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Sue Bird keeps Team USA door open, too

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Some days, Sue Bird feels as if she’s on borrowed time. Other days, the WNBA’s oldest player considers a potential fifth Olympics in Tokyo.

“Only three years away,” she said Sunday.

Bird, like her former University of Connecticut teammate Diana Taurasi, sounds more optimistic now about playing for Team USA again than she did last year. They could both be on the 2018 World Cup team.

Taurasi said last week that she would keep playing for the national team as long as she’s asked, with one likely caveat. Bird would have to suit up, too.

“It’s easy to group us in a lot of ways,” Bird said before scoring a season-high 21 points in a Seattle Storm loss at the New York Liberty on Sunday. “I’m sure the decision will be kind of, sort of together, but at the same time, separate.

“In terms of health and where you are in two, three years, it’s tough to say. I can also tell you that, I think I can speak for both of us when I say, if we’re both playing at a high level and feel good and we’re asked to represent our country, it would be really hard to say no.”

Bird turns 40 in 2020, when she will be nearly three years older than any previous U.S. Olympic basketball player. She said before Rio that 2016 would likely be her last Olympics.

Bird, who missed one game in Rio with a left knee sprain, underwent left knee surgery for a fifth time in April. But she’s averaging a career-high 8.1 assists per game this season, leading the WNBA through seven games.

New U.S. coach Dawn Staley, who replaced Geno Auriemma (Bird and Taurasi’s college coach), said in March that it was her gut feeling that both Bird and Taurasi would make a run for Tokyo. Staley, Bird and Taurasi were teammates at the 2004 Athens Games.

Bird said she hasn’t had any discussions with Staley and no meaningful ones with women’s national team director Carol Callan the spring.

But Bird and Taurasi may well be needed. The U.S. team of 12 in Rio included just three primary guards — Taurasi, Bird and Lindsay Whalen, all 34 years and older.

“If it comes down to it and the team needs me in whatever capacity I’d oblige,” Bird said, according to The Associated Press. “I don’t think if you’re asked to represent your country you say no to them.”

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MORE: Will Candace Parker wear Team USA jersey again?

World downhill champion Ilka Stuhec tears ACL

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Lindsey Vonn’s top rival for downhill gold is in danger of missing the upcoming Olympics.

Ilka Stuhec, a world champion Alpine skier from Slovenia, suffered a torn ACL after a practice crash in Austria this weekend.

Stuhec had become a strong medal favorite for PyeongChang after winning FIS World Cup titles in downhill and Alpine combined last season. She also won a gold medal in downhill at the 2017 World Championships, where Vonn placed third.

According to a post on the FIS website, surgery is set for this Wednesday, with more information to come after that. But preliminary reports suggest that she is likely to miss the Olympics.

“For now it looks like Ilka Stuhec will have to miss a large part or maybe the whole World Cup season, including the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea,” a spokesperson for Struhec told Reuters.

In a tweet, Struhec acknowledged that she would be sidelined “for a few months.”

The Olympics start in less than four months.

 

U.S. Ski & Snowboard mourns after 17-year-old aerials skier found dead

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Mikey Lillis, a 17-year-old aerials skier, died in his sleep at his home in East Rochester, N.Y., overnight Saturday, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

“We are a family, and as a family our entire team grieves for Mikey, his own family and his teammates,” U.S. Ski & Snowboard President and CEO Tiger Shaw said in a statement. “We’ll remember him for the pathway he was following and the goals he was beginning to achieve. Our condolences go out to his parents Bernie and Jamie and the entire Lillis family.”

Lillis was working his way to join his two older brothers at the elite international level. He made three podiums on the Nor-Am Cup tour between the last two seasons.

Jon Lillis, 23, is the reigning world champion in aerials. Chris Lillis, 19, won the FIS Rookie of the Year award last season with four top-10 finishes on the World Cup.