One year out: Five showdowns to watch at Rio 2016 Olympics

Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky
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Recent Olympics saw rivalries such as the U.S. and Australia in swimming, the U.S. and China or Russia or Romania in gymnastics and the U.S. in China in the medal standings. None of those are looking likely in Rio, but other duels are on the radar. Here are five showdowns to watch with the Games one year away:

Missy Franklin vs. Katie Ledecky

Franklin won four golds at London 2012 and six golds at the 2013 World Championships. But it’s Ledecky, at 15 the youngest of more than 500 U.S. athletes at the London Olympics, who is perhaps the world’s most impressive swimmer. Franklin and Ledecky’s programs intersect with the 200m freestyle, which Franklin won at the 2013 World Championships and Ledecky won at the biggest meet of 2014, the Pan Pacific Championships.

Ledecky’s talent is so great that it’s not out of the question that she attempts to add the 100m freestyle to the 200m, 400m and 800m, which could create two head-to-heads with Franklin.

Katie Ledecky breaks 1500m freestyle world record again

Usain Bolt vs. Justin Gatlin

Bolt, the six-time Olympic champion and fastest man of all time, is concerned about his legacy. As he should be. Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion who is five years older than Bolt, may prove to be the challenger to finally take down the tall Jamaican at the Olympics.

Gatlin has unquestionably been the world’s best sprinter since the start of 2014 and will signal alarms if he beats Bolt in the 100m and 200m at the World Championships in three weeks. In part because Gatlin is five years removed from a four-year doping ban. In Rio, his stated final Games, Bolt could pull off an unprecedented “triple-triple,” sweeping the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at three straight Olympics.

Bolt: Gatlin won’t break my world record

Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte

This rivalry hit its peak in 2011 and 2012, but Phelps and Lochte remain the two most famous names in men’s swimming to U.S. fans. Even if neither is the world’s best all-around swimmer anymore.

Phelps and Lochte split their two head-to-heads at London 2012. They could race for the final time in Rio, Phelps’ last Olympics, in the 200m freestyle and 200m individual medley.

Phelps: I’ve looked at my 22 medals together once or twice

U.S. Volleyball vs. Brazil Volleyball

Brazil owns more Olympic indoor and beach volleyball medals than any other nation with 20. Second place? The U.S. with 17. In Rio, Brazil and the U.S. could meet in any of the four volleyball gold-medal matches.

In indoor, Brazil’s women beat the U.S. in the last two Olympic finals, but the U.S. upset Brazil in the 2014 World Championships semifinals. In men’s indoor, the U.S. topped Brazil in the 2008 Olympic final, but it fell to No. 5 in the world rankings after missing the final four at the 2014 World Championships. Brazil is world No. 1.

In beach, the U.S. pair of three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross and the Brazil pair of Larissa and Talita each won four FIVB World Tour events in 2014. No other pair won more than two. Brazil is so deep that it swept the podium at the World Championships in July with three pairs other than Larissa and Talita. Americans Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal were the world’s top men’s team last year, but they’ve since split to throw the already crowded men’s field into further disarray. Brazilians Alison and Bruno provided some stability by winning the World Championships in July and following it with two straight World Tour victories.

Kerri Walsh Jennings sets return date from shoulder injury

 

Jordan Burroughs vs. Denis Tsargush

The never-lacking-confidence Burroughs has compared his rivalry with the Russian Tsargush to that of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Burroughs won the 2012 Olympic title and 2011 and 2013 World titles. Tsargush won the 2009, 2010 and 2014 World titles. All in the 74kg freestyle division.

In Rio, Burroughs could become the third U.S. wrestler to win back-to-back Olympic titles and provide more argument that he belongs with (or above) American legends like John Smith. His chances going in of winning gold will be greatly influences by what happens at the World Championships in Las Vegas in December. He will hope to avoid a repeat of 2014, when he fell to Tsargush, this image of defeat stuck in his mind on his smart phone for motivation.

Burroughs on Rio: My chances are better than in London

U.S. women’s basketball team scores most points in FIBA World Cup history

Brionna Jones
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SYDNEY — A’ja Wilson and the U.S. put on quite a show, breaking the World Cup scoring mark in a record rout of South Korea.

Brionna Jones scored 24 points and Wilson added 20 to help the U.S. beat South Korea 145-69 on Monday. Shakira Austin’s layup with 9 seconds left helped the Americans break Brazil’s record of 143 points set in 1990.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a team that can score the basketball like this,” Wilson said. “This is crazy, we put up 145 points. I think when you look at us and just knowing how talented we are, we just came together and we play together very, very well.”

The U.S. always has the most talented and deepest roster of any team in the World Cup with 12 WNBA stars on the roster. Still, the Americans had never come close to that sort of offensive output during it’s storied World Cup history. The previous team record was 119 points against Angola in 2014 and China in 2006. The scoring margin was also the biggest in U.S. history as well surpassing the 75-point win over Angola in 2014.

The win was also the 26th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals when they fell to Russia. The U.S. also won 26 in a row from 1994-2006. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-1986.

MORE: FIBA World Cup Results

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Breanna Stewart and Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon.

The U.S. (4-0), which has been playing stellar defense, was challenged by South Korea early. The teams were trading baskets for the first 8 minutes and it was tied at 21 before the Americans took control, scoring the final 11 points of the period.

Kahleah Copper came off the bench for the first time of the tournament and scored six points during that spurt. The Americans kept the streak going to start the second quarter, scoring nine of the first 11 points to put the game away.

By the time the game reached the half the U.S. was up 68-40, including scoring 44 points in the paint against the undersized Koreans.

“We were trying to get the ball inside,” Jones said. “We had an advantage there.”

The only suspense in the second half was how many records the Americans could break. They took down their own scoring mark on Sabrina Ionescu’s 3-pointer with 6:15 left in the game and kept putting up points with Austin’s layup capping off the contest.

Other records broken on Monday included the 62 field goals made, 36 assists and 94 points in the paint.

“Our size was a problem for them and I thought we shared the ball,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The Americans were well rested for the game after having their first day off of the tournament on Sunday.

Despite the rout, South Korea (1-3) can still advance to the quarterfinals with a win over Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

Leeseul Kang, who had 37 points in a win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, scored 10 points. Hyejin Park had 17 to lead the team.

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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 vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final