Sue Bird
Getty Images

Sue Bird looks ahead to ‘likely last Olympics’

Leave a comment

Sue Bird knows the time has come after three Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles and at least eight surgeries.

“I’m at the end of my career,” the 35-year-old point guard said last month. “This is more than likely going to be my last Olympics. When you get older, you start looking back on your career more and you want to leave some sort of legacy and to be a fourth time Olympic gold medalist wouldn’t be so bad.”

There was a time when Bird didn’t seem so sure about the Rio Games.

It came most memorably in a group NBC on-court interview with Craig Sager, moments after she helped the U.S. women to their fourth straight gold medal at the London Games, their 41st straight win at the Olympics dating to 1992.

Sager made U.S. (and former University of Connecticut) teammates Diana Taurasi and Asjha Jones commit to a run for Rio. Then he asked Bird, “How about you? You in for the long haul?”

“Oh mannnnn,” Bird said, shaking her head.

That drew Taurasi to extend her right hand and say, “We’re going to Rio.”

Bird accepted the handshake and, with a little less excitement than Taurasi, say, “We’re going to Rio,” and throw up her right hand.

Bird started every game at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, after a lesser role behind veterans Dawn Staley and Shannon Johnson at Athens 2004.

Bird didn’t seem too concerned about the competition to crack next year’s 12-woman roster, saying she thought it was tougher to make the 2004 team two years out of college.

“It’s tricky,” Bird said. “Myself and [London Olympian] Lindsay Whalen are two of the point guards. And now it’s kind of like, all right, who’s next. And while there is some depth there, people that are successful in the WNBA right now at that position, none have USA Basketball experience.”

Bird again started every game at the 2014 World Cup alongside Taurasi in the backcourt, with Whalen seeing plenty of time off the bench.

The fourth guard, 2014 WNBA No. 2 overall pick Odyssey Sims, played the fewest minutes per game of the 12-woman World Cup roster (5.2 minutes).

The U.S. went undefeated through the tournament to clinch an Olympic berth.

There are more young guards in contention.

Skylar Diggins, 25 and a two-time WNBA All-Star, was one of the final cuts for the 2014 World Cup team. Courtney Vandersloot and Danielle Robinson, both 26, joined Bird on the roster for an October European tour.

“It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out,” Bird said. “There’s Courtney Vandersloot, Danielle Robinson, and then you have two players in Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims who aren’t traditional point guards but can play the spot, so that’s like a route they could go. … Right now I could probably sit you down and talk about all the other positions, and you could probably name like two or three players at each that you know, oh yeah, they’ll probably be on the national team. But the point guard spot is a little different.”

Bird will be nearly 36 come August. Two U.S. women’s basketball players have played at an Olympics at an older age — Teresa Edwards in 2000 and Lisa Leslie in 2008.

Edwards and that 2000 team scrimmaged a group of younger players, including Bird, in Hawaii leading up to the Sydney Games.

“She was ahead of everybody at that position,” said Edwards, the only U.S. basketball player to make five Olympics.

Rio could be a fitting end for Bird given it may also be the U.S. finale for coach Geno Auriemma, who also guided Bird at Connecticut.

It was Auriemma who came back from being an assistant coach at Sydney 2000 and told Bird, then a UConn junior, if you play your cards right, you could be on the 2004 Olympic team.

UConn teammate Taurasi, who is two years younger than Bird and a sushi lover, isn’t ruling out Tokyo 2020. She might want to bring Bird with her.

“I can see if I can change her mind again,” Taurasi said.

MORE: Skylar Diggins reflects on getting cut from Worlds team

Swimming short-course records in peril as FINA recognizes ISL times

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In the debut season of the International Swimming League, six U.S. short-course records have fallen. USA Swimming has recognized the new circuit’s times from the outset.

International body FINA, which at first threatened to ban swimmers who participated in the ISL and then said it would not recognize records from the team-based league, which debuted in October and will hold its first final meet Dec. 20-21 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, is now recognizing those times, and the effects on its statistics have been drastic.

MORE: Ledecky sets U.S. record in ISL debut

This morning, a downloaded list of the top times in the world this year included no ISL times. By the afternoon, times from the ISL’s meet over the weekend in College Park, Md., accounted for most of the times on the lists, including the top 10 in the women’s 50m freestyle and women’s 100m freestyle.

So far, the ISL hasn’t figured into the top five on many all-time FINA lists. But the best short-course times are typically posted near the end of the year, and the ISL has two meets remaining.

The U.S. record book has already changed. In October, Katie Ledecky set the 400m freestyle record (3:54.06) and Melanie Margalis set the 200m medley mark (2:04.18).

In College Park this weekend, Margalis also set the U.S. 400m medley record (4:24.46) and Ian Finnerty set two records the 50m breaststroke (25.99), with runner-up Michael Andrew also beating the previous record, and the 100m breaststroke (56.29). Also, Caeleb Dressel set the 50m butterfly record (22.21).

Only half of the swimmers in the ISL will advance to the final, and qualification isn’t necessarily in their hands. After the College Park meet, the Cali Condors and LA Current clinched spots in Las Vegas. That’s bad news for Andrew (New York Breakers), Finnerty (DC Trident) and Ledecky (DC Trident).

Dressel, Margalis and Lilly King — all representing the Condors — will have another shot at records in Vegas. 

FINA, as usual, is running its World Cup circuit during the fall and early winter, and some swimmers — including overall World Cup champions Vladimir Morozov and Cate Campbell — are pulling double duty between the World Cup and ISL.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

 

IOC announces deal with Airbnb to add housing for future Olympics

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The International Olympic Committee has moved to help with the scramble to house the influx of athletes, staff and spectators with each Olympics, making a deal with online housing broker Airbnb to add accommodations for the Games through 2028.

“The agreement includes accommodation provisions that will reduce costs for Olympic Games organizers and stakeholders, minimize the need for construction of new accommodation infrastructure for the Olympic Games period, and generate direct revenue for local hosts and communities,” the IOC announced.

Airbnb’s partnership also includes accommodation for disability athletes for the Paralympic Games, and the company will join large global companies such as Coca-Cola, Visa and Panasonic as worldwide Olympic partners.

Athletes also will have a chance to make money by hosting travelers.

“As an Olympian host, you can create and lead an experience inspired by your expertise and interests,” reads an explanation on the Olympic athlete support portal Athlete365.

Outside the Olympics and Olympic athlete experiences, the IOC and Airbnb are pledging to work together on long-term support to refugees.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!