With Olympics coming, U.S. swimming, track and field look for rebound

Tyson Gay, Mike Rodgers

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The buzz in U.S. Olympic circles is about bringing the 2024 Games to Los Angeles.

A more urgent matter: Bringing home the most medals from next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

That may not be a sure thing, especially considering the struggles of the U.S. swimming and track teams this summer.

Track and swimming combined for 53 percent of the country’s 407 medals over the last four Olympics, each of which ended with the United States on top of the medals table. But at this year’s world championships, swimmers took home 21 medals in Olympic events. That’s four fewer than they did in 2011, the year before the London Games. The track team took home only 18, seven fewer than four years ago.

“There’s always a level of anxiety,” said Chuck Wielgus, the executive director of USA Swimming since 1997. “I’d say the level of anxiety is probably higher this time around than any time I’ve been executive director. But there have never been more opportunities for people to step up and make an impact on the Olympic team.”

There are reasons for optimism, starting with the fact that the United States traditionally brings the deepest pool of athletes to the Olympics in both these sports. Also, the swimming results came without the presence of 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps, who was banned from worlds because of his arrest on drunken-driving charges. He competed the same week at U.S. nationals and posted three times that would have won gold at worlds.

But there were also some red flags waving at the meets in Russia (swimming) and China (track).

Missy Franklin didn’t win any individual gold medals at worlds, after taking three in 2013. It could be attributed to the grind of her recently completed college season, though she now has more competition in the 200 free with teammate Katie Ledecky, the star of the world championships, dropping down to that distance. Also, relay races that used to almost automatically go in the U.S. win column are now being more hotly contested by countries putting more resources into winning the team events.

Larry Probst, the chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said the board talked about the results at their quarterly meeting Friday.

“I wouldn’t call it blaring alarm bells, but both organizations had higher expectations going into worlds,” Probst said. “Everyone’s aware that there’s work to be done between now and Rio. Everyone knows we have to improve results when we get to the Olympic Games in Rio.”

At the track meet in Beijing, the United States led the medal count but brought home the lowest total since 2003, when it won 20. That number was reduced to 16 after a number of doping cases were resolved.

“None of us are overjoyed with the performance we had at world championships,” said USA Track and Field CEO Max Siegel.

Kenya and Jamaica — both powerhouses in their specific niches but nowhere near as deep as the U.S. – each won one more gold than the United States and finished only two shy of America’s overall total. The U.S. had a few pleasant surprises at the Bird’s Nest — Tianna Bartoletta‘s gold in long jump, for instance. But they were offset by a number of flame-outs, including in the men’s 4×100 relay, where the long-time problem of passing the baton came up again and cost them a medal.

“We’re stripping it all apart and looking at it, event by event,” Siegel said. “We’re looking at the talent pool, ways to support the athletes more, ways to get prepared better for Rio.”

In other sports, there have been some improvements that could help the medal count.

The U.S. wrestling team took home seven medals from worlds on home turf in Las Vegas – three more than at the 2011 worlds. The United States took home a surprise bronze medal in sprint canoeing (Michal Smolen) and has medal contenders in triathlon, starting with world champion Gwen Jorgensen.

Still, over the last few Olympics cycles, the USOC has shifted some focus and money away from development and into sports and athletes who can deliver medals when the world is watching at the Olympics. Swimming and track are at the top of that list because of both the sheer number of medals available and the talent of the U.S. athletes.

Will that strategy pay off?

Only if next year’s numbers are better.

MORE TRACK AND FIELD: Michael Johnson: I was capable of running 200m under 19 seconds

2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup

The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA vs. Serbia Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada vs. Puerto Rico Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China vs. France Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Belgium Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA vs. Canada Semifinals
5:30 a.m. Australia vs. China Semifinals
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final

U.S. into FIBA World Cup semifinals after trailing, triple-double watch

FIBA Women's World Cup

SYDNEY — Alyssa Thomas and her United States teammates were tested for the first time in the World Cup by a physical Serbia team.

After a slow start, the Americans used a dominant run spanning the half to take control of the game and reach the semifinals again.

Thomas had 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to help the U.S. beat Serbia 88-55 in the quarterfinals of the women’s World Cup on Thursday.

“I think you expect every team’s best punch in the first quarter,” Thomas said. “We just had to settle into the game and once we settled in, then we were really able to break away.”

Kelsey Plum scored 17 points and A’ja Wilson added 15 to lead the Americans (6-0) into the semifinals.

“They played super physical, more physical than we’ve seen the entire tournament,” Plum said. “Credit to them. I felt that early-on their pressure bothered us a little bit, but we were able to kind of get under control.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

The Americans had run through pool play, winning by 46.2 points per game and hadn’t faced any kind of challenge. Serbia (3-2) wasn’t afraid though, going right at the U.S. The Serbians scored the first basket of the game — marking the first time the Americans trailed in the tournament.

It was back-and-forth for the first 17 minutes, with the U.S. failing to go on any major run. Then, with 2:59 left in the half and the U.S. up by five, Kahleah Copper drove to the basket and was fouled. She landed hard on her hip and had to be helped off the court by the U.S. training staff. Copper, who has been a sparkplug for the U.S. in her first tournament, didn’t return.

“It’s too early to tell,” Reeve said of the extent of Copper’s injury. “We’re getting her some imaging and we’ll have information later.”

Plum replaced Cooper and hit the two free throws, starting a 12-0 run to close the half as the Americans led 50-33 at the break. Thomas had 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals in the opening 20 minutes.

The U.S. extended its run to 20 straight points in the third quarter before Serbia finally ended a nearly 8 1/2 minutes drought with a 3-pointer by Yvonne Anderson. That cut the deficit to 22 points. Serbia didn’t get much closer after that.

Anderson led Serbia with 14 points.

Betnijah Laney went down hard early in the fourth quarter on a put-back. She left the game and sat on the bench for the rest of the game.

“She took a hard fall,” Reeve said. “She was in the locker room afterwards and I think in her case it was a little more of it took the wind out of her.”

The victory was the 28th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86.

After going unbeaten in pool play again, the U.S. reached at least the semifinals for the 12th consecutive tournament, dating to 1975. That year completed a cycle in which the Americans lost 14 games combined in four tournaments. They’ve only lost five games since.


The U.S. had dominated the paint even without Brittney Griner, outscoring its opponents by an average of 60.8-24.4 in pool play. Serbia held a 20-16 advantage at the half and ended up outscoring the Americans 28-26 in the game by constantly having two or three players inside to clog up the middle.

“It’s one of those things you got to live with,” Wilson said. “Hopefully these next couple of games we can get back to owning the paint. Serbia did a great job of locking it down.


Thomas, who had a triple-double in each of the last two games in the WNBA Finals, fell just short again of getting the first one at the World Cup since Erika Dobrovicova in 1994 for the Slovak Republic against Spain. Assists and rebounds weren’t kept before 1994. Thomas had 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the opener against Belgium.


Jewell Loyd returned to the U.S. starting lineup a game after resting according to the team. She had eight points.

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