Worlds. Remember, Maroulis went 1-30 in her first year as a wrestler at age 7.

She’s the only American man or woman to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in at least 30 years, doing so in 2015 and again Wednesday.

Maroulis, after a hard struggle to cut weight to 53kg for Rio, moved up two divisions (11 pounds) this year. By the numbers, she faced an easier road to gold.

Saori Yoshida, the three-time Olympic champion whom Maroulis dethroned at 53kg in Rio, and 58kg superstar Kaori Icho, the only woman to win four Olympic golds in an individual event, both sat out this year for Japan.

The top 58kg seed at worlds, Olympic silver medalist Valeria Koblova of Russia, bowed out of her opening match with a left knee injury.

Maroulis plowed the remaining field, winning her first four matches Wednesday by mercy rule to reach the final by a 42-0 point margin.

Also Wednesday, 20-year-old Becka Leathers took bronze at 55kg in her senior worlds debut.

Worlds continue through the rest of this week. Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox goes Friday, and Olympic champions Jordan Burroughs and Kyle Snyder close out the competition Saturday.

A full broadcast schedule is here.

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Dream Team, Shaq lead FIBA Hall of Fame inductees

Michael Jordan
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The Dream Team, Shaquille O’Neal and Toni Kukoč headline the FIBA international basketball Hall of Fame inductees for 2017.

A ceremony will be held Sept. 30 at FIBA headquarters in Switzerland.

The Dream Team enters the hall on the 25th anniversary of its unforgettable run at the 1992 Barcelona Games, where it went 8-0 and won by an average of 43.8 points per game.

The Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will air every Dream Team game from the Olympics next week. A full schedule is here.

That team included two players who are already FIBA Hall of Famers — Michael Jordan and David Robinson, who both won multiple Olympic gold medals.

O’Neal was left off the Dream Team in favor of Christian Laettner as the single college player to round out the 12-man roster otherwise made up of NBA All-Stars.

But O’Neal went on to lead Dream Team II as MVP of the 1994 World Championship. He paced the U.S. in points (18 per game), rebounds (8.5 per game) and field-goal percentage (71.3).

O’Neal then played on the 1996 Olympic team that won gold in Atlanta, starting three of eight games. The U.S. was loaded at center with Hakeem Olajuwon, who led the Houston Rockets to 1994 and 1995 NBA titles, and Robinson, the 1995 NBA MVP.

Kukoč, best known as a member of Jordan’s supporting cast on the late 1990s Chicago Bulls teams, won a world title with Yugoslavia and two Olympic silver medals for Croatia.

He was MVP of the 1990 World Championship, where Yugoslavia beat the U.S. in the semifinals and the Soviet Union in the final.

Kukoč made his Olympic debut at age 19 at Seoul 1988, then was part of a star core of Croatian teams with the likes of Dražen Petrović and Dino Radja in the 1990s.

FIBA Hall of Fame Class of 2017:

TEAM
Dream Team (USA)

PLAYERS
Mickey Berkowitz (Israel)
Pero Cameron (New Zealand)
Toni Kukoč (Croatia)
Razija Mujanovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Shaquille O’Neal (USA)
Valdis Valters (Latvia)

COACH
Dusan Ivkovic (Serbia)

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