Patty Mills

Patty Mills, NBA Finals star, has quite an Olympic backstory

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The newly crowned NBA champions have several Olympic ties. Manu Ginobili won a gold medal, Tim Duncan a bronze (Duncan’s sister swam in the 1988 Olympics), and Tony Parker made his long-awaited Olympic debut in 2012.

But how about backup point guard Patty Mills, who scored 17 points off the bench in the Spurs’ decisive Game 5 win over the Heat on Sunday.

The Australian played in his first Olympic game at age 19 in 2008. He came off the bench in all six Aussie games in Beijing and led the team in scoring (14.2 points per game).

In 2012, he led the entire Olympic tournament in scoring (21.2 points per game, nearly two points clear of Kevin Durant, Ginobili and Pau Gasol). The Aussies lost in the quarterfinals both times.

Mills’ passion for the Olympics dates even farther back to one of the iconic moments in Games history in 2000.

Mills’ mother is Aboriginal. Of course, the most famous Aboriginal athlete is Cathy Freeman, who lit the Olympic cauldron in Sydney and later won the 400m. Mills has called Freeman his idol and remembers — “like it’s last week” — watching Freeman’s one-lap victory one month after turning 12.

“That moment was — I get shivers just thinking about it,” Mills, who reportedly attended Sydney 2000 basketball games, told The New York Times. “I ran track, and my pet event was the 400 meters, and I wanted to be like Cathy Freeman. The whole country was on Cathy’s back during that race. Everyone was clued in during that race seeing her cross the line and how she handled herself, not only on the track, but before and after, because she had so much pressure.”

Freeman, too, follows Mills. The point guard’s Twitter account is one of 52 on her following list.

Olympic stars show support for U.S. Soccer at World Cup

Mikaela Shiffrin wins Aspen World Cup slalom

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With a slalom win today in Aspen, Colo., Mikaela Shiffrin broke some of the barriers she had been chasing.

“I don’t know if the stars will ever align like that again,” Shiffrin said in a media conference after being told she won with the biggest margin of victory in the history of women’s slalom since 1968: 3.07 seconds. “I don’t think [my competitors] are going to let me get away with three seconds ever again.”

En route to her fourth consecutive slalom World Cup title – which would tie the record for the most with Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider from 1992-95 – she became the first female skier to win four World Cup slalom races in a row since Austria’s Marlies Schild did it in the 2011-12 season.

In addition, Shiffrin became the first female skier from the U.S. to win a slalom World Cup race in Aspen. And she’s now tied with France’s Perrine Pelen for sixth overall with total slalom World Cup victories.

“I was pissed after I made that ridiculous mistake yesterday,” Shiffrin said to media, referencing yesterday’s giant slalom crash. Both her and Lindsey Vonn crashed and did not finish in Aspen’s giant slalom. “I tried to use that anger today.”

Shiffrin called the mistake a “brainfart” and Vonn dismissed it because “giant slalom isn’t [her] strongest event.”

But, Shiffrin added that she already has her mind set on tomorrow, where she races slalom again, on NBC at 3 p.m. ET. The complete of the Olympic sports schedule is here.

“I just as quickly have to go back and settle in,” she said. “Tomorrow is a new race. I have to find a different motivation and try to take the same mentality and keep fighting.”

Slovakia’s Veronika Velez Zuzulova was second behind Shiffrin, followed by Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter.

By finishing behind Shiffrin in Aspen, Zuzulova extends her slalom World Cup podium finish streak to four.

Hansdotter has the second-most second place World Cup slalom finishes at 13 total, including today’s race. Only Pernilla Wiberg, of Sweden, has more with a total of 14.

MORE: Shiffrin, Vonn discuss friendship and rivalry

Fencing great Valentina Vezzali fails to qualify for Rio 2016

Mario Monti, Valentina Vezzali
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TURIN, Italy (AP) – Six-time Olympic champion fencer Valentina Vezzali has failed to qualify for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Games.

The 41-year-old Vezzali was eliminated in the second round of the foil event at the Trofeo Inalpi meet Saturday, while Italian teammate Arianna Errigo reached the semifinals and gained the necessary points to qualify.

Vezzali won at least one gold at the last five Olympics in either individual or team foil. She has a total of nine Olympic medals and 25 at world championships.

Her second son was born in 2013, the year in which she also became a member of Italy’s parliament.

Vezzali told the Gazzetta dello Sport this week that “I had another son and it was really difficult to come back. … I don’t think I have anything else to prove.”

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