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

Mo Farah likely to retire this year

Mo Farah
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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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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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