Luis Scola
AP

Argentina, Mexico move close to Olympic men’s basketball berths

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Argentina or Mexico will clinch an Olympic men’s basketball berth with a victory in the FIBA Americas semifinals Friday, which would mark Argentina’s fourth straight trip to the Games and Mexico’s first since 1976.

The two nations are the only undefeateds at FIBA Americas, hosted by Mexico, and on Monday clinched two of the four semifinal spots.

Their games Tuesday will go a long way in determining their semifinal opponents. Argentina plays fourth-place Dominican Republic, while Mexico plays third-place Canada.

There are also group-play games Wednesday, after which the semifinal matchups will be known.

Argentina is playing without stalwart Manu Ginobili at FIBA Americas. The 38-year-old Ginobili, who led the team to Athens 2004 Olympic gold (beating the U.S. in the semifinals), reportedly said in March he’s 98 percent sure he’s finished playing for the Argentina national team.

One of Ginobili’s 2004 Olympic champion teammates is leading Argentina in FIBA Americas. That’s Luis Scola, the 35-year-old forward for the Toronto Raptors. Scola had 26 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Uruguay on Monday.

Argentina’s roster also includes 2004 Olympic champion Andres Nocioni, a 35-year-old former NBA forward who now plays professionally in Spain.

Argentina has placed no lower than fourth in each of the last three Olympic basketball tournaments, playing the U.S. in the semifinals each time.

Mexico’s roster includes one NBA player, Milwaukee Bucks backup point guard Jorge Gutierrez, plus former NBA big man Gustavo Ayon.

Mexico reached the FIBA Americas semifinals for the first time, four years after it wasn’t even qualified to play in the 10-team Olympic qualifying tournament. In 2013, it didn’t qualify, either, but made it in when Panama was suspended and excluded from the tournament. Mexico went on to win the 2013 FIBA Americas and then was thumped by the U.S. by 23 points in the 2014 FIBA World Cup round of 16.

Notably, Mexico has yet to face Argentina or Canada at FIBA Americas. Argentina and Canada came into the tournament as arguably the favorites to secure the two Olympic berths available.

Mexico won bronze in the first Olympic basketball tournament at Berlin 1936 with zero medals since and zero appearances since 1976.

The FIBA Americas semifinals losers, plus the fifth-place team, will advance to a global, last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in July.

The U.S., Brazil, Australia and Nigeria have already booked spots in the 12-team Olympic men’s basketball tournament.

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Canadian ice dancers overcome hair-raising wardrobe malfunction

Piper Gilles, Paul Poirier
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Ice dancer Piper Gilles‘ hair got caught in partner Paul Poirier‘s costume during the Canadian Championships rhythm dance, but the couple still posted the top score in Mississauga, Ontario, on Friday.

As they spun together, Gilles’ hair appeared to catch on one of Poirier’s shirt buttons. It stayed that way for about five seconds as the couple nearly came to a stop before Poirier untangled it. What was Gilles thinking?

“Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap,” she said later. “It’s probably more swear words to that, but crap at that moment.

“It was like one of those pure panic moments, like, what do I do? Do we stop? Do we keep going? Paul’s like, just keep moving.”

Gilles and Poirier scored 88.86 points, taking an 11.6-point lead into the free dance.

The couple eyes their first national title after finishing second or third seven times in the last eight years behind Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

Gilles and Poirier rank fifth in the world this season.

The panicky moment Friday was reminiscent of the PyeongChang Olympics, where French ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis‘ dress strap broke, exposing her breast. Papadakis and partner Guillaume Cizeron took silver and have been undefeated since.

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Allison Schmitt opens 2020 in fast form, bidding to join U.S. Olympic legends

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Allison Schmitt, after failing to qualify for world championships teams, revealing a battle with depression and taking nearly two years off competition post-Rio, has a chance to swim at her fourth Olympics this summer. And to do it in an individual event for the first time since 2012.

Schmitt won the 200m freestyle in 1:56.01 at the Tyr Pro Swim Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday night.

The time would have ranked second among Americans in 2019 behind Katie Ledecky. Ledecky is not swimming in Knoxville, but the 2012 Olympic champion and American record holder Schmitt beat Simone Manuel by 1.24 seconds.

“Wish I could say I was tapered, would make it feel a lot easier,” Schmitt said on NBCSN. “Getting better every time I jump in the water and swim in finals.”

Schmitt’s time marked her fastest outside of a major summer meet since the 2012 London Games. She’s bidding to become the third U.S. woman in her 30s to swim an individual event at an Olympics, joining 12-time medalists Dara Torres (who swam in her 40s) and Jenny Thompson.

Full Knoxville results are here. Broadcast coverage of the meet continues Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Swimmers are preparing for June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event qualify for the Tokyo Games, plus extra 100m and 200m free swimmers for relays.

In other events Friday, 18-year-old Carson Foster took the men’s 200m free in 1:47.74, beating the U.S.’ top 400m freestyler, Zane Grothe, by 1.33 seconds.

Foster, younger than any U.S. Olympic male swimmer since a group including Michael Phelps in 2000, is better known for his individual medleys. But the 200m free offers up to six Olympic spots when including the 4x200m free relay.

“Any event where there’s more spots on the line this summer is an event I want to train for,” said Foster, who ranked outside the top 10 in the U.S. in the 200m free in 2019 and beat a field Friday that included none of the six fastest.

Annie Lazor won the 100m breaststroke in 1:06.68, a time congruent with her No. 2 ranking in the U.S. last year behind Olympic champion and world-record holder Lilly King. King, who trains with Lazor, is not competing in Knoxville.

In the 100m butterfly, 29-year-old Amanda Kendall upset top-ranked American Kelsi Dahlia in 57.65 seconds. Regan Smith, the fastest backstroker in history, was second in a personal-best 57.86, followed by Dahlia.

MORE: Australian swim star issues plea after hometown hit by fires

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