Julia Grassie

U.S. women’s eight 11-year winning streak ends at World Rowing Championships

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The U.S. women’s eight team ended their 11-year winning streak with a fourth-place finish at the World Rowing Championships, which wrapped up today.

For over a decade, the squad has gone undefeated at the major international championships, winning three Olympic titles (2016, 2012, 2008) and eight world championship gold medals from 2006 to 2015.

At the 2017 World Championships held in Sarasota, Florida, however, the home country’s boat crossed the finish line behind new champions Romania, as well as silver and bronze medalists Canada and New Zealand. The U.S. team’s time of 6:09:250 was nearly three seconds behind Romania’s winning time of 6:06.400

It was also far slower than the world record time of 05:54.160, which the U.S. women’s eight set in 2013.

Only three members of the current lineup, which consists of eight rowers and one coxswain, were part of that 2013 team. The same three, Katelin Guregian, Emily Regan and Lauren Schmetterling, are also the only members who were on the gold-medal-winning squad at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The U.S. picked up two silver medals in other events on the last day of the World Championships.

Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek finished second in the women’s double sculls, which is the U.S.’s highest-ever finish in the event at a world championships. The oldest crew in the event, O’Leary and Tomek placed behind gold-medalists New Zealand, with Australia following to claim the bronze medal.

The U.S. men’s eight also earned a silver medal, while the world record holders from Germany lead the entire race en route to winning gold. It was the first world championship medal for a U.S. men’s boat since 2014.

The men’s eight has been coached this season by Mike Teti, who led the U.S. team to gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Before today’s race, he told Team USA of his young squad, “I think all the boats have undergraduates in them and some recent [college] graduates. It’s a good baseline to start the quadrennial with. I think the team will improve over the next three years.”

Dariush Aghai, a member of the team, told World Rowing after the race, “Feels great to medal today, got a great bunch of people here. We’ve only been together a short time as well. The last 500m I just zoned in to our cox and we managed a sprint.”

Overall, Italy won the medal table with nine total medals: three gold, three silver and three bronze. Rounding out the top three was New Zealand with seven and Australia with six medals.

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Video games in the Olympics? Here’s how it might work

AP
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ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) The future of the Olympics may just be in a basement in Turkmenistan.

With leading Olympic figures considering a possible role for competitive computer games – known as esports – at the 2024 Games in Paris, a pan-Asian competition in the ex-Soviet state offers a possible vision of the future.

Including esports could give the Olympics a younger audience and a huge revenue boost from a rapidly growing market, but would be deeply controversial.

The Olympic Council of Asia included esports as an official demonstration event at its Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games this week, with teams from China and nine other nations battling in four games ranging from space combat in “StarCraft II” to card-game strategy in “Hearthstone.”

Supporters of esports in the Olympics say their event is a real sporting contest, one which prizes strategy and lightning reactions over physical agility.

“It needs different skillsets from different people,” competitor Jess Joaustine Tamboboy from the Philippines told The Associated Press. “It doesn’t really have a physical requirement because you can see around us the players are short and tall, maybe a little bit thin, maybe a little bit fat. But all they have in order to qualify to play for these types of titles are just their cognitive or mind skills.”

Esports aren’t a natural fit for Turkmenistan, one of the poorer ex-Soviet nations, though one where internet access is growing rapidly.

The rules weren’t explained in the local language, but that didn’t turn off the crowd of up to 200 in the windowless basement of a sports arena from cheering and whooping at a particularly spectacular kill or skillful strategy.

Still, the attendance was tiny compared to big pro esports events, which can pack thousands into traditional sports arenas, and it didn’t make much of a splash online. Fewer than 50 viewers at a time watched some opening-round matches Monday on Twitch, a leading game streaming service that regularly attracts tens of thousands of concurrent viewers to its more popular streams.

If esports make it to the Paris Olympics, it would redefine what Olympic sport is meant to be.

