Usain Bolt: ‘I know the sport needs me to win’

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LONDON (AP) — Whatever controversy is raging in the Olympic world there’s one constant: Usain Bolt‘s bravado and self-confidence.

It’s what is expected from the world’s fastest man and greatest showman.

“I know the sport needs me to win – and come out on top,” Bolt asserts, assessing the damage caused by the Russian doping scandal that has divided sports leaders.

As for his pursuit of a treble Olympic treble next month, Bolt adamantly responds: “I’m not going to lose one of the golds, for sure.”

In his last lengthy media appointment before heading to Rio de Janeiro, Bolt spent around two hours over a Jamaican lunch last week in London, discussing his Olympic challenge prospects and the challenges of life.

When letting his guard down does Bolt sounded less invincible. Weighing on the Jamaican sprinter’s mind is the fear of hitting 30 next month, the toll of injuries – and even being caught up in an extremist attack.

“It is scary,” said Bolt, adopting a rare subdued tone. “But if you live scared, you don’t live at all. So I try to live my life to the fullest and when it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Bolt recalls being in Munich as news emerged of the truck attack in the French city of Nice on Bastille Day – July 14 – that killed 84 people. Munich was itself the scene of bloodshed last week with a teenager shot dead nine people.

Bolt usually goes to Munich every three months to visit his doctor, Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt.

“Especially at the start of last year I noticed that injuries take a little bit more time to get back to where you want to be,” Bolt said. “My coach always tells me that the older you get it’s going to get harder, and you have to push yourself.”

But coach Glenn Mills also offered him comforting reassurance Bolt still craves, despite being the 100- and 200-meter world record holder.

Bolt remembers Mills telling him “don’t worry you’re a champ” at the world championships last year.

It was “one of the roughest years,” Bolt said, explaining how his back issue “has really deteriorated over the years.”

Bolt’s preparations for the defense of his Olympic titles (100, 200 and 4X100-meter relay) have been far from smooth, with a hamstring injury forcing him out of the Jamaican trials.

“I always have little doubts in my mind,” Bolt said in a restaurant overlooking London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. “But I’m focused and ready to go.”

Unlike many of the world’s top golfers, who have snubbed the chance to go to their first Olympics.

“I guess it’s not as important to them as it is to us who have been competing over the years,” Bolt said. “It surprised me when I heard that golf was going to be in the Olympics. There are a few sports in the Olympics that make me go ‘Argh.”‘

The Olympics are unquestionably the pinnacle of track and field. But providing the spectacle desired is proving difficult for the men.

“This year is one of the poorest I have ever seen as an Olympic (field) for men really – the women have really shown more promise running fast times,” Bolt said. “(The men) have really unperformed this season, but I’m sure when we get to the Olympics it won’t be like that.”

Bolt expects Rio to be his last Olympics, but he still dangles the possibility of a trip to Tokyo.

“My coach always says ‘Usain you can always go on to the 2020 Olympics if you want,”‘ Bolt said. “So this is why he tells me to stop talking about retirement and just take it a year at a time.”

The power of athletics in attracting big audiences would be more difficult without its global superstar.

“