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

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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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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