Undeterred Lolo Jones’ outlook not good to make World Championships

Lolo Jones
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Lolo Jones confessed that her hope of qualifying for the World Championships “looks not good right now” on Saturday, but she’s been in this position before.

Jones, one of 10 Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, finished fourth in the 100m hurdles at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York on Saturday, clocking 12.95 seconds.

That time won’t nearly be fast enough to make the U.S. team for August’s World Championships, which will be the top three finishers at the U.S. Championships in Eugene, Ore., next weekend, plus defending World champion Brianna Rollins, who has a bye into Worlds.

But consider where Jones is coming from. The 32-year-old hurdler/bobsledder underwent right shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in November and tore her left hamstring in April, pulling out of the Drake Relays.

On Saturday, Jones said she was in a wheelchair a month and a half ago.

“Doctors said I wouldn’t even have a shot to even run before USAs,” Jones said. “I’m very blessed to get four races in.”

The Adidas Grand Prix marked her fourth competition in eight days across three countries. She previously competed in France and Norway, her best time a 12.93, ranking tied for 14th among Americans this year.

“It looks not good right now, but you know USAs [National Championships], crazy things happen,” Jones said after finishing fourth at the Adidas Grand Prix.

Like in 2012. Jones entered the U.S. Olympic trials coming off 2011 spinal surgery and two hamstring tears. She was the eighth-fastest American that year going into the trials at Oregon’s Hayward Field.

“Everybody’s like, no chance she’ll make this team,” Jones said, “and I snagged the last spot.”

Jones finished third at the 2012 trials, .04 ahead of dreaded fourth place, to make the three-woman team.

In London, she did finish fourth, missing a medal by one tenth of a second, four years after leading the Beijing Olympic final going into the penultimate hurdle, clipping it and falling to seventh place.

The U.S. may be deeper in the 100m hurdles than any other track and field event, which ups Jones’ challenge to make the Worlds team. Of the world’s 16 fastest times this year, 14 were run by a combined six different Americans.

The U.S. has a legitimate shot to sweep places one through four at the World Championships and is perhaps favored to do so, especially with Olympic champion Sally Pearson of Australia out following a broken wrist. Three other times has one nation taken the top four spots in a single event at Worlds, the last in 2011.

“USA’s been deep for a while now, though,” said Jones, who trains in Baton Rouge, La., with early-season breakthrough Jasmin Stowers, the only woman to go sub-12.50 this year, and doing so three times (12.35, 12.39, 12.40). “It doesn’t matter if it’s four deep or eight deep, that’s the same because they really only take three [to Worlds].”

Jones’ chances of making another Olympic team may be stronger for Pyeongchang 2018 than Rio 2016. She’s open to returning to bobsled after the Rio Games, a feeling reinforced by a recent International Bobsled Federation rule change cutting the maximum weight for women’s sleds and crew by 66 pounds.

“I was always kind of on the fence,” about returning to bobsled before the rule change, Jones said. “So that makes me very valuable right now because I’m 133 pounds. Before, the bobsled athletes would each have to lose about 10 kilos [22 pounds], but if they now choose me, they don’t have to lose as much.”

Before the rule change, Jones had set and achieved a goal of gaining about 30 pounds more than her track weight to compete in bobsled leading into the Sochi Olympics, where she finished 11th with pilot Jazmine Fenlator.

Now, she won’t have to scarf double bacon cheeseburgers and pour down milkshakes if she wants to go back to the Winter Games.

“I kind of like eating hamburgers,” Jones said. “That’s actually the lure of the sport.

“I’ll go back [to bobsled] if they need me. I love competing still. Just take it year by year. But what I love about my bobsled teammates is the fact that they absolutely told me after the Winter Olympics, they said, ‘You take these next two years and focus on Summer Olympics.’ They didn’t put any pressure for me to come back, but they said, ‘We absolutely want to see you back if you’re willing to come back.'”

Yohan Blake is running scared, coach says

U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new uptempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

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GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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