U.S. couples trail after World Championships short dance

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Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France lead two U.S. couples after the World Figure Skating Championships short dance in Boston on Wednesday, seeking to become the first repeat ice dance gold medalists since 2007.

Papadakis, still dealing with residual effects from an August concussion, and Cizeron scored a personal-best 76.29 points and take a lead of 1.59 into the free dance Thursday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports Live Extra).

It’s the highest short dance score since Meryl Davis and Charlie White‘s world record 78.89 at the Sochi Olympics.

U.S. Olympians Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are in second and third, respectively. The third U.S. couple, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, is seventh, putting the U.S. in position for three couples in the top seven overall for the first time since 1965.

The Shibutanis, who also tallied a personal best Wednesday, are trying to become the first siblings to win a World title in 25 years.

“It was the strongest performance of the season,” Maia said in a press conference. “We truly loved our short dance this season, so to end it like that in front of the audience today was pretty special.”

The last Americans to win a World title were Davis and White, who prevailed in 2013 and then became the first U.S. Olympic ice dance champs in 2014. They haven’t competed since but haven’t retired, either.

The Shibutanis have been on the upswing this year, winning their first U.S. title in January and their first Four Continents Championship in February, beating Chock and Bates in both competitions.

The Shibutanis earned World bronze in their first year as seniors in 2011 but haven’t been on the podium at the Olympics or Worlds since, with a best of fifth at the 2015 Worlds.

Chock and Bates led after the 2015 Worlds short dance but were passed by Papadakis and Cizeron in the free skate as the French became the youngest couple to win a World title in 40 years.

This season, the French returned from Papadakis’ concussion in an August practice fall to win their Nationals in December and the European Championships in January. She dealt with headaches and trouble focusing for months.

“I still have some headaches sometimes,” Papadakis said Wednesday, “but nothing really bothering me training.”

This year, Chock and Bates hope to play the comeback role.

“A silly mistake on my second twizzle that cost us,” Bates told media in Boston. “At this event, with this many good teams, you just can’t afford that. So, a little bit disappointed in myself.”

Later Wednesday, IceNetwork.com will provide live coverage of the men’s short program for subscribers beginning at 6:15 p.m. ET.

NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra coverage of the men’s short program will air at midnight ET.

WORLDS PREVIEWS: Men | WomenPairsIce Dance | Broadcast Schedule

World Championships Short Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 76.29
2. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 74.70
3. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 72.46
7. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 68.44

U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new up-tempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. women’s basketball team won 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, headlined a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, included neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team had 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 60 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The U.S. beat China in the final, while host Australia took bronze to send 41-year-old Lauren Jackson into retirement.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), wasn’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 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia 95, Canada 65 Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA 83, China 61 Gold-Medal Game