Sue Bird looks ahead to ‘likely last Olympics’

Sue Bird
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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

Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

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Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

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Kaillie Humphries begins trek to 2026 Winter Olympics with monobob World Cup win

Kaillie Humphries
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Kaillie Humphries is off to a strong start to a four-year cycle that she hopes ends with her breaking the record as the oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

Humphries, the women’s record holder with three Olympic bobsled titles, earned her first World Cup victory since February’s Winter Games, taking a monobob in Park City, Utah, on Friday.

Humphries, the first Olympic monobob champion, prevailed by .31 of a second over German Lisa Buckwitz combining times from two runs at the 2002 Olympic track.

Humphries has said since February’s Olympics that she planned to take time off in this four-year cycle to start a family, then return in time for the 2026 Milano-Cortina Winter Games. Humphries, who can become the first female Olympic bobsledder in her 40s, shared her experiences with IVF in the offseason on her social media.

“We’ve pushed pause so that I could go and compete this season, maintain my world ranking to be able to still work towards my 2026 goals, and we’ll go back in March to do the implantation of the embryos that we did retrieve,” she said, according to TeamUSA.org.

The next Games come 20 years after her first Olympic experience in Italy, which was a sad one. Humphries, then a bobsled push athlete, was part of the Canadian delegation at the 2006 Torino Games, marched at the Opening Ceremony and had her parents flown in to cheer her on.

But four days before the competition, Humphries learned she was not chosen for either of the two Canadian push athlete spots. She vowed on the flight home to put her future Olympic destiny in her own hands by becoming a driver.

She has since become the greatest female driver in history — Olympic golds in 2010, 2014 and 2022, plus five world championships.

Her longtime rival, five-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor, plans to return to competition from her second childbirth later in this Olympic cycle and can also break the record of oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

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