Alan Webb set for first Olympic-sized triathlon test Saturday

Alan Webb
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Alan Webb, the American record holder in the mile who switched to triathlon last year, will measure himself against Olympic-level competition in his new sport for the first time Saturday.

What is the 2004 Olympian’s expectation for his individual World Triathlon Series debut in Abu Dhabi?

“That’s a good question, I don’t want to give all my secrets away,” he joked in a Skype interview Thursday.

Webb, 32, doesn’t hide his ambition of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Games.

While the U.S. Olympic team criteria hasn’t been announced, his biggest proving ground to date comes in the season opener for elite triathlon’s regular season circuit in the United Arab Emirates capital at 8:06 a.m. ET on Saturday (Universal Sports, 8:30 p.m. on delay).

Webb got his feet wet in 2014, taking part in a World Triathlon Series mixed relay in July and placing 10th and 26th in lower-level September and October races. He spent the last four months training with a group in Scottsdale, Ariz.

On Saturday, he will dive in off the Abu Dhabi Corniche at the Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yacht Club with 17 of the top 18 men from last season’s World Triathlon Series (65 total entrants), including World champion Javier Gomez of Spain.

“I can be in the mix, in the top group is my goal,” Webb said. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could compete with anybody. How good that actually is, specifically, it depends on the day for each person. That’s why they run the race.”

Webb expounded. He aims to be at least close to the top group coming off the 750m swim (his most crucial leg), maintain contact on the 20km bike and “close the deal on the run,” which is 5km.

“Not overly complicated,” he said of his strategy.

Abu Dhabi is a sprint, half the distance of World Triathlon Series races later this year and at the Olympics in August 2016.

USA Triathlon performance adviser Jonathan Hall is in Abu Dhabi with Webb and the other American man competing Saturday, 2008 Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker. World champion Gwen Jorgensen is favored in the women’s race.

Shoemaker was the top-ranked U.S. man last season (22nd overall) and thus one of the favorites to make the Rio Olympic team, which could include up to three men depending on how many quota spots the Americans earn via international results.

A U.S. man has never won an Olympic triathlon medal. It debuted at Sydney 2000. Hall cautioned expectations for Webb.

Webb’s plan this season is to peak for the Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro in August and the World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Chicago in September.

If to-be-announced 2016 Olympic qualifying procedures are similar to 2012, a top-nine finish at one or both of those events could book an Olympic berth. Webb is confident he will make the start lists for Rio and Chicago.

“I’d probably be concerned if he was in that place right now, because I’d say that would indicate we pushed him too hard, or he pushed too hard,” said Hall, a former Australian road cyclist. “If Alan’s not ready the first day until that day in Rio, that’s soon enough.”

Webb is not mentioned in a World Triathlon Series preview for 2015 that includes a “New Kids on the Block” section. He ranks No. 133 on the International Triathlon Union points list, counting only 2014 results, with four races to his credit while most others had six.

He is one of the lowest ranked men in the field of 65 in Abu Dhabi, but that’s to be expected. Webb earned what he termed a call-up to the big show about 2 1/2 weeks ago, when he was granted a substitute spot on the Abu Dhabi start list.

“It’s flippity-floppity here,” said Webb, overcoming jet lag from his 16-hour, 30-minute flight that arrived Monday. “I did very well at the World Cup level [in 2014], and I wanted to keep going, so here we are.”

Webb plans to race three straight weeks, following Abu Dhabi in Mooloolaba, Australia, on March 14 and New Plymouth, New Zealand, on March 22. Neither is a World Triathlon Series event.

Webb does not plan to compete in the next World Triathlon Series event in Auckland, New Zealand, the last weekend of March. Races in Gold Coast, Australia, and Cape Town, South Africa, follow in April, but Webb hasn’t mapped out that far ahead.

A strong finish Saturday will help earn future World Triathlon Series starts. A nation can enter no more than six men per competition (eight for host nations).

One thing Hall is certain of is that Webb will be recognized in Abu Dhabi.

“One of the disadvantages that Alan has is that he’s Alan Webb,” Hall said of a man who appeared on David Letterman after he broke Jim Ryun‘s high school mile record in 2001. “I know that when he turns up on the start line, a lot of people have expectations. They have respect coupled with fear.”

Missy Franklin’s dream to become most decorated female swimmer ever

U.S., China set for FIBA Women’s World Cup gold-medal game

FIBA Women's World Cup Basketball
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SYDNEY — Breanna Stewart and the United States used a dominant defensive effort to beat Canada and reach the gold-medal game of the FIBA Women’s World Cup for the fourth consecutive tournament.

Stewart scored 17 points and the Americans raced out to an early lead to put away Canada 83-43 on Friday, reaching a Saturday gold-medal game with China. The 43 points was the fewest scored in a semifinal game in World Cup history.

“Canada has been playing really well all tournament and the goal was just to come out there and really limit them,” said U.S. forward Alyssa Thomas. “We were really locked in from the jump with our game plan.”

China edged host Australia 61-59 in the later semifinal to reach its first global championship game since the 1994 Worlds, the last time it won a medal of any color. The U.S. beat China 77-63 in group play last Saturday, the Americans’ closest game of the tournament.

“Our goal was to to win a gold medal and we’re in position to do that,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The U.S. (7-0), which is on a record pace for points and margin of victory in the tournament, took control of the game early scoring the first 15 points. The Americans contested every shot on the defensive end as the Canadians missed their first nine attempts from the field. On the offensive end, Stewart, A’ja Wilson and Thomas basically got any shot they wanted.

“I think after that punch, it really took the air out of them,” Thomas said. “They didn’t know what to do with their offense anymore after that.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

Laeticia Amihere, who plays at South Carolina for former U.S. coach Dawn Staley, finally got Canada on the board nearly 5 minutes into the game making a driving layup.

By the end of the quarter the U.S. led 27-7. Canada had committed four turnovers — the same number the team had against Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals which was the lowest total in a game in 30 years.

The Americans were up 45-21 at the half and the lead kept expanding in the final 20 minutes. The win was the biggest margin for the U.S. in the medal round topping the 36-point victory over Spain in the 2010 World Cup.

Canada (5-2) advanced to the medal round for the first time since 1986 and has a chance to win its first medal since taking the bronze that year.

“We didn’t get it done today, but what we’re going to do is take this with what we learned today and how we can turn it up tomorrow,” Canada captain Natalie Achonwa said. “It’s still a game for a medal and it’s just as important for us.”

The U.S. has won seven of the eight meetings with Canada in the World Cup, although the last one came in 2010. The lone victory for Canada came in 1975.

The victory was the 29th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86. This is only the second time in the Americans’ storied history they’ve reached four consecutive gold-medal contests. They also did it from 1979-90, winning three times.

This U.S. team, which has so many new faces on it, is on pace to break many of the team’s records that include scoring margin and points per game. The Americans also continued to dominate the paint even without 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, outscoring its opponents by an average of 55-24.

Amihere led Canada with eight points.

RECORD BREAKING

The low point total broke the mark of 53 that South Korea scored against Russia in 2002.

“We’re starting to build that identity,” Wilson said of the defensive effort. “We’re quick and scrappy and I think that’s our identity.”

The U.S. is averaging 101 points a game. The team’s best mark ever coming into the tournament was 99.1 set in 1994.

STILL RECOVERING

Kahleah Copper sat out after injuring her left hip in the win over Serbia in the quarterfinals. Copper landed hard on her hip driving to the basket and had to be helped off the court. She hopes to play on Saturday. Betnijah Laney, who also got hurt in the Serbia game, did play against Canada.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia vs. Canada Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA vs. China Gold-Medal Game