Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi
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U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team announced

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Sue BirdDiana Taurasi and Brittney Griner will lead the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team in Rio, seeking a sixth straight title for Team USA.

USA Basketball announced the 12-woman roster, chosen by a committee, featuring a men’s or women’s national record nine players with Olympic experience:

Seimone Augustus (2008, 2012)
Sue Bird (2004, 2008, 2012)
Tamika Catchings (2004, 2008, 2012)
Tina Charles (2012)
Elena Delle Donne
Sylvia Fowles (2008, 2012)
Brittney Griner
Angel McCoughtry (2012)
Maya Moore (2012)
Breanna Stewart
Diana Taurasi (2004, 2008, 2012)
Lindsay Whalen (2012)

Candace Parker, a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, was the only players with Olympic experience who didn’t make the team from the 25 overall finalists announced in January. Other 2012 Olympians Asjha Jones and Swin Cash were not finalists.

Skylar Diggins was also among the finalists who didn’t make the team after being one of the final four cuts from the 2014 World Championship team.

Catchings, 36, is the oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player of all time, according to sports-reference.com.

Stewart, 21, is the youngest U.S. Olympic women’s basketball player since 1988. She recently won her fourth NCAA title with Connecticut and was drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm.

“Well, first of all when I saw that [national team director Carol] Callan was calling, I had a mini heart attack,” Stewart said, according to the Associated Press. “Because I’m like, ‘What’s going to happen? I don’t know! I don’t know!’ And then I answered it, and obviously I knew who was calling, but when she congratulated me, it was . I was speechless. I did not know what to say.”

Stewart played at the 2014 World Championship just after turning 20, recording a total of 36 minutes over six games and scoring 11 points, fewest on the team.

Catchings, Bird and Taurasi can tie former teammates Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie for the most Olympic team sport gold medals for an American.

Griner is on her first Olympic team after withdrawing from 2012 Olympic consideration due to a family illness and her summer school schedule, three months before the London Games.

“When I got the call, I was speechless,” Griner said, according to the AP. “Just knowing that this will be my first Olympics that I’ll be able to go to and play in, I’ve always said that that’s the biggest stage you could play on. It doesn’t get any bigger than putting on that jersey and playing for gold.”

Bird, Taurasi, Moore, Charles and Griner started every game at the 2014 World Championship, which Catchings, Delle Donne and Fowles missed due to injuries.

The U.S. women’s basketball team has won 41 straight Olympic games since losing to the Unified Team in the Barcelona 1992 semifinals.

MORE: Olympic basketball groups announced

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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