Ten U.S. track and field athletes who benefit from Russia ban

Vashti Cunningham
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At the London Olympics, Russia finished second to the U.S. in the track and field medal standings.

With Russia unable to send a track and field team to Rio, top rivals to U.S. Olympic medal hopefuls may be absent from the Games in August.

The IAAF left “a very tiny crack in the door” for Russian athletes to apply to compete in Rio independently, should they prove to have been subjected to reliable drug testing outside of the Russian regime.

Until then, these 10 Americans’ medal hopes were boosted with Friday’s announcement:

Jenn Suhr, Pole Vault

Russia’s biggest track and field star is 2004 and 2008 Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva. In 2012, Suhr relegated Isinbayeva to bronze in London.

Isinbayeva came back to win the 2013 World Championship over Suhr and then took off all of 2014 and 2015 due to pregnancy. Isinbayeva’s comeback this year (she can compete domestically but not internationally) has been slowed by injury, but will sue after Friday’s IAAF ruling.

Suhr lobbied Thursday for Isinbayeva to be allowed to compete in Rio.

Suhr cleared an indoor world record of 5.03 meters on Jan. 30, the best mark indoors or outdoors in the world since Isinbayeva’s last outdoor world record of 5.06 in 2009.

MORE: Russia Olympic ban upheld | Five Russian stars who may miss Rio

Vashti Cunningham, High Jump

In no track and field event is Russia deeper than women’s high jump. Russians earned two medals each at the 2012 Olympics, 2013 World Championships and 2015 World Championships, including golds at all three from Anna ChicherovaSvetlana Shkolina and Mariya Kuchina.

Last year, seven of the world’s nine clearances of 2.00 meters or higher came from Chicherova and Kuchina.

Take all the Russians out, and the women’s high jump field in Rio is wide open. There are the veterans — led by Ruth Beitia, 37, of Spain and Blanka Vlasic, 32, of Croatia — and the newcomers such as Vashti Cunningham, the World Indoor champion and daughter of retired NFL All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham.

Cunningham has yet to replicate her indoor success in outdoor meets this spring, ranking seventh in the world.

Erik Kynard, High Jump

Russia actually swept the 2012 Olympic high jump titles, with Ivan Ukhov taking gold over Kynard.

Neither Ukhov nor Kynard made the podium at the 2013 Worlds (Ukhov fourth, Kynard fifth) or 2015 Worlds (Kynard eighth, Ukhov failing to make the final). Another Russian, Daniil Tsyplakov, placed fifth in 2015, though.

The Olympic high jump gold-medal favorite, regardless of Russia participation, appears to be Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim.

Alysia Montaño and Ajee’ Wilson, 800m

Russia took gold and bronze in the 2012 Olympic 800m, with both runners (Mariya Savinova and Ekaterina Poistogova) being implicated in doping reports as far back as December 2014.

Savinova and Poistogova were likely to miss Rio regardless of Friday’s ruling, as both were recommended last year to serve life bans by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

But Russia has long been strong in the women’s 800m, and other medal threats could have emerged. Without Russia, South African Caster Semenya is an even bigger gold-medal favorite. Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba is in solid silver-medal-favorite position.

After that, Montaño and Wilson are medal threats if they make the Rio team by finishing in the top three at the Olympic Trials on July 4.

Montaño was fifth at the 2012 Olympics and fourth at the 2013 World Championships. Wilson ran the fastest time in the world for 2014.

Aries Merritt and David Oliver, 110m Hurdles

Merritt is the reigning Olympic champion and world-record holder. Oliver took the 2013 World title. But Russian Sergey Shubenkov is the reigning World 110m hurdles champion, beating both Americans last year.

Shubenkov was eliminated in the first round at 2011 Worlds, then the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics before winning bronze at the 2013 Worlds behind Oliver.

Shubenkov captured the 2015 World title in a national-record 12.98 seconds on Aug. 28, but his best time in three domestic races this year has been merely 13.24, according to Tilastopaja.org. He clocked 13.41 in his most recent race June 4.

