Five Olympic questions with Steve Nash

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Steve Nash may be best known as a two-time NBA MVP, but he is also an Olympian and an Olympic cauldron lighter.

For Canada, Nash’s senior international basketball days go back to the 1994 World Championship, where Shaquille O’Neal-led Dream Team II took gold.

Nash, then 20 years old, and the Canadians finished seventh.

In 1995, Nash and Canada lost two winner-goes-to-the-Olympics contests at FIBA Americas, just missing qualifying for the Atlanta 1996 Games.

Nash made it to the Olympics for Sydney 2000, where Canada lost in the quarterfinals to eventual silver medalist France. The other notable player on that Canadian Olympic team was Philadelphia 76ers 7-footer Todd MacCulloch.

How important were the Olympics to Nash? Canada’s National Post relayed this scene from the France game in a March article:

After the game the fans filtered out to the strains of a haunting, plaintive song by Moby called Porcelain, which had been the soundtrack every post-game of the tournament. I packed and made my way downstairs to the mixed zone – the area where athletes and press are allowed to converge. I reached it just in time to see Nash coming down the tunnel with each of his arms around the shoulders of a teammate.

The teammates – I think it was Rowan Barrett and Sherman Hamilton, but here time has, as I mentioned, faded the details – were literally dragging Nash off the floor. They were because Nash was sobbing so heavily — his chest heaving, the tears streaming, his voice choking – he was unable to walk.

Nash never made it back to the Olympics as a player, but he was an integral part of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games as one of four Canadian athletes chosen to light the indoor cauldron at the Opening Ceremony.

The others were hockey player Wayne Gretzky (who lit the outdoor cauldron on his own), Alpine skier Nancy Greene and speed skater Catriona Le May Doan (who was unable to light the cauldron due to a cauldron technical malfunction).

Nash became the second Summer Olympian to light a Winter Olympic cauldron, joining French soccer star Michel Platini.

Nash, who announced his retirement March 21, is now the general manager of Canada’s national men’s basketball team that will try to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2000. Its next (but not final) chance is at FIBA Americas in Monterrey, Mexico, in August and September.

Nash’s duties also include his charity foundation, which operates globally to increase access to critical needs resources for children affected by poverty, illness, abuse or neglect.

Nash was in New York for a foundation event Wednesday, the Steve Nash Foundation Showdown, a soccer game that annually includes soccer stars and Olympians, such as Australian guard Matthew Dellavedova this year.

While in the city, Nash reflected on his Olympic experiences:

OlympicTalk: Which Canadian NBA players have made themselves available for FIBA Americas? (NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins has already done so)

Nash: Nothing’s formal. There’s so many moving parts — owners, teams, each individual’s medical history. [NBA] teams have big investments in them. We feel like everybody wants to play, and we have a good shot for everyone to play. Plan for both, hopefully.

I haven’t spoken to Andrew since his comments were public [about playing for Canada at FIBA Americas]. He’s a huge part of what we’re trying to be, which is an elite basketball country, to go to the Olympics and compete for medals. He’s our most talented player in many respects. We’re going to need him to be great for us to be good.

OlympicTalk: Tell me something about your Sydney 2000 Olympic experience outside of the basketball competition.

Nash: It was the best experience of my life in sports for sure, just being in the [athletes’] village. At the end of the tournament, the [Canadian men’s basketball] team taking some day trips to the city, Sydney Harbour together was unbelievable. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies were incredible, to meet other athletes from all over was exhilarating. [Australian basketball player] Andrew Vlahov and I, we snuck onto the bowels of the stadium, took the elevator up, got a bunch of beers and got them back across the track during the entertainment parade. This whole corner of the stadium, all the Aussies went nuts when they saw us go across the track. It would’ve been all on social media today. It was one of the funniest moments of my life, bringing a couple trays of beer back into the infield.

OlympicTalk: What went through your mind at the 2010 Opening Ceremony as you waited and waited for the fourth cauldron leg to emerge during the technical malfunction?

Nash: It was a strange moment. It was super intense and a highlight moment of my life to be there. The whole world watching, and then for it to be this pause and not know what’s going on. It was a moment of like, I wouldn’t say panic, but what’s going on? I had a sense of humor about it. I was swept up in the energy of the moment that it didn’t really bother me too much.The show went on.

OlympicTalk: How much more talented is the current Canadian men’s basketball player pool than your roster from the Sydney 2000 Olympics?

Nash: Obviously guys now have a high level of talent, potentially, on our roster. The challenge for them is to have the intensity and toughness our team had in 2000. We had incredibly unselfish guys, hard-working and dedicated, fighting for each other. We were out for a scrap.

OlympicTalk: When was the last time the thought crossed your mind that you considered trying to play in the 2016 Olympics rather than be the general manager?

