U.S. women can clinch Olympic berth; FIBA World Championships preview

Maya Moore
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The U.S. women’s basketball team’s objective at the FIBA World Championships, which start Saturday, is exactly the same as what the U.S. men accomplished two weeks ago — repeat as world champion and clinch a spot in the 2016 Olympics.

The team guided by UConn coach Geno Auriemma is arguably more heavily favored than Mike Krzyzewski‘s crew to reach that goal, even after losing its first game in three years in an exhibition last week.

The U.S. roster includes Brittney Griner for the first time at a global championship plus seven members of the 2012 Olympic champion team. WNBA MVP Maya Moore and Finals MVP Diana Taurasi are in Turkey for the tournament, but the U.S. squad is so deep that All-WNBA First Team selection Skylar Diggins was one of the final cuts. (more analysis of the U.S. roster here)

The U.S. showed some weakness in pre-tournament games — its first loss since 2011 on Sunday, a 76-72 defeat to France. The U.S. beat France in the London Olympic final by 36 points.

Still, the U.S. is in much better shape than its longtime top challenger — Australia. The Aussies took silver in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics and came the closest to the U.S. at the 2012 Olympics, falling by 13 in the semifinals.

For the World Championships, Australia is without stalwart Lauren Jackson (hip injury) and its No. 2 scorer from London, Liz Cambage, who ruptured an Achilles tendon in a 72-66 exhibition loss to the U.S. last week.

Still, Australia beat France without Jackson and Cambage by 16 points last Saturday. The Aussies will be led by two-time Olympian Penny Taylor, the MVP of the 2006 FIBA World Championship, when the U.S. was shocked by Russia in the semifinals.

The U.S. begins play in four-nation Group D against China on Saturday. All four group winners advance to the quarterfinals. The second- and third-place teams advance to an elimination round to determine the other four quarterfinalists.

If the U.S. and Australia win their groups and their quarterfinals, they will meet in the Oct. 4 semifinals.

Here’s the U.S. schedule:

Saturday — China, 2:30 p.m. ET
Sunday — Serbia, 2:30 p.m. ET
Tuesday — Angola, 2:30 p.m. ET
Friday, Oct. 3 — Quarterfinal
Saturday, Oct. 4 — Semifinal
Sunday, Oct. 5 — Final

Kosuke Hagino not satisfied with 7 medals at Asian Games

Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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