Merritt, who is coming off a Sept. 1 kidney transplant and a follow-up surgery more than one month later, also has a best time of 13.24 this year. Oliver is the fastest American this year at 13.09.

But everyone is looking up at Jamaican Omar McLeod, who has the four best times in the world this year, including a 12.98.

Johnny Dutch, 400m Hurdles

Dutch, a part-time filmmaker, is a 27-year-old veteran who has never made an Olympic team nor a World Championships final in two tries in 2009 and 2015.

But he is looking like the Rio Olympic favorite, with the two fastest times in the world this year at 48.10 and 48.36 seconds. Next fastest? 48.67 seconds.

His chances would be boosted slightly by the absence of Russian Denis Kudryavtsev from Rio. Kudryavtsev emerged last year to take silver at the World Championships in a national record 48.05 seconds.

Plus, surprise World champion Nicholas Bett of Kenya has struggled mightily so far this year. The U.S. swept the 400m hurdles at the 2008 Beijing Games and may have a great shot to do so again in Rio.

Brittney Reese and Tianna Bartoletta, Long Jump

The U.S. is home to the reigning Olympic champion (Reese) and World champion (Bartoletta) in the long jump, but Russia has been producing world-class jumpers en masse for several years.

From 2009 to 2015, a different Russian woman ranked in the top six in the world every year. Some Russians showed up multiple times, but there was at least one new one every year.

However, the best Russian woman this year, using results from small, domestic competitions, would not rank in the world top 10. Bartoletta, who won her two World titles 10 years apart, has struggled, too, ranking fifth among Americans.

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U.S. women win record 27th consecutive FIBA World Cup game

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SYDNEY — There’s been a long legacy of success for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the World Cup.

The names change over time, but the results don’t seem to.

Kelsey Plum scored 20 points, Chelsea Gray added 16 and the United States routed Bosnia and Herzegovina 121-59 on Tuesday to break the team record for consecutive wins at the World Cup.

The victory was the 27th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The U.S. won 26 in a row from 1994-2006 leading up to that game. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86.

“It’s kind of amazing,” said Breanna Stewart, who has been part of the last three World Cup teams. “Obviously, been here for some of it, but you understand the legends before that who really kind of started the streak. It goes to show that no matter who is playing on USA Basketball, we’re always trying to chase excellence.

“This streak doesn’t mean much right now because we’re going into the quarterfinals and focusing on winning a gold medal, but it’s something to kind of hang your hat on later.”

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Stewart and A’ja Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t appear it will end anytime soon.

“The players change and, you know, there was a lot of concern about who’s next,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It was a concern when Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie were playing and who was going to be next. Then it was Sue and (Taurasi) and then other great players, too. Now with this group they are saying, hey, we’re pretty good, too.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

The U.S. last lost a group play game in 1975, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org.

“We know the responsibility when you put on this jersey. There’s a lot more than yourself,” Plum said. “Everyone puts pride to the side. We have a common goal. We have some amazing players on this team.”

The Americans (5-0) won their pool games by an average of 46.2 points and never trailed in any of them. Now they play Serbia in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. was coming off a record rout of South Korea in which the team broke the World Cup record for points with 145. While the Americans didn’t match that number, they put the game out of reach in the first 10 minutes, going up 33-15.

The lead ballooned to 63-31 at halftime. Bosnia and Herzegovina put together a small run to start the third quarter, but the U.S. scored the final 19 points of the period.

Once again they used a dominant inside performance, outscoring Bosnia and Herzegovina 84-28 in the paint led by Wilson, Stewart and Brionna Jones.

“It’s a huge part of our identity,” Reeve said. “Ninety-whatever we had yesterday and 84 today, we just know what we’re good at and we have players that are really understanding their opportunities for that.”

The U.S. was missing Jewell Loyd, whom the team said was resting. Kahleah Copper started in her place and finished with 11 points.

Nikolina Elez scored 19 points to lead the Bosniaks (0-5), who were playing in their first World Cup.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for 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, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes 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 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’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

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 vs. Serbia
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada vs. Puerto Rico
4 a.m. China vs. France
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Belgium
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final