Wladimir Klitschko not ready to give up on Olympic dream

Wladimir Klitschko
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NEW YORK — World heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko still hopes to compete in the Rio Olympics, but that does not appear possible.

“Wladimir Klitschko is not eligible for any of the qualifying paths,” an International Boxing Association (AIBA) official said in an email Friday, citing qualifying procedures here and here.

In 2013, AIBA, which is boxing’s international governing body for Olympic competition, also said Klitschko was ineligible, but added then that exceptions could be made to allow certain boxers into the Olympics as it moved toward allowing professionals to compete in the Games.

On Wednesday, Klitschko did not sound ready to give up on returning to the Olympics while at Madison Square Garden, where he will fight American Bryant Jennings in a title defense April 25.

“I’m not ready to talk about it in particular, what it looks like, because AIBA, that’s the sanctioning body of amateur [boxing], needs to get along with professional boxers,” the Ukrainian Klitschko said. “I’ve heard about the rules. There’s certain amount of boxing fights and experience, whatever the rules are, I’m not right now familiar with that, because I think it hasn’t been confirmed 100 percent yet.

“If there is a chance, I would love to participate. Any other sport, they can play professionally [and play in the Olympics]. It’s a shame for boxing that professional boxers cannot perform in the Olympics.”

Klitschko declined to give a deadline on when he would decide whether he will try to make the Olympics, if given the opportunity.

“I hope not the Olympics after Rio. I’m going to be 45 next Olympics [he will actually be 44], after Rio,” he said. “I hope things will be cleared up in the next half-year, and then we’ll go from there.”

Klitschko won the Atlanta 1996 Olympic super heavyweight gold medal.

“That was my dream, to fight again at the Olympics, 20 years later,” Klitschko said. “Not just to fight, but to win the gold again.”

Klitschko smiled when asked to recall his experience in Atlanta, saying “the Olympics have changed my life.”

“I have great memories,” Klitschko said. “Meeting Muhammad Ali. … He was visiting the [athletes’] village, gathering a lot of people. I was one of them. It was exciting to see him in person. I didn’t get a chance to shake his hand.”

Klitschko said that was the first time he was close to Ali. The two Olympic champions have met several times since.

Klitschko’s second memory was of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing on July 27.

“One of the memories is the bombing of the disco, where my friends went to, and I was there before,” Klitschko said. “But I left, because I have to be in the schedule and sleep. When I heard the next morning, which was right on the other side of the campus where we were staying, it was really sad. Thankfully, nobody from my team got injured, but they were there.”

Does Klitschko’s older brother, Vitaly, regret not being an Olympian?

“I think he does in certain ways, but another side, he’s happy because I won the gold for both of us,” Klitschko said.

Vitaly is now the mayor of Kiev. Klitschko laughed when asked if Vitaly might unretire.

“I can joke about it,” Klitschko said. “Sometimes before the fights, he says, ‘Man, these are such exciting times. I am missing it.’ But of course not. His responsibility now is mayor of city of Kiev, for four million people. There’s no way.”

Michael Phelps plans to compete in April

Dmitriy Balandin, surprise Olympic swimming champion, retires

Dmitriy Balandin
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Dmitriy Balandin, the Kazakh swimmer who pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2016 Rio Olympics, retired at age 27.

“Today I would like to announce the end of my sports career,” Balandin said last week, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee. “I am still inspired. A new phase of my life begins. I have a lot of cool projects in my head that will soon be implemented.”

Balandin reportedly has coaching aspirations.

In 2016, he won the Olympic men’s 200m breaststroke out of lane eight as the last qualifier into the final. He edged American Josh Prenot by seven hundredths of a second and became Kazakhstan’s first Olympic swimming medalist.

He followed that up with 11th- and 17th-place finishes in the breaststrokes in Tokyo last year.

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U.S. women’s basketball team scores most points in FIBA World Cup history

Brionna Jones
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SYDNEY — A’ja Wilson and the U.S. put on quite a show, breaking the World Cup scoring mark in a record rout of South Korea.

Brionna Jones scored 24 points and Wilson added 20 to help the U.S. beat South Korea 145-69 on Monday. Shakira Austin’s layup with 9 seconds left helped the Americans break Brazil’s record of 143 points set in 1990.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a team that can score the basketball like this,” Wilson said. “This is crazy, we put up 145 points. I think when you look at us and just knowing how talented we are, we just came together and we play together very, very well.”

The U.S. always has the most talented and deepest roster of any team in the World Cup with 12 WNBA stars on the roster. Still, the Americans had never come close to that sort of offensive output during it’s storied World Cup history. The previous team record was 119 points against Angola in 2014 and China in 2006. The scoring margin was also the biggest in U.S. history as well surpassing the 75-point win over Angola in 2014.

The win was also the 26th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals when they fell to Russia. The U.S. also won 26 in a row from 1994-2006. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-1986.

MORE: FIBA World Cup Results

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Breanna Stewart and Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon.

The U.S. (4-0), which has been playing stellar defense, was challenged by South Korea early. The teams were trading baskets for the first 8 minutes and it was tied at 21 before the Americans took control, scoring the final 11 points of the period.

Kahleah Copper came off the bench for the first time of the tournament and scored six points during that spurt. The Americans kept the streak going to start the second quarter, scoring nine of the first 11 points to put the game away.

By the time the game reached the half the U.S. was up 68-40, including scoring 44 points in the paint against the undersized Koreans.

“We were trying to get the ball inside,” Jones said. “We had an advantage there.”

The only suspense in the second half was how many records the Americans could break. They took down their own scoring mark on Sabrina Ionescu’s 3-pointer with 6:15 left in the game and kept putting up points with Austin’s layup capping off the contest.

Other records broken on Monday included the 62 field goals made, 36 assists and 94 points in the paint.

“Our size was a problem for them and I thought we shared the ball,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The Americans were well rested for the game after having their first day off of the tournament on Sunday.

Despite the rout, South Korea (1-3) can still advance to the quarterfinals with a win over Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

Leeseul Kang, who had 37 points in a win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, scored 10 points. Hyejin Park had 17 to lead the team.

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