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Medal projection: Germany tops PyeongChang Olympic standings

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TOKYO (AP) — It’s still unclear how many Russian athletes will compete in the PyeongChang Olympics, but a few things seem certain.

Athletes from winter powers like Germany and Norway could pick up unexpected medals with some top Russians absent because of a massive doping scheme four years ago at the Sochi Games.

One medal forecast for Pyeongchang, compiled by Gracenote Sports, which refers to itself as a “sports and entertainment provider,” shows the impact if Russian athletes are missing.

Gracenote released its medal-table projection Wednesday, this time removing all Russians from the calculation.

The U.S.-based company said it would release a final prediction just before the Olympics open Feb. 9, this time including Russians who are known to be eligible and who will compete under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia,” or OAR.

Their participation, of course, would cut into the medal haul of other strong nations.

The Russian Olympic Committee said in December that “more than 200” athletes will meet the qualifying criteria.

However, the final decision, barring appeals to the based-Swiss Court of Arbitration for Sport, will be in the hands of an IOC commission — the Fourneyron Commission.

Germany and Norway are the big winners without Russia.

Gracenote forecasts Germany would win five extra medals, followed by Norway with four.

Canada, France and Japan would pick up two extra medals. Finland, Britain, Italy and the Netherlands would get one each.

Germany’s extra haul would push its medal-leading total to 40 — 14 gold, 12 silver and 14 bronze. Norway is next with 37 overall, but it would take 14 gold to tie Germany in that department.

Canada is predicted to take third place with 33 overall, followed by the United States (29) and France (24).

— If Germany wins 40 medals, it would be the country’s most successful total since 2002 in Salt Lake City. Biathlon will net Germany’s largest haul with 10 medals.

— These could be record-setting games for Norway, which has never won more than 29 overall. Norway is forecast to win a whopping 19 medals in cross-country skiing alone.

— Canada and the United States are forecast to win medals in 10 of the 15 sports at the Winter Games: Alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsled, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ice hockey, luge, Nordic combined, short-track speed skating, skeleton, ski jumping, snowboarding, speedskating.

— France also is on a record-setting pace, predicted to win 24 medals — nine over its record total in Sochi.

To calculate its predictions, Gracenote weighs results in recent world championships and other world-class events, giving more weight to the most recent.

At the Rio Olympics, Gracenote compiled a top-five list in every discipline.

It said 80 percent of the eventual medalists came from these lists. It is expecting similar results for PyeongChang.

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for PyeongChang Olympics

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

Skylar Diggins
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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