One year out: Notable athletes to watch in Rio

Simone Biles
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If you read this space, you’re already very familiar with the likes of Michael PhelpsUsain BoltMissy Franklin and Ryan Lochte. Here are 10 more gold-medal contenders we’ve been tracking on the road to Rio:

Simone Biles, Gymnastics: The two-time reigning World all-around champion is also known for being chased off a medal podium by a pesky bee Oct. 10 in Nanning, China. She’s certainly not been scared by any other gymnasts, going unbeaten in all-around competitions the last two years. The 18-year-old, home-schooled Texan could be favored to win five medals in Rio (tying a U.S. women’s gymnastics record for a single Games) and extend the U.S. streak of Olympic all-around champions to four (Carly PattersonNastia LiukinGabby Douglas).

David Boudia, Diving: In 2012, Boudia headlined an American diving team that captured four medals, the first U.S. Olympic diving medals since Sydney 2000. Boudia, the Olympic platform champion, was the only American to earn a World Championships diving medal in 2013. He’s in a similar position now as he was four years ago, chasing the mighty Chinese after earning a third straight Worlds platform silver on Sunday. Boudia could become the first U.S. diver since Greg Louganis to win gold in back-to-back Olympics.

Jordan Burroughs, Wrestling: Since winning 74kg freestyle gold at London 2012, Burroughs nearly saw his sport booted from the Olympic program, became a father and tasted defeat for the first time in more than four years. He hopes to become the third American to win back-to-back Olympic wrestling titles, but he may run into a Russian with whom he compares his rivalry to that of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Ashton Eaton, Track and Field: The reigning Olympic decathlon champion and world’s greatest athlete is still considered the world’s best over 10 events, even though he hasn’t completed a decathlon in two years. Eaton took 2014 off and tried his hand at the 400m hurdles instead. He’s back to his signature two-day event, and in Rio he will also be rooting for his wife, Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who owns the world’s best score this year. They may both wear ice hats.

Allyson Felix, Track and Field: The woman they used to call “chicken legs” finally captured an individual gold medal at the London Games. In Rio, she can make more history. Felix remains the world’s best in the 200m, despite having to be carried off the track by her brother at the 2013 World Championships, and could be a medal contender in the 400m, too. So much so that she chose to race the 400m over the 200m for this month’s World Championships. She is tied with Jackie Joyner-Kersee for the most Olympic track and field medals earned by a U.S. woman (six) and three behind the most won by any woman in the sport (Merlene Ottey, Jamaica). In London, Felix ran two individual events and was on both the 4x100m and 4x400m relays, so four medals in Rio is possible.

Justin Gatlin, Track and Field: Gatlin could take down Usain Bolt at this month’s World Championships, which would rattle the sport one year before Bolt’s final Olympics. Gatlin, the last man other than Bolt to win an Olympic 100m title in 2004, is five years removed from a four-year doping ban and five years older than Bolt. His critics are many. There are suspicions over how one can clock personal-best times at such an advanced age. But it’s crystal clear Gatlin has been the world’s best sprinter the last two years.

Gwen Jorgensen, Triathlon: The former accountant has won 12 straight triathlons dating to 2014, a record streak by a man or woman. She’s looking to vastly improve on her London 2012 experience, when she finished 38th, her hopes punctured by a flat tire on the bike. Triathlon has been part of the Olympic program since 2000, and the U.S. has collected one medal, a bronze in 2004.

Katie Ledecky, Swimming: The recent high school graduate is the greatest female freestyle swimmer of all time from 400m through 1500m. She’s approaching world’s best status in the 200m, too. Ledecky, the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team of more than 500 overall athletes, is perhaps now the most dominant. So dominant, that there’s been talk of her racing Michael Phelps in an exhibition.

Claressa Shields, Boxing: Shields rivals Ledecky invincibility. In 2012, at age 17, she took gold at the first Olympics for women’s boxers. The Flint, Mich., native is undefeated since, instilling so much fear that an opponent’s trainer threw in the towel to end a 2014 World Championships fight at the 11-second mark.

Kerri Walsh Jennings, Beach Volleyball: Walsh Jennings’ run for a fourth Olympic title appears to be her toughest yet. She and new partner April Ross (Misty May-Treanor retired after London) were arguably the world’s best pair in 2014, but Walsh Jennings’ right shoulder, previously operated on four times, has dislocated in matches twice this season, forcing her to miss several weeks of action. The 36-year-old mother of three must prove more durable over the next 10 months just to qualify for Rio.

U.S. women win record 27th consecutive FIBA World Cup game

USA Basketball
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SYDNEY — There’s been a long legacy of success for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the World Cup.

The names change over time, but the results don’t seem to.

Kelsey Plum scored 20 points, Chelsea Gray added 16 and the United States routed Bosnia and Herzegovina 121-59 on Tuesday to break the team record for consecutive wins at the World Cup.

The victory was the 27th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The U.S. won 26 in a row from 1994-2006 leading up to that game. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86.

“It’s kind of amazing,” said Breanna Stewart, who has been part of the last three World Cup teams. “Obviously, been here for some of it, but you understand the legends before that who really kind of started the streak. It goes to show that no matter who is playing on USA Basketball, we’re always trying to chase excellence.

“This streak doesn’t mean much right now because we’re going into the quarterfinals and focusing on winning a gold medal, but it’s something to kind of hang your hat on later.”

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Stewart and A’ja Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t appear it will end anytime soon.

“The players change and, you know, there was a lot of concern about who’s next,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It was a concern when Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie were playing and who was going to be next. Then it was Sue and (Taurasi) and then other great players, too. Now with this group they are saying, hey, we’re pretty good, too.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

The U.S. last lost a group play game in 1975, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org.

“We know the responsibility when you put on this jersey. There’s a lot more than yourself,” Plum said. “Everyone puts pride to the side. We have a common goal. We have some amazing players on this team.”

The Americans (5-0) won their pool games by an average of 46.2 points and never trailed in any of them. Now they play Serbia in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. was coming off a record rout of South Korea in which the team broke the World Cup record for points with 145. While the Americans didn’t match that number, they put the game out of reach in the first 10 minutes, going up 33-15.

The lead ballooned to 63-31 at halftime. Bosnia and Herzegovina put together a small run to start the third quarter, but the U.S. scored the final 19 points of the period.

Once again they used a dominant inside performance, outscoring Bosnia and Herzegovina 84-28 in the paint led by Wilson, Stewart and Brionna Jones.

“It’s a huge part of our identity,” Reeve said. “Ninety-whatever we had yesterday and 84 today, we just know what we’re good at and we have players that are really understanding their opportunities for that.”

The U.S. was missing Jewell Loyd, whom the team said was resting. Kahleah Copper started in her place and finished with 11 points.

Nikolina Elez scored 19 points to lead the Bosniaks (0-5), who were playing in their first World Cup.

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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

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 vs. Serbia
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada vs. Puerto Rico
4 a.m. China vs. France
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Belgium
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final