Super-G course ‘looked fiercer than it was’

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After eight of the first 11 skiers and 18 of 49 total skied off course while two of his own athletes landed on the podium, Austrian speed coach Florian Winkler was forced to defend his course-setting for the women’s super-G after the race Saturday at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The high attrition rate, coupled with the race being won by 24-year-old Austrian Anna Fenninger with Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch taking silver and another Austrian, Nicole Hosp, securing bronze, had some questioning whether the course was set to favor Austrian skiers.

Winkler denied the allegations.

“It’s a fair course,” Winkler told AFP. “It looked fiercer than it was.”

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Course setters at the Olympics are determined by weighted lottery with each nation getting as many Ping-Pong balls as they have skiers in the Top 15 in the world.

Winkler, who won the super-G lottery, said that his goal was to shape a layout that would challenge skiers by forcing them to blend all-out speed skiing with a cerebral approach to linking the sections together. The number of athletes unable to do that came as a shock, particularly after watching six skiers in a row ski out at the start.

“It was our goal for the course,” Winkler told AFP. “Still fair, but you have to think a bit more. I was surprised by the number of girls who skied out. It was a day of mistakes for many. I think the best handled it really well, they showed how it’s done.”

Winkler added that if the Austrians had any advantage it was in that as high-ranked super-G performers on the World Cup, they drew later starting bibs and benefited from course reports.

This isn’t the first time that the Austrian coaches have been accused of bias when setting courses at the Games.

RELATED: Anna Fenninger attacks course for SG gold

For years ago, American Lindsey Vonn went into the Vancouver Olympics as the World Cup leader in the super-G standings and as a heavy gold medal favorite. But the American star could manage just a bronze while unheralded Austrian, Andrea Fischbacher, was the surprise gold medalist.

After the competition, Vonn’s then-husband/coach Thomas Vonn, who finished ninth in the men’s super-G at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, accused Austrian coach Juergen Kriechbaum, who set the gates, of “Lindsey-proofing” the course. Kriechbaum, of course, vehemently denied the charge.

“You don’t make a course against one person,” he told AP at the time. “This is stupid. She’s good, but not so good that anyone would set it just to stop her.”

Fenninger brushed off any notion that she benefited from favoritism.

“It makes for a great story, but it’s the same for everyone,” she said.

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Hosp, who won her second medal of the Games, added that there was “no accidental winner,” and that the podium was occupied by the women, “skied well and raced tactically.”

Olympic downhill gold medalist Dominique Gisin of Switzerland, one of the 18 who did not finish the super-G, echoed those sentiments.

“I don’t think it’s possible (to favor an athlete),” she said to AFP. “Anna is a truly overall skier, she has beautiful technique. It didn’t matter what course she was put on.”

U.S. women win record 27th consecutive FIBA World Cup game

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SYDNEY — There’s been a long legacy of success for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the World Cup.

The names change over time, but the results don’t seem to.

Kelsey Plum scored 20 points, Chelsea Gray added 16 and the United States routed Bosnia and Herzegovina 121-59 on Tuesday to break the team record for consecutive wins at the World Cup.

The victory was the 27th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The U.S. won 26 in a row from 1994-2006 leading up to that game. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86.

“It’s kind of amazing,” said Breanna Stewart, who has been part of the last three World Cup teams. “Obviously, been here for some of it, but you understand the legends before that who really kind of started the streak. It goes to show that no matter who is playing on USA Basketball, we’re always trying to chase excellence.

“This streak doesn’t mean much right now because we’re going into the quarterfinals and focusing on winning a gold medal, but it’s something to kind of hang your hat on later.”

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Stewart and A’ja Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t appear it will end anytime soon.

“The players change and, you know, there was a lot of concern about who’s next,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It was a concern when Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie were playing and who was going to be next. Then it was Sue and (Taurasi) and then other great players, too. Now with this group they are saying, hey, we’re pretty good, too.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

The U.S. last lost a group play game in 1975, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org.

“We know the responsibility when you put on this jersey. There’s a lot more than yourself,” Plum said. “Everyone puts pride to the side. We have a common goal. We have some amazing players on this team.”

The Americans (5-0) won their pool games by an average of 46.2 points and never trailed in any of them. Now they play Serbia in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. was coming off a record rout of South Korea in which the team broke the World Cup record for points with 145. While the Americans didn’t match that number, they put the game out of reach in the first 10 minutes, going up 33-15.

The lead ballooned to 63-31 at halftime. Bosnia and Herzegovina put together a small run to start the third quarter, but the U.S. scored the final 19 points of the period.

Once again they used a dominant inside performance, outscoring Bosnia and Herzegovina 84-28 in the paint led by Wilson, Stewart and Brionna Jones.

“It’s a huge part of our identity,” Reeve said. “Ninety-whatever we had yesterday and 84 today, we just know what we’re good at and we have players that are really understanding their opportunities for that.”

The U.S. was missing Jewell Loyd, whom the team said was resting. Kahleah Copper started in her place and finished with 11 points.

Nikolina Elez scored 19 points to lead the Bosniaks (0-5), who were playing in their first World Cup.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA vs. Serbia
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada vs. Puerto Rico
4 a.m. China vs. France
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Belgium
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final