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Candace Parker unsure of 2020 Olympic run after Rio snub

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Dawn Staley was announced as the next U.S. women’s basketball head coach on March 10. Candace Parker said Tuesday that she learned of Staley’s hiring “a couple of days ago” from a Los Angeles Sparks teammate.

Parker was surprisingly left off the Olympic team more than 13 months ago. As the WNBA season gets going, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion has little to say about her future with the U.S. national team, if there is to be one at all.

Does she want to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at age 34?

“I don’t know,” Parker said before beating the New York Liberty on Tuesday night. “I haven’t thought about it.”

Parker was playing overseas for a Turkish club when Staley was announced as the successor to Geno Auriemma nearly three months ago.

Parker played collegiately at the University of Tennessee, the main rival to Auriemma’s Connecticut teams, but Parker suited up for Auriemma at the 2012 London Olympics and led the team in rebounds and blocks.

Auriemma was not part of the five-person selection committee that left Parker off the Rio Olympic team. Committee chair Carol Callan said the forward Parker played a position that was “the strength of” the U.S. team. Two of the three first-time Olympians in Rio, Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart, played the same position as Parker.

The selection committee for the 2020 Olympic cycle has not been announced. The next major tournament, the FIBA World Cup, is not until September 2018. Parker has plenty of time to weigh her options.

In the meantime, she praised Staley, both on social media after Staley won the NCAA title with South Carolina in April and on Monday night.

“I’m proud of her,” Parker said. “I think she deserves it [the U.S. head-coaching job]. She’s an outstanding coach winning a national championship.”

Parker is coming off an outstanding year since being left off the Rio team. She achieved her top career goal — a WNBA title, even greater than Olympic gold, she has said — with the Sparks last season, earning finals MVP.

Parker dedicated the campaign to her college coach, Pat Summitt, who died in June after battling Alzheimer’s for nearly five years.

After her first four games this season, Parker is the only WNBA player averaging 15 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.

Parker has said a primary motivation to play in Rio was that her daughter, Lailaa, then 7 years old, would be able to watch her at the Olympics and remember it.

After missing the Rio team, Parker spoke of being caught off-guard, mad and upset. She would not commit to hypothetically being an injury replacement if one of the 12 named players had to bow out. That situation did not arise.

Parker said last June that it was “too early to tell” if she would wear a USA jersey again.

Now, Parker has that WNBA title. Her next goal? Winning another WNBA title.

“You can luck up and do anything one time, not that you’re going to luck up and win a championship,” said Parker, who also won two NCAA titles at Tennessee. “There’s a lot of people that have one championship. I said it in college, all the greats had multiples. That’s kind of what I’m aiming for.”

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Alysia Montano races pregnant again at USATF Outdoor Championships

Alysia Montano
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U.S. Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montaño raced four months pregnant in 110-degree heat at the USATF Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Montaño, who raced eight months pregnant at the 2014 USATF Outdoors also in Sacramento, finished last in her 800m first-round heat in 2:21.40. She was 10 seconds faster than her time three years ago.

In a Wonder Woman top, she gritted her teeth on the final straightaway and raised her arms crossing the finish line.

“[In 2014] women let me know that my journey and my story had inspired them in so many different ways,” Montaño told media in Sacramento, standing next to 2-year-old daughter Linnea. “I think there’s something about coming out to any venue, not really expecting to win, but just going along with the journey and seeing what comes out of it. And that’s the most beautiful part for me, being a track and field athlete, the platform that I have, I feel so responsible to be a representative for people who don’t have the same platform, don’t have the same voice that I do.

“I represent so many different people. I represent women. I represent black women. I represent pregnant women. … I think it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m a voice and advocate for them.”

Athletes are looking for top-three finishes to qualify for the world championships in London in August. Finals are later this weekend.

In the men’s 800m, two-time Olympian and 2013 World silver medalist Nick Symmonds was eliminated, 32nd-fastest of 33 runners in the first round.

Symmonds, in his final season, said he has one more race left — the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 10.

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Lilly King to be less vocal on Yuliya Efimova topic this summer

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Expect to see Lilly King and Yuliya Efimova resume their breaststroke rivalry at the world championships next month.

It will look very different than in Rio, when King became a vocal opponent of doping and directed some of her words at the formerly suspended Russian Efimova.

“This summer, I’m not going to talk about everything that happened last summer,” King said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “I spoke my piece. I’ve said everything I need to say.”

Her focus needs to stay in the pool, where she must finish first or second at the USA Swimming National Championships next week to make it to worlds (broadcast schedule here).

King said in May her goal is to break world records at worlds in Budapest in July.

She may need to in order to defeat Efimova like in Rio.

Efimova has the fastest 100m breast time in the world this year, a 1:04.82 set on Sunday. The national record put her No. 3 on the all-time list (and .09 faster than King’s winning time in Rio).

King is in third place this year at 1:06.20, though she spent all winter focusing on NCAA competition in 25-yard pools.

In Rio, King said Efimova shouldn’t have been allowed to compete given her doping history.

Efimova served a 16-month ban for testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA in 2013. She again tested positive in February 2016 for meldonium, though she said she stopped taking it before it became a banned substance Jan. 1, 2016, and was absolved along with other athletes.

King memorably finger-wagged at an image of Efimova on a TV in the ready room before her 100m breast semifinal and relegated the Russian to silver the following the night.

“You’ve been caught for drug cheating, I’m just not a fan,” King memorably said in Rio, adding last November, “[Doping] was on all of our minds. We had team meetings talking about what it was going to be like. We were going to be racing dopers, and we all knew it.”

King struggled with her newfound fame after she returned home last summer, sobbing in a winter meeting with her University of Indiana coach, Ray Looze, according to the Indianapolis Star:

It was so hard to do normal activities in her hometown – go to the grocery store or eat at a restaurant – that she considered wearing a wig to disguise herself. Her likeness was on a bingo card at a fall festival, so people purposely looked for her. When in Evansville now, she said, she looks at the ground so no one will recognize her. After an initial wave of attention on IU’s campus, she can walk around without interruption.

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