Breanna Stewart’s youth may boost her Olympic team chances

Breanna Stewart
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The U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team of 12 players will lean heavily on experienced gold medalists and professional superstars adept at pressure situations.

And that’s why UConn senior Breanna Stewart, who fits neither of those labels, could become the youngest U.S. Olympic women’s basketball player since 1988 when the team is named in the next few months.

“[It’s roster spots] 10, 11 and 12 who aren’t going to get a lot of minutes,” said U.S. women’s national team director Carol Callan, who chairs the five-person Olympic team selection committee. “Who can sit there and be ready to go and be content with that scenario? Sometimes that’s where youth has the advantage. … After you pick the first eight or nine, because you know that’s who the core of the team is, that last three or four is the ones that you have so much flexibility with to try and fit in. So the key is, we’re not picking an All-Star team. We’re picking a team. That’s the way it comes together.”

Ten of the 12 members of the 2012 Olympic team (that went undefeated en route to a fifth straight gold) are among 25 finalists to make the Rio Olympic team.

The pool of potential first-time Olympians includes reigning WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne and WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Brittney Griner. The latter started all six games at the 2014 World Championship.

That would seem to leave little room for a collegian, even the 6-foot-4 forward Stewart, who has been called a guard in a center’s body and whose versatility has been likened to Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant.

Stewart is trying to lead UConn to a fourth straight NCAA title this season and could earn her third straight NCAA Player of the Year award. No UConn player has accomplished either feat.

Stewart’s UConn coach, Geno Auriemma, doubles as the Olympic coach (but is not on the five-person selection committee).

“Stewie has put herself ahead of a lot of players in the WNBA that could also be on this team,” Auriemma told media at a three-day national team camp at UConn last week. “And if she does make the team, it’s because she deserves it. She earned it.”

Stewart came into focus as an Olympic hopeful when she made the 2014 World Championship team.

At Worlds in Turkey, she played a total of 36 minutes over six games, scoring 11 points, fewest on the team. Not surprising, but the value in her being there was largely unrelated to the box score. Same with last week, when Stewart tacked on the national-team camp in between college games.

“Now Stewie’s one of us,” three-time Olympic champion point guard Sue Bird said at last week’s camp. “She was just way more assertive and aggressive and, beyond everything else, comfortable. When we had Worlds, she was the youngest on the team, it was her first time, there’s all these old players, probably players that she watched growing up. So I think it can be the type of situation where you don’t want to step on people’s toes, but now, I don’t think she cares.”

Diana Taurasi (2004), Candace Parker (2008) and Sylvia Fowles (2008) all made Olympic teams immediately following their final NCAA seasons. All three averaged between 16 and 19 minutes per game at their first Olympics, about three times as many as Stewart at the 2014 World Championship.

Callan compared Stewart to Maya Moore and Bird, who were one and two years out of college when they made their first Olympic teams but, like Stewart, already had World Championship experience.

“Young players, you don’t want to have to necessarily rely on them in the gold-medal game, when you’re down by one and there’s 10 seconds left,” Callan said of an unlikely scenario for the U.S., which has won 41 straight Olympic games. “But at the same time, they also sometimes by being young don’t feel that pressure. They just go play. When you’re a four-time Olympian, perhaps, you realize, whoa, the weight of the world. I just think it’s the mix of everything that values the youth and experience.”

MORE: Brittney Griner returns as Olympic finalist without fear of 2012

Mikaela Shiffrin ties world Alpine skiing championships medals record

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin took silver behind Italian Marta Bassino in the super-G for her 12th world Alpine skiing championships medal, tying the modern individual record.

Bassino edged Shiffrin by 11 hundredths of a second in Meribel, France, for her second world title after taking the parallel in 2021.

“That was the best run I can do on this track,” Shiffrin told Austrian broadcaster ORF. “I had one turn … coming off the [final] pitch where I almost lost it all.

“I’m so happy with my run.”

Austrian Cornelia Huetter and Norwegian Kajsa Vickhoff Lie tied for bronze, 33 hundredths back in a discipline where five different women won this season’s five World Cup races.

Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami, the reigning Olympic and world champ, led at the last intermediate split but lost 44 hundredths to Bassino in the final 18 seconds of the course and ended up sixth.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

With her 12th world medal, the 27-year-old Shiffrin tied Kjetil Andre Aamodt, a Norwegian star of the 1990s and 2000s, for the most in individual events since World War II. Aamodt earned his 12th and final medal in his 27th world championships race. Shiffrin matched him in her 15th worlds start.

Swede Anja Pärson holds the overall record of 13 modern medals. She won two in the team event.

Shiffrin has six gold medals, one shy of that modern record.

Shiffrin, the greatest slalom skier in history, is selective when it comes to the speed events of downhill and super-G. She has never raced the downhill at worlds and will not enter Saturday’s race.

In the super-G, she now has a world championships medal of every color and is one of two skiers in history to make the super-G podium at three consecutive worlds. The other is Austrian legend Hermann Maier.

“I’m emotional because I don’t really feel like I should be winning a medal in super-G right now,” said Shiffrin, who had a win and a seventh place in two World Cup super-G starts this season and was sixth in the super-G run of Monday’s combined. “There are so many women who are strong and fast.”

Shiffrin rebounded from Monday’s first race of worlds, where she was in line for combined gold before losing her balance with five gates left and straddling the third-to-last gate in her slalom run. That snapped her streak of a medal in 10 consecutive world championships races dating to 2015.

Worlds continue with the men’s super-G on Thursday. Shiffrin’s next race is expected to be the giant slalom on Feb. 16.

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2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships results

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Top 10 and notable results from the 2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships in Meribel and Courchevel, France …

Women’s Combined
Gold: Federica Brignone (ITA) — 1:57.47
Silver: Wendy Holdener (SUI) — +1.62
Bronze: Ricarda Haaser (AUT) — +2.26
4. Ramona Siebenhofer (AUT) — +2.48
5. Franziska Gritsch (AUT) — +2.71
6. Michelle Gisin (SUI) — +3.43
7. Laura Gauche (FRA) — +3.71
8. Emma Aicher (GER) — +3.78
9. Elena Curtoni (ITA) — +4.05
10. Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN) — +4.91
13. Bella Wright (USA) — +6.21
DSQ (slalom). Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)
DNS (slalom). Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI)
DNS (slalom). Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR)
DNS (slalom). Sofia Goggia (ITA)
DNF (super-G). Marta Bassino (ITA)
DNF (super-G). Breezy Johnson (USA)
DNF (super-G). Tricia Mangan (USA)

ALPINE WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

Men’s Combined
Gold: Alexis Pinturault (FRA) — 1:53.31
Silver: Marco Schwarz (AUT) — +.10
Bronze: Raphael Haaser (AUT) — +.44
4. River Radamus (USA) — +.69
5. Atle Lie McGrath (NOR) — +.72
6. Loic Meillard (SUI) — +1.20
7. Tobias Kastlunger (ITA) — +2.99
8. Albert Ortega (ESP) — +3.50
9. Erik Arvidsson (USA) — +4.43
10. Ryan Cochran-Siegle (USA) — +5.25
DNF (slalom). Johannes Strolz (AUT)
DNF (slalom). Luke Winters (USA)
DNS (slalom). Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR)
DNS (slalom). James Crawford (CAN)
DSQ (super-G). Marco Odermatt (SUI)

Women’s Super-G
Gold: Marta Bassino (ITA) — 1:28.06
Silver: Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — +.11
Bronze: Cornelia Huetter (AUT) — +.33
Bronze: Kajsa Vickhoff Lie (NOR) — +.33
5. Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR) — +.36
6. Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI) — +.37
7. Alice Robinson (NZL) — +.54
8. Federica Brignone (ITA) — +.55
9. Tessa Worley (FRA) — +.58
10. Michelle Gisin (SUI) — +.69
11. Sofia Goggia (ITA) — +.76
24. Breezy Johnson (USA) — +2.09
DNF. Tricia Mangan (USA)
DNF. Bella Wright (USA)

Men’s Super-G (Feb. 9)
Women’s Downhill (Feb. 11)
Men’s Downhill (Feb. 12)
Team Parallel (Feb. 14)
Men’s Parallel (Feb. 15)
Women’s Parallel (Feb. 15)
Women’s Giant Slalom (Feb. 16)
Men’s Giant Slalom (Feb. 17)
Women’s Slalom (Feb. 18)
Men’s Slalom (Feb. 19)

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