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

Laurie Hernandez eyes return to competition in 2018

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NEW YORK – Laurie Hernandez hardly considers her 14 months away from competitive gymnastics a break.

Since earning Olympic team gold and balance beam silver in Rio, the 17-year-old won “Dancing with the Stars,” authored a book and even enrolled in ballet lessons.

But her most rewarding experience has been speaking at schools. Students have asked her seemingly every question, from when she started taking gymnastics classes (age 5) to whether she climbed trees when she was younger (yes, all the time).

Seeing how many children were inspired by her Rio performance motivated Hernandez as she prepares to return to the sport.

“I didn’t realize at the Olympics how many people were truly watching,” Hernandez said Wednesday night at the annual Women’s Sports Foundation Salute to Women in Sports. “Now I’m excited to get back into the gym.”

Hernandez recently added handstand holds, back tucks and front flips to her conditioning program, in addition to continuing to run and lift weights.

“It’s a little difficult, but it’s fine,” she said. “I’ll push it a little more after the holidays.”

She has her eye on returning to competition in 2018.

“That’s definitely the hope,” Hernandez said. “I’m not going to rush anything, but I would love to compete in 2018.”

Hernandez, who said her next goal in gymnastics is to compete at the world championships for the first time and hopefully the 2020 Olympics, has not yet identified her comeback meet.

She noted that Aly Raisman took more than two years off after the London Olympics.

“I know every athlete is different,” Hernandez said. “But I wouldn’t mind following in her footsteps.”

Simone Biles, who has not competed since winning four gold medals in Rio, recently announced that she plans on returning to full-time training Nov. 1 and competition next summer.

“I look up to her, even though we are teammates,” Hernandez said. “I can’t wait to see her out there, but hopefully I’ll be out there with her soon.”

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Olympic cycling champion running for Congress

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Olympic cycling gold medalist Marty Nothstein is the latest to announce he’s running for the eastern Pennsylvania congressional seat being vacated by fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Dent.

Dent, a former state senator, is a centrist Republican who has held the seat since 2005. He’s retiring after his term expires next year.

Nothstein, who won sprint silver in 1996 and gold in 2000, is the only American track cyclist to win an Olympic title at a fully attended Games.

Two Republican state representatives, Ryan Mackenzie and Justin Simmons, previously announced they’re running for Dent’s 15th District seat.

Democrat Bill Leiner, a former Lehigh County commissioner, is also running.

Dent’s district includes Allentown and all of Lehigh County, and parts of four surrounding counties.

Republicans in 2011 stretched the district almost 90 miles to the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania to make it more Republican.

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