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U.S. bobsled caps strong World Cup opener with victory

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Codie Bascue learned plenty about driving from Steven Holcomb in their years together on the U.S. bobsled team.

And now he’s a winner in Lake Placid — just like Holcomb.

Bascue, who had no medals in his first three years on the World Cup bobsled circuit, finished a spectacular opening weekend to this season with a gold medal in the two-man race Friday at Mount Van Hoevenberg.

It completed a two-medals-in-two-days start to the year for Bascue, who reached a World Cup podium for the first time with a bronze Thursday.

“Today was for Holcomb,” said ex-Michigan and Rice running back Sam McGuffie, who pushed for Bascue. “We have his name in the back seat of our sled. … It’s really special.”

Bascue and McGuffie had the fastest runs in each heat, finishing the two runs in 1 minute, 51.73 seconds. Justin Kripps and Alexander Kopacz of Canada were second in 1:51.84, and Justin Olsen and Evan Weinstock of the U.S. took third in 1:52.13.

This was a strong first weekend for the U.S. bobsled team, which took five of a possible nine medals — one gold, two silvers and two bronzes — from the pair of two-man races and the women’s race in Lake Placid.

Bascue is the first American other than Holcomb to win a World Cup race since 2009, when John Napier prevailed in Lake Placid.

Holcomb had given the U.S. men each of their last 19 World Cup golds, including last year in Lake Placid with McGuffie in his sled.

“I’m really proud of Codie,” said U.S. driver Nick Cunningham, who was fourth. “He had Holcomb on his mind all week. Olsen came through in the clutch as well. Overall it was a really great weekend for Team USA.”

Holcomb, the longtime leader of the U.S. bobsled program, died unexpectedly in his sleep in May.

There were two two-man races in Lake Placid because of a ruling earlier in the week about ice conditions.

To make up for that, there will be two four-man competitions in Park City, Utah, next weekend when the World Cup tour resumes.

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MORE: U.S. bobsledders remember Steven Holcomb as Olympic season starts

Skylar Diggins-Smith has the opportunity to fill USA Basketball’s need

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Skylar Diggins-Smith said making the U.S. Olympic team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is her second chance.

An ACL tear derailed her Rio 2016 hopes. That happened in a WNBA game on June 28, 2015.

Though Diggins-Smith was among 25 Olympic finalists named in January 2016, she didn’t return to game action until that May, four weeks after the 12-woman Olympic team was chosen.

The 27-year-old guard said she’s played for USA Basketball for 12 years, since before her standout Notre Dame career that led to her current stint with the Dallas Wings (formerly Tulsa Shock).

“This is the most clear my mind has been,” with USA Basketball, Diggins-Smith said from training camp in Seattle on Tuesday, ahead of a Thursday exhibition against China at Key Arena (10 p.m. ET, usab.com/live).

Signs point to Diggins-Smith making her major international tournament debut at September’s FIBA World Cup, the quadrennial world championship event.

Though Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi‘s surprising returns crowd the backcourt, the other Olympic gold medalist guard, Lindsay Whalen, retired from the national team.

Diggins-Smith’s play last season, her first full campaign back from the ACL tear, boosts her case. She made the All-WNBA First Team.

She also made the first team in 2014. That year, Diggins-Smith was among the final cuts for the world championship team less than a week before the tournament.

“Every time I come to USA Basketball, I think you have a tendency to kind of overthink,” Diggins-Smith said Tuesday. “You just want to do the right thing, don’t really want to make mistakes. … You want to do the right thing, and you press a little bit.”

USA Basketball has stressed finding its next stalwart point guard following five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards, three-time Olympian Dawn Staley (now the U.S. head coach) and the 37-year-old Bird, eyeing her fifth Olympics in 2020.

“Give me three guards that have separated themselves from everyone else in the WNBA to put themselves at the same level as Sue, Diana, Lindsay Whalen,” then-U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said after the Olympic team was named in April 2016. “You really start to look around and, you go, that is a huge question that has to be answered.”

“Obviously, there’s a need,” Staley said in February, listing point guards other than Bird at that camp.

The first name Staley mentioned was Diggins-Smith, for what it’s worth.

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MORE: Candace Parker finished with USA Basketball

USA Track and Field to honor 1968 Olympic team on 50th anniversary

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USA Track and Field begins a campaign this week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic team.

Members of the Mexico City Games team, one of the greatest track and field teams in history, will be honored at high-profile events the remainder of the year.

The campaign, “1968-2018: Celebrating Athletic Achievement and Courage,” culminates with a “Night of Legends” reunion in December at the USATF Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio, also attended by current U.S. stars.

The 1968 Olympic team is most remembered for Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who took gold and bronze in the 200m and were sent home after raising their black-gloved fists in a human rights salute during the national anthem.

The team also included gold medalists Bob Beamon (long jump), Dick Fosbury (high jump), Al Oerter (discus), Wyomia Tyus and Jim Hines (100m), Lee Evans (400m), Madeline Manning Mims (800m), Willie Davenport (110m hurdles), Bob Seagren (pole vault), Randy Matson (shot put), Bill Toomey (decathlon) and the men’s and women’s 4x100m and men’s 4x400m.

“The legacy of the greatest track & field team to ever be assembled is still felt 50 years later,” USATF CEO Max Siegel said in a press release. “These Olympians persevered through athletic challenges and social injustices, maintaining their composure and dignity when others may have fallen. It is USATF’s honor to pay homage to their achievements and bring the team together for an epic celebration at our Annual Meeting.”

U.S. track and field athletes will compete at two meets on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Gold this weekend — the Drake Relays and Penn Relays.

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WATCH: NBC Olympics documentary on 1968 Olympics