Mixed results for World champions in Zurich

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce consolidated her status as world’s fastest woman, winning a 100m race at a Diamond League meet in Zurich on Thursday, 10 days after she captured her third World Championship in the sprint.

Other gold medalists from Beijing last week, including Wayde van Niekerk, David Rudisha and Genzebe Dibaba, were not as fortunate in the first top-level meet since Worlds. Full results are here.

Fraser-Pryce clocked 10.93 seconds in Zurich, pulling away from the field early and cruising over the last 20 meters. The two-time Olympic 100m gold medalist won her World Championship in 10.76 on Aug. 24 and has a personal best of 10.70.

Fraser-Pryce beat a field that included World bronze medalist Tori Bowie (third, 11.06) and two-time Olympic 200m champion Veronica Campbell-Brown (sixth, 11.22).

“It is not easy to race again in such a close time,” after Worlds, Fraser-Pryce said, according to the IAAF. “I needed to adjust again, but we are used to it, we are professional athletes.”

Earlier, World 200m silver medalist Elaine Thompson won a separate 100m race in 11.06.

The Diamond League season concludes on Sept. 11 in Brussels, a meet that could include Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin (in a separate race from Bolt) and Allyson Felix, all of whom skipped Zurich.

Also Thursday, South African 400m World champion Wayde van Niekerk was no match for LaShawn Merritt in Zurich.

Merritt, the 2008 Olympic and 2009 and 2013 World champion, prevailed in 44.18. Reigning Olympic champion Kirani James was second in 44.28, followed by van Niekerk in 44.35. Van Niekerk won the World title in 43.48, the sixth fastest time ever, and was undefeated this season going into Zurich.

Olympic and World champion David Rudisha lost the 800m lead on the final lap and faded to fourth. That’s the first time this year Rudisha has been lower than second in a race he’s finished. Poland’s Adam Kszczot won in Zurich in 1:45.55 after placing second to Rudisha at Worlds.

Rudisha said he raced scared due to cold and wet weather, according to the IAAF.

“I was a little bit afraid of this,” he said.

Russian Sergey Shubenkov showed no fear in following his World title in the 110m hurdles with a victory in 13.14. The race was missing World silver medalist Hansle Parchment of Jamaica and bronze medalist Aries Merritt, the Olympic champion and world-record holder recovering from a kidney transplant.

The World champions in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m met up in the women’s 3000m. The 5000m title holder prevailed over the 1500m gold medalist. Ethiopian Almaz Ayana outsprinted countrywoman Genzebe Dibaba on the final lap to win in 8:22.34. American Jenny Simpson, the 2011 World 1500m champion, was fourth. Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot, the World 10,000m champion, was sixth.

Kenyan Asbel Kiprop took the men’s 1500m over countryman Elijah Manangoi, just as he did at Worlds. Kiprop clocked 3:35.79, prevailing by .22.

Evan Jager finished third in the 3000m steeplechase, an improvement over his disappointing sixth at Worlds. Jager clocked 8:18.39, 10.15 seconds behind Kenyan winner Paul Koech. Jager’s personal best is 8:00.45. Nobody from the Western Hemisphere has broken eight minutes in the event.

South Africa’s Anaso Jobodwana finished third in the 200m, just as he did at Worlds, but neither Bolt nor Gatlin raced in Zurich. Instead, Panama’s Alonso Edward prevailed in 20.03, followed by Jamaican Rasheed Dwyer (20.20) and Jobodwana (20.24).

Kenyan Eunice Sum won her sixth straight 800m at a Diamond League meet, after she was upset at the World Championships last week. Sum, who took bronze in Beijing, beat the World gold and silver medalists in Zurich.

Czech Zuzana Hejnova followed her second straight World title in the 400m hurdles with a victory in 54.47. World silver medalist Shamier Little wasn’t in the race, while World bronze medalist Cassandra Tate took fifth in 55.50.

Great Britain’s Greg Rutherford again held off the top Americans in the long jump. Rutherford, the Olympic and World champion, tied Marquis Dendy at 8.32 meters, but Rutherford’s second best jump was better than Dendy’s.

In the women’s long jump, World champion Tianna Bartoletta finished second to Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic. Bartoletta said she was still in pain from spraining her left ankle at the World Championships, according to the IAAF.

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U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new uptempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

Thomas Bach
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GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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