Lithuania dumps Serbia in EuroBasket, qualifies for Rio Olympics

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Lithuania, one of the best Olympic men’s basketball nations of the last 25 years, wasn’t able to qualify for the London 2012 Games until 20 days before that Opening Ceremony.

It can rest easy this time around.

The Lithuanians held off reigning World silver medalist Serbia 67-64 in the EuroBasket semifinals Friday to clinch an Olympic berth, more than 10 months before the Rio Opening Ceremony.

Its EuroBasket roster includes Toronto Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas (team-high 15 points against Serbia) and Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis, the son of longtime center Arvydas Sabonis who did not play against Serbia.

Serbia is now in the position Lithuania was four years ago, having to go to a global, last-chance qualifying tournament in July to earn its spot in Rio. France and Canada are also among the nations going to one of three, winner-take-all, last-chance qualifiers.

Lithuania became the eighth nation to qualify for the 12-team Rio Olympic men’s basketball tournament. The field is as follows:

Brazil — Host nation
U.S. — 2014 World champion
Australia — Oceania champion
Nigeria — Africa champion
Argentina — Americas finalist
Venezuela — Americas finalist
Spain — Europe finalist
Lithuania — Europe finalist
Asian champion (October)
Three winners of three July global, last-chance qualifying tournaments

Lithuania lost in five straight Olympic semifinals from 1992 through 2008.

Then it was shocked in the EuroBasket 2011 quarterfinals, falling 67-65 to Macedonia in Kaunas, Lithuania, and being forced to the global, last-chance qualifier in July 2012.

Lithuania qualified for London, reached the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals and lost to eventual bronze medalist Russia. It marked Lithuania’s worst finish at an Olympics after splitting from the Soviet Union and debuting at Barcelona 1992.

Lithuania was one of three nations to beat the U.S. at the Athens 2004 Olympics (Puerto Rico, Argentina) and played the U.S. the closest of any nation at Sydney 2000 (two-point loss) and London 2012 (five-point loss).

The U.S. routed Lithuania by 28 points in the 2014 FIBA World Cup semifinals.

MORE BASKETBALL: Pau Gasol lifts Spain into Rio 2016

12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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