Lindsey Harding

Former WNBA No. 1 draft pick switches from U.S. to Belarus


Lindsey Harding, the 2007 WNBA Draft No. 1 overall pick, will be eligible to play for Belarus at EuroBasket in June as the nation tries to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Harding, born in Mobile, Ala., and raised in Houston, split the last two years playing for the Los Angeles Sparks and in a Turkish league.

Harding won the 2007 Naismith Player of the Year award while at Duke. She was a finalist to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic team but has never played for the U.S. at the World Championships or Olympics.

Harding is the only Naismith women’s winner since 1997 not to play for the U.S. at a Worlds or Olympics.

Harding wouldn’t be the first naturalized player to compete for another nation. Most notably, six-time WNBA All-Star Becky Hammon played for Russia at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

The Belarus women’s team finished sixth at the 2008 Olympics and fourth at the 2010 World Championships but failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics and was 10th at the 2014 World Championships.

The winner of EuroBasket, co-hosted by Hungary and Romania, will earn a berth in the Rio Olympics (the U.S. is the only nation already qualified). The favorites are Spain and France, which lost to the U.S. in the final and quarterfinals, respectively, at the 2014 World Championships.

The second-through-fifth place teams from EuroBasket will advance to a last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in 2016.

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Coronavirus forces Olympic soccer and boxing qualifiers to move

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Olympic qualifying events in two sports were moved from the Chinese city of Wuhan on Wednesday because of an outbreak of a deadly viral illness.

A four-nation Asian qualifying group for the women’s soccer tournament was switched from the city at the center of the health scare to Nanjing.

The Asia-Oceania boxing qualifying tournament scheduled for Feb. 3-14 in Wuhan was cancelled. No new plans were announced.

The decisions followed Chinese health authorities telling people in Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings.

The Asian Football Confederation said the round-robin group — featuring host China, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand — will be played on Feb. 3-9, retaining the same dates, in Nanjing.

More than 500 people have been infected and at least 17 killed since the outbreak emerged last month. The illness comes from a newly identified type of coronavirus.

Cases have also been reported in the United States, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. All involve people from Wuhan or who recently traveled there.

In the soccer qualifiers in China, two teams advance to a four-nation playoff round in March. That will decide which two teams from Asia join host Japan at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Russia trounces U.S. boys’ hockey team to wrap up Youth Olympic Games

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Russia routed the U.S. 4-0 in the boys’ hockey gold medal game Wednesday, the final day of the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The U.S. had more penalties (three) than shots (two) in the first period. Russia’s Matvei Michkov converted the first power play and added an even-strength goal later in the period. Another power-play goal in the second period ran the score to 3-0.

Michkov just turned 15 and is projected as a top pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.

The gold medal was Russia’s ninth of the Games, excluding events that featured mixed-nationality teams, and 27th overall medal. Both numbers were the best of the competition.

Switzerland finished second in the medal tally with nine golds and 22 total. Japan, the surprise winner in girls’ hockey, matched Switzerland with nine golds among its 17 medals.

The U.S. had two gold medals and 11 total. Kiernan Fagan took gold in the boys’ ski slopestyle and silver in ski big air. Dusty Henricksen won the boys’ snowboard slopestyle.

Fagan, who turned 18 during the Games, already has a couple of World Cup podiums and finished 12th in slopestyle in last year’s world championships. He also took silver in big air and slopestyle in last year’s world junior championships.

Henricksen, who’ll turn 17 next month, placed 17th in the World Cup big air event last month in Atlanta.

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