Nash: Even nowadays I wish I could. I always get the urge, but the reality is I can’t [Nash, 41, retired after nerve damage to his back kept him from playing the 2014-15 season]. I could do it for one day, but in these tournaments it’s eight games in nine days or nine in 11 days [at 2015 FIBA Americas]. I would be taking a spot from somebody that’s quote-unquote able-bodied.

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

Sofia Goggia loses pole, wins race by .01

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ST. MORITZ, Switerland (AP) — An Italian 1-2 edging Mikaela Shiffrin into third place. This movie has been seen before in the women’s World Cup this season.

By the smallest margin, Italy’s Sofia Goggia won a super-G on Saturday and Mikaela Shiffrin was third, which helped extend her overall standings lead.

Goggia was just 0.01 second faster than her teammate Federica Brignone on a sunny, windswept mountain above the high-end resort of St. Moritz.

Shiffrin was only 0.13 behind Goggia for her sixth podium finish in eight World Cup races so far as she seeks a fourth straight overall title.

It was the second time in two weeks that Shiffrin stood looking up at two Italians. It also happened in a giant slalom at Killington, Vt., where Marta Bassino edged Brignone for victory.

“They are all great skiers and they have a really aggressive mindset,” Shiffrin said of her friendly rivalry with the Italy team. “It’s super cool to see.”

Brignone was sitting in the leader’s box when Goggia raced and applauded with hands above her head after seeing her teammate’s time.

“It’s an amazing thing for all the team to share the podium and share happiness,” said Brignone, though acknowledging it hurt to lose by so little.

“It’s one hundredth so it burns. A lot,” she said.

Goggia’s seventh World Cup win was her third in super-G. She also took silver at the biennial world championships in February when Shiffrin won by just 0.02.

Always one of the most flamboyant racers, Goggia seemed at the limit making some turns and lost a ski pole landing a jump near the end.

The 2018 Olympic downhill champion said she had to let the pole go after soaring “too long, too high” at the jump.

Goggia also held nothing back standing atop the podium, loudly and heartily singing her national anthem, known by its opening line of Fratelli d’Italia, with eyes closed.

In a tight race, 10 racers were within one second of the winner. Nicole Schmidhofer, the 2017 World champion on this course, was fourth and there was a three-way tie for sixth.

By placing 10th, Viktoria Rebensburg rose to lead the super-G standings after two races. The German racer is also second overall though her World Cup points total is less than half of Shiffrin’s 532 tally.

“For now, she [Shiffrin] is unbeatable for the overall,” said Brignone, who is third.

Shiffrin won this race last year, and also added victory in the parallel slalom to sweep the weekend series.

Shiffrin later said she will skip Sunday’s parallel event — just the third time she has skipped a tech race since she burst onto the World Cup scene in 2012 — to prepare for a giant slalom in Courchevel, France, on Tuesday and a downhill and combined in Val d’Isere next weekend.

“There are quite a few reasons for this but at the top of the list is that for several years I have been longing to race Val d’Isere but have never been able to because the @fisalpine schedule is always too tough (for those who race in all disciplines),” was posted on Shiffrin’s social media. “But one of my goals this season is to get on that track and to race a little more speed in general so I’m trying to manage energy and focus accordingly!”

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Brittany Bowe breaks record shared with Bonnie Blair, Heather Bergsma

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Brittany Bowe broke a record she shared with Bonnie Blair and Heather Bergsma by winning her seventh straight World Cup 1000m on Saturday in Nagano, Japan.

Bowe clocked 1:14.344, taking the track record from Olympic silver medalist Nao Kodaira and distancing Olympic bronze medalist Miho Takagi and Dutchwoman Sanneke de Neeling by .55.

Bowe, fourth and eighth in the event at her two Olympics, is averaging better than a half-second margin of victory during her streak dating to last season, a significant gap to the rest of the field. She lowered track records in six of her seven wins, plus broke the world record and added a world championships gold.

“I’ve got a lot of losses under my belt. With how sweet the wins are, the losses are just as tough,” Bowe told Dutch broadcaster NOS. “There are some races that I’m not pleased with, and I’d like to be on the top of that 1500m podium. So that one’s keeping me hungry.”

Bowe, a past world champion and former world-record holder at 1500m, last won at that distance in February.

Her latest 1000m victory broke a tie with Blair and Bergsma for the U.S. record for consecutive women’s World Cup 1000m victories, according to schaatsstatistieken.nl. Blair won all six of her World Cup 1000m starts in the 1993-94 Olympic season, while Bergsma took six straight in 2016-17.

Only German Anni Friesinger-Postma has more consecutive World Cup wins at the distance with eight in the 2007-08 season, according to the website. For the men, Shani Davis won 12 straight from 2008-10.

Bowe, a former Florida Atlantic point guard who missed all of 2016-17 with a concussion, is up to 26 career World Cup wins. That’s fifth on the U.S. all-time list behind Blair (69), Davis (58), Dan Jansen (46) and Bergsma (34), according to schaatsstatistieken.nl.

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