The International Olympic Committee has previously resisted calls to add “mind sports” like chess that don’t involve physical exertion, or events where machines are key, like auto racing.

Deciding which games to pick is fraught, too. The IOC has a sponsorship deal with Chinese company Alibaba, which has major esports interests, but rival firms have their own popular brands.

The IOC also fears violent games would hurt the Olympics’ image.

IOC president Thomas Bach told the South China Morning Post, an Alibaba-owned newspaper, earlier this month that he’d prefer sports simulations.

“We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence, and peace among people. This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line,” he said.

All four of the games on the program this week in Turkmenistan featured some form of combat, though in fantasy settings with cartoon-style animation techniques. There weren’t any realistic military-themed shooting games on the program.

Bach also said esports needs a firmer structure. The IOC is used to dealing with a single governing body for each sport, like FIFA for soccer or the International Gymnastics Federation. Esports has its own international federation, but with limited influence over a web of private interests including games publishers, competition organizers and players’ teams.

The event in Turkmenistan showed how that system doesn’t yet fit smoothly with the Olympic movement.

IOC sponsor Alibaba’s Alisports division was in charge of the event, and used an open online qualifying system. That prompted federations from Australia and South Korea to boycott, saying athletes should have been picked by their national Olympic committees in the manner of a traditional sport.

If esports make it to the Olympics, other potential problems for the IOC include criticism it’s moving away from promoting a healthy lifestyle, and that it’s ignoring poorer countries where fast computers and brand-new games are unaffordable.

Esports would also mean the IOC allowing private companies to set the rules of its competitions.

Most traditional sports treat the rules with reverence, only occasionally tinkering around the edges. Not so for games publishers, who routinely mix things up to attract new players and keep things fresh.

Adding just one new character can reshape the whole “meta” – the game’s constantly evolving web of tactics and counter-tactics.

Senior figures in the IOC and the esports world have publicly doubted esports will be ready for an Olympic debut in seven years’ time.

“We are still some way away from our vision and we need to start on the right foot,” Asian Esports Federation president Kenneth Fok said last week. “For esports to develop in a positive banner, we need the full support of each and every NOC, their government, and more importantly the general public to have a positive perception of electronic sports.”

Ellingworth reported from Moscow.

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Dream Team Week: USA vs. Brazil tonight on Olympic Channel

USA Today Sports
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25 years after the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team known as “the Dream Team” dominated the competition at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA is reairing the squad’s now-legendary games all week. The team was the first U.S. Olympic team with active NBA players, including basketball legends Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Airing tonight at 8pm ET on the Olympic Channel is USA vs. Brazil, the fourth of eight Dream Team victories. Led by Barkley, who scored 30 points, the U.S. beat Brazil 127-83.  But Brazil’s Oscar Schmidt, playing in his fourth Olympics, boosted his team by scoring 24 points. Over his five Olympic appearances, Schmidt would become the top cumulative scorer in men’s Olympic basketball, scoring a total of 1,093 points.

All eight games will be shown in sequential order via their original NBC Olympic broadcasts. Each night’s airing will start at 8 p.m. ET, unless noted otherwise below.

Monday, Aug. 28 — USA vs. Angola (*8:30 p.m. ET)
Tuesday, Aug. 29 — USA vs. Croatia
Wednesday, Aug. 30 — USA vs. Germany
Thursday, Aug. 31 — USA vs. Brazil
Friday, Sept. 1 — USA vs. Spain
Saturday, Sept. 2 — USA vs. Puerto Rico (quarterfinal)
Sunday, Sept. 3 — USA vs. Lithuania (semifinal)
Monday, Sept. 4 — USA vs. Croatia (final, *8:30 p.m. ET)

The final will conclude an 11-hour marathon of Dream Team game broadcasts on Labor Day.

After each game, the Olympic Channel will show NBC’s Dream Team documentary, which originally aired during the 2012 London Olympics and includes interviews with the players.

Check the Channel Finder to see how you can watch the Olympic Channel in your area.

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