Skylar Diggins

Skylar Diggins reflects on getting cut from World Championships team

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Skylar Diggins met with U.S. women’s national team director Carol Callan and coach Geno Auriemma in September in France to receive news common in sports but unusual for a player of her stature.

You didn’t make the team.

Diggins, an All-American at Notre Dame and All-Star with the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock, was one of three cuts following the U.S.’ exhibition loss to France on Sept. 21, six days before the World Championships. Diggins didn’t play against France, the U.S.’ first loss since 2011.

The cuts brought the U.S. down to 13 players. One more player was cut later that week to reach the roster maximum of 12. The Olympic roster chosen next year is also a maximum of 12.

“We have the best players in the world competing to be on the best team in the world,” Diggins said while in New York for NBA All-Star weekend. “It’s going to be challenging. There’s only 12 spots, and there’s way, way, way more than 12 players who could be deserving of those spots.

“The committee chose what they wanted. For me, it’s all about that experience. I have many years with USA Basketball, many great experiences. Any time they call on me, I’m going to show up and try out to make a team.”

Diggins, a guard, tried out for the team following her second professional season and a WNBA Most Improved Player award.

The guards who made the team included Olympic champions Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Lindsay Whalen as well as Odyssey Sims, Diggins’ teammate with the Tulsa Shock who was coming off her rookie season.

The U.S., without Diggins, won the World Championship in Turkey to clinch a 2016 Olympic berth.

Asked if there’s anything Diggins wanted to say to or show Auriemma in future camps before the Olympic team is chosen, she said no.

“I’m going to continue to be myself,” Diggins said. “I learned a lot from the vets out there.”

In September, Auriemma spoke to the difficulty in selecting a 12-player team among the U.S. talent pool. And that was without the injured frontcourt players Tamika Catchings, Sylvia Fowles and Candace Parker.

The final four players cut — Diggins, Stefanie Dolson, Kayla McBride and Jantel Lavender — were all 25 and younger.

“They’re young pros with not a lot of international experience, and they’re all playing positions that are difficult to crack into the lineup,” Auriemma said in a press release, before Lavender was the last cut to accommodate Brittney Griner. “Every one of those players that weren’t chosen will be a huge part of USA Basketball going forward. It’s just like so many before them, this is not the right time.”

Though Diggins played for a rival of Auriemma’s Connecticut in college, they embraced following Diggins’ final Notre Dame game, a 2013 NCAA Tournament semifinal defeat to UConn.

“He told me not to let this game define my legacy and said I have done more for the sport than some people who have won four national championships,” Diggins said then, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Diggins’ third WNBA season starts in June.

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Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts earn maximum points on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One other gymnast can get to the maximum points on vault with one win between the last two stops (and others with two).

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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