Steve Nash: Canada has ‘outside shot’ at Olympic basketball medal

Steve Nash

Canada general manager Steve Nash said his national team has a “50-50” shot at qualifying for the Rio Olympics this summer, but if it does, a medal is possible.

Canada has not won an Olympic basketball medal since the first Olympic men’s basketball tournament in 1936. It has not qualified a men’s team since 2000, when Nash played.

But the 41-year-old is excited about the possible roster for 2016.

Team Canada could include the last two No. 1 picks in the NBA Draft — Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins – as well as 2014 first-round picks Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis, NBA big men Tristan Thompson and Kelly Olynyk and San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph.

Nash agreed that it’s a golden age of Canadian basketball in a TSN radio interview.

“I expect us to qualify, but that is going to be a beast of a qualification,” he said.

The next step in qualification is at FIBA Americas in Monterrey, Mexico, in August and September. The two finalists from FIBA Americas will earn spots in a 12-team 2016 Olympic field.

The U.S. clinched a spot in the Rio Olympics by winning the 2014 FIBA World Cup and does not have to play at FIBA Americas. Brazil, too, is expected to be given a place in the 2016 Olympic tournament as host nation, though that hasn’t been made official yet.

That would leave FIBA Americas host Mexico, 2004 Olympic gold medalist Argentina, Puerto Rico (which beat the U.S. at the 2004 Olympics), the Dominican Republic (with Al Horford) and Canada as the top nations fighting for those two Olympic berths this summer.

“It’s an incredibly difficult group of guys that have played international basketball for a long time, played together,” Nash said. “And we’ve got a group that’s basically under 24, never played together and never played the international game in any real, meaningful capacity, especially collectively.”

Even if Canada does not qualify for Rio at FIBA Americas, it could get another chance at a last-chance qualifying tournament in 2016.

“The sky’s the limit, but I am by no stretch writing our name down to go to the Olympics,” Nash said. “I think our wheelhouse would be a medal-type team for the Olympics after this, 2020.”

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi

Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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Mo Farah likely to retire this year

Mo Farah

British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

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