Carli Lloyd
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Carli Lloyd ranks Olympic final-winning goals, World Cup hat trick

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Carli Lloyd learned something from scoring dramatic goals in the world’s biggest tournament finals.

Take a souvenir when it’s all over.

“You know, I was late to the boat on that one,” she said recently. “In 2015 World Cup, I grabbed the ball. Well, I did get a ball from 2008 and 2012 [Olympics], as well, but it wasn’t like the game ball. But from now on, if I score in the final, I’m stealing the ball.”

Lloyd hopes her next try at thievery will come at the Rio 2016 Olympics, where the U.S. women could go for a fourth straight gold medal. They’re favored to qualify for the Games at a CONCACAF tournament in February in Texas, where the two finalists earn Olympic spots.

Lloyd, one of three finalists for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award to be presented Jan. 11, is best known for scoring three goals in the first 16 minutes of the World Cup final July 5, a 5-2 win over Japan in a rematch of the 2011 final won by the Japanese.

Before that, Lloyd also netted all of the U.S. goals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold-medal games, the former against Brazil in extra time.

How does she rank those three feats?

“Obviously the 2015 No. 1, 2012 No. 2 and 2008 three,” Lloyd said. “They’ve all been stepping stones to get me to the 2015. It’s hard to kind of put in order because it’s like this evolution of continuing to improve. 2008, I was very inexperienced. 2012, I was more experienced, I was way more fit, but I was benched before [those Olympics]. So that posed a different challenge. … It’s almost like, after I finish each event, it’s like that was better than last year. That’s kind of the evolution of my career.”

Lloyd and the U.S. program will count on that progress in 2016.

She’s started 23 of the 24 total U.S. matches at the last two Olympics and two World Cups (coming off the bench in the 17th minute of the 2012 Olympic opener, scoring the game winner in a U.S. comeback and playing every minute the rest of the tournament).

No other American field player has started even one match at all four of those tournaments.

Olympic and World Cup teammates Abby WambachShannon BoxxLori Chalupny and Lauren Holiday have retired. One of Lloyd’s midfield partners, Megan Rapinoe, tore an ACL last week, eight months before the Rio Games.

“I’m now emerging as a leader on the team, someone who needs to take some of the younger players under their wing, has to command the offense, just really lead by example on and off the field and be someone who’s encouraging,” said Lloyd, who is 33 and two years older than any other regular U.S. starter in the field.

An August trip to Rio would not be her first Brazil visit. She scored five goals, including a hat trick, at the December 2014 Tournament of Brasilia, losing to Brazil in the final.

“It was awful,” she said. “We were in Brasilia. There was absolutely nothing there. … I’m looking forward to being in some other cities.”

Lloyd mapped out the rest of her career. Ideally, Olympic gold in Rio, another World Cup title in 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Games as her finale.

She described the Olympics and the World Cup as “completely the same.”

“I don’t want to say it’s not as hard to win an Olympics, but there’s less teams [12 versus 24 at the World Cup],” Lloyd said. “It’s not like the end-all, be-all for a soccer player. The World Cup is like the World Cup. And there’s a lot of teams, and it’s really hard to win it.”

One of her dream moments in the five months since the World Cup was speaking with Lionel Messi through a translator in Houston on Aug. 31.

See you in January, Messi told her, referencing the FIFA awards. Messi is one of three finalists for the men’s Player of the Year.

“It took scoring three goals in a World Cup final for people to actually see what I’ve been doing all these years,” Lloyd said. “I didn’t just emerge this World Cup. I’ve done things over the past, and for whatever reasons it’s just been flying under the radar.”

MORE SOCCER: U.S. women’s star tears ACL eight months before Rio

Geraint Thomas cuts Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France lead

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FOIX, France (AP) — When one French rider starts to fade, another comes to the fore. One way or the other, France may still be on course for its first Tour de France winner since 1985.

Dancing over his saddle, his mouth wide open and gasping for air, Thibaut Pinot launched a ferocious attack Sunday and profited from the first signs of weakness in the high mountains from French race leader Julian Alaphilippe to edge closer to the yellow jersey in the overall standings.

Ascending the last uphill finish in the Pyrenees with a display of power and fluidity that signaled that he’ll also be a major contender to win the Tour, Pinot gained time on all his rivals for the second consecutive day following his triumph at the famed Tourmalet mountain in the previous stage.

Heading to the second and final rest day Monday ahead of what promises to be a climactic final week in the Alps, the race is exquisitely poised. Six riders are all within 2 minutes, 14 seconds of each other at the top of the standings.

The six terrible ascents above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) in the Alps, peppered over three mountain stages, will likely decide who will stand on top of the podium on the Champs-Elysees next Sunday.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

“The high mountains have only just begun,” said Alaphilippe. “The Alps are going to be a big mouthful.”

Surging from the mist and rain, Pinot crossed the finish line of Sunday’s Stage 15 in second place, 33 seconds behind Simon Yates, who posted a second stage win after a long solo raid, three days after his first stage victory in the southwestern mountain range.

The 29-year-old Pinot was irresistible when he made his move seven kilometers from the summit. Only Emanuel Buchmann and defending champion Geraint Thomas’ teammate Egan Bernal could follow. But Pinot accelerated again about 2 kilometers later to drop them for good.

Pinot moved to fourth place overall, 1 minute, 50 seconds behind Alaphilippe.

“The weather conditions and the stage were good for me, I had good sensations, I needed to make the most of it,” said Pinot. “I need to keep going up in the general classification, the most difficult stages are looming.”

While Pinot was escorted by his faithful Groupama-FDJ teammate David Gaudu in the final ascent toward Prat d’Albis, Alaphilippe was isolated without a single teammate to help him in the 12-kilometer climb and cracked, yet managed to salvage his yellow jersey.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Thomas, who had already conceded time to Pinot at the Tourmalet, remained second in the general classification. He got dropped when Pinot took the lead from a reduced group of contenders but did not panic. He rode at his pace until he accelerated with 1.5 kilometers left to cut the overall gap on Alaphilippe from 2 minutes, 2 seconds to 1:35. Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands stood third overall, 1:47 off the pace.

Thomas said after the stage he could have tried to follow Pinot earlier but instead opted for a conservative approach because he did not want to bring back Alaphilippe to the front. Bernal was with Pinot and the Welshman would not take the risk of chasing down their common rival. Bernal, a Colombian with excellent climbing skills, remains involved in the fight for the yellow jersey, 2:02 behind Alaphilippe.

“I felt better than yesterday but I needed to try to pace it when it all kicked off,” Thomas said. “It’s a difficult one, tactics wise. I wanted to go, I had the legs to go but I wasn’t going to chase down Egan Bernal with Alaphilippe on my wheel.”

Coming right after the ascent of the Tourmalet, Stage 15 ran close to the ancient Cathar castles and was a punishing ride totaling more than 39 kilometers of climbing.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced and dribbled through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Yates, the Vuelta defending champion, was given a free reign by the peloton when he took part in an early breakaway as he was not a threat overall. He made his decisive move about 9 kilometers from the line.

“I’m very proud of that,” Yates said of his second victory at this Tour.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce turns back the clock, wins another Diamond League

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce continues to show she’s just as fast as before childbirth, winning a Diamond League 100m in 10.78 seconds in London on Sunday.

Fraser-Pryce, a 32-year-old, two-time Olympic champion, beat a field that included the two fastest women of 2018, Brit Dina Asher-Smith (10.92) and Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou (10.98).

It lacked the only woman ranked higher than Fraser-Pryce this season, Rio Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who edged her countrywoman at the Jamaican Championships on June 21.

But Fraser-Pryce has now broken 10.79 three times this season, her first time doing so since 2013. She could become the oldest woman to win an Olympic or world 100m title in Doha in two months.

“10.78 is a fabulous time,” she said. “My aim for Doha is definitely to be on the podium. For me, it’s a long season from here, so I am hoping my experience will come into play.”

Full London results are here. The meet lacked U.S. stars who are preparing for this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships, where world champs spots are at stake. The Diamond League resumes Aug. 18 in Birmingham, Great Britain.

Also Sunday, Kenyan Hellen Obiri won an anticipated head-to-head with Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan in the 5000m. Obiri, the world champion, clocked 14:20.36, the world’s fastest time in two years. Hassan, who nine days ago broke the mile world record, took third in a European record 14:22.12.

Swede Daniel Ståhl won a discus that included the world’s top three this year and the reigning Olympic and world gold and silver medalists. Stahl launched a 68.56-meter throw to overtake Jamaican Fedrick Dacres.

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