Larry Bird, Kim Zmeskal remember Olympic bus meeting in Barcelona

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INDIANAPOLIS — As the nation’s best gymnasts compete here with the Rio Olympics in the back (or front) of their minds, an Olympic gold medalist from another sport expects to peek into the action.

The Indiana Pacers team president said he planned to emerge from his downstairs office to take in the P&G Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

It would not be Larry Bird’s first encounter with gymnastics.

Bird was of course part of the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team — the Dream Team — in Barcelona.

There, he triggered a meeting among the basketball giants and the shortest girls on the U.S. delegation in Spain.

“We went over to [the athletes’ village to] get, I think, our credentials,” Bird said while leaning back in his office and holding a soda can on Thursday morning. “There was a lot people around, but these little girls were by our bus. I just went on the bus and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to let these kids come on here.’

“They brought them all on, and they did what they had to do and they left.”

Four of the six members of the 1992 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team came aboard, according to reports from 1992.

“They were nervous,” Bird said. “All of us had been in the league, and we’re older, but the guys were excited about them coming on there. I know that.

“I think the guys probably enjoyed that as much as anything, of everyone they met, because [the gymnasts] are so little and so perfect. They work so hard. Like we always said, they’re a lot tougher than we can ever be. They’re tough athletes. They put their body through so much. They do so much to be perfectionists. To be a gymnast, you just can’t do it an hour a day.”

Bird would know. He went to Indiana State at the same time as gymnast Kurt Thomas, a 1976 Olympian who won six medals at the 1979 World Championships. The two are reportedly friends.

One of the four U.S. gymnasts who boarded the bus that day was Kim Zmeskal, who was 16 then and is now also in Indianapolis this week as a coach.

Zmeskal clearly remembered meeting the Dream Team.

“A group of us were walking from the cafeteria back, and we had heard that the Dream Team was coming by to do the credentialing,” she said Wednesday. “We knew where the buses were parked, so we immediately ran over to go check that out. We were kind of just a part of a big mix of people. Obviously, we went over to that direction, so we figured that’s where all the action was happening. We’re just kind of standing there outside the bus, and someone had come out of the bus and said, ‘Hey, ladies on the gymnastics team, Larry Bird has asked if you guys would come in.’ We were freaking out, went up on the bus and was able to meet the whole team. It was pretty spectacular.”

Zmeskal said the experience was like meeting larger-than-life, fictional characters.

“I joke saying thank goodness we were on a bus, that they were sitting,” said Zmeskal, who was listed at 4 feet, 7 inches, and 80 pounds in 1992 articles. “I was actually two inches shorter than I am now.”

Two of Zmeskal’s gymnastics teammates, Wendy Bruce and Shannon Miller, missed the experience. Though at least Miller met Dream Team members later in the Games.

Even though the basketball players were sitting, Zmeskal’s head was level with center Patrick Ewing’s elbow, according to a St. Petersburg Times report in 1992.

“We walked over there, and Michael Jordan said, “Hi, I’m Michael,’” Zmeskal reportedly gushed then. “Like we didn’t know.”

Shannon Miller on meeting the Dream Team, more Olympic memories

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Wendy Bruce missed meeting the Dream Team because she was swimming.

U.S. women’s hockey roster named for world championship

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Hilary KnightKendall Coyne Schofield and Brianna Decker are among 14 PyeongChang Olympians on the 23-player U.S. roster for the world women’s hockey championship that begins March 31 in Nova Scotia.

Every major star from the Olympic champion team returns save captain Meghan Duggan (pregnant) and twins Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson (childbirths in December and January).

The U.S. won the last five world titles dating to 2013, though last year’s came with controversy in the final against host Finland.

Finland, after upsetting Canada in the semifinals, forced the U.S. into overtime. The Finns scored and celebrated before the goal was overturned due to non-incidental goaltender interference. The U.S. went on to win in a shootout, just as it did in the PyeongChang Olympic final with Canada.

The U.S. coach since PyeongChang has been Bob Corkum, a 12-season NHL defenseman who succeeded Olympic head coach Robb Stauber.

Wisconsin sophomore forward Britta Curl is in line to become the first player born in the 2000s to participate in an Olympics or worlds for the U.S.

The full U.S. roster for worlds (*=PyeongChang Olympian):

Goalies
Alex Cavallini*
Aerin Frankel
Maddie Rooney*

Defenders
Cayla Barnes*
Kacey Bellamy*
Megan Bozek
Savannah Harmon
Megan Keller*
Emily Matheson*
Lee Stecklein*

Forwards
Hannah Brandt*
Dani Cameranesi*
Alex Carpenter
Jesse Compher
Kendall Coyne Schofield*
Britta Curl
Brianna Decker*
Amanda Kessel*
Hilary Knight*
Kelly Pannek*
Abby Roque
Hayley Scamurra
Grace Zumwinkle

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MORE: U.S. Olympic hockey captain plans post-pregnancy return

FINA supported Sun Yang against potential ban in doping case

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GENEVA (AP) — International swimming authorities worked to protect three-time Olympic champion Sun Yang from being banned from the sport in a doping case, according to a Swiss supreme court document.

A verdict in the case against the Chinese swimmer is expected within days from the Court of Arbitration for Sport. But a federal court document shows that swimming governing body FINA supported arguments by Sun’s lawyers to have an appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency thrown out early last year in a pre-trial dispute over an alleged conflict of interest for the agency’s lead prosecutor, American lawyer Richard Young.

The swimmer’s lawyers appealed to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, which dismissed their procedural objections weeks before a rare public hearing held by CAS last November.

“In the course of the proceedings, the swimmer and FINA raised a plea of inadmissibility because of the allegedly late filing of the (WADA) appeal brief,” said the Swiss federal ruling, dated Oct. 28.

Had Young, who previously prosecuted doping cases involving Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones and is based in Colorado, been considered ineligible for the case because of his past work for FINA, the WADA appeal could have technically missed its deadline and allowed CAS to decline jurisdiction.

Instead, Young stayed on the WADA team for the public hearing.

Sun is facing a ban of up to eight years for his alleged refusal to provide blood and urine in September 2018 in a visit by sample collectors to his home in China. WADA appealed after a FINA tribunal merely warned Sun and cited doubts about credentials shown by three sample collection officials.

FINA has faced criticisms in the past, including from some top swimmers, for favoring Sun during his career. It did not announce Sun’s three-month ban for doping imposed by Chinese authorities until after it ended in 2014.

The Lausanne-based FINA declined to comment on attempts to remove Young and stop WADA’s case. Young did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Months before the public hearing by CAS, Sun’s lawyers and FINA asked Young to stand down from the case because of a possible conflict of interest. Young had resigned from FINA’s legal commission in February 2019 to free himself for WADA’s appeal, the federal court document stated.

The open-door doping hearing in Montreux, Switzerland, was streamed live for 10 hours on the CAS website.

Neither previous procedural appeal — judged by CAS in July and the federal court in October — was aired in the doping hearing when the sample collection incident was examined. During the late-night confrontation, a security guard eventually used a hammer to smash a container holding a vial of Sun’s blood as the swimmer lit the scene with his mobile phone.

“That is pretty sensational,” Young said three months ago in court. “But he (Sun) was nailed on a tampering violation before any of that happened.”

Sun has denied any wrongdoing. Any ban imposed in the coming days would likely prevent him defending his 200m freestyle title at the Tokyo Olympics.

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