Larry Bird

Five Olympic questions with Larry Bird

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird shared his arena with fellow Olympians this past week, athletes two feet shorter than him who were born well after he won his Olympic gold medal.

The Dream Team member took time during the P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to discuss Olympic topics.

Here were some of his thoughts:

OlympicTalk: In the 2012 “Dream Team” book, you mentioned watching the Olympics with your dad growing up, when you had about two TV channels, and specifically the national anthem. Any specific Olympic events or athletes in your memory?

Bird: It didn’t matter. If we turned over [on the TV], and the national anthem was playing, we stopped. If it was another country’s national anthem, he might go back somewhere and then come back to that station later on. It was pretty wild. If they had a [medal] ceremony, it wasn’t like an advertisement where you could get up and go get something. He sat there and watched it every time. You might hear The Star-Spangled Banner six or seven times in one night. I can remember him saying, “Boy, wouldn’t that be something to be standing on that gold-medal platform, listening to that Star-Spangled Banner?” Sure enough, I got lucky enough to do that.

OlympicTalk: Was there anything you weren’t able to experience at the Barcelona Olympics that you wish you could have done?

Bird: Well, yeah, there’s a lot of things I wish I could have done. But I did get to watch baseball games. I got to watch Japan, Cuba, all the best, the United States. That’s what I love. I love international baseball for some reason.

OlympicTalk: What did you think of Boston pulling out of the 2024 bid race?

Bird: I’m disappointed, because there’s no better place to have an Olympics. I think it’s the greatest sports town in the world. I lived it, and they love all sports. But, the people weren’t behind it 100 percent. And you can understand that. It takes away your whole summer and all the prep and all that. Boston’s not easy to get around in, but I just thought it would be absolutely perfect for Boston.

OlympicTalk: Paul George said he has your support in going for the Rio Olympic team while coming back from injury. What is your perspective there?

Bird: My take on all that is, just knowing how I felt about playing for my country, who am I to tell Paul George he can’t play for his country? I don’t think that’s fair. Now, has there got to be some insurance policies and different things set up going forward? We’ve got to have some protections, but, yeah, I can’t sit here and tell you that I should tell Paul George he can’t go out and live a dream. Because I know how I felt. I want him to play.

OlympicTalk: Will the upcoming, expected salary cap increase deter players who will be free agents in 2017 from playing in the Olympics, risking injury ahead of potential bigger contracts?

Bird: It could. There’s so much on the line. There was always a lot on the line, but it seems like it’s tripled now. I can see why guys would not want to practice and pull themselves out of it.

Larry Bird, Kim Zmeskal remember Dream Team, gymnasts meeting on Barcelona bus

Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s road back through destruction, death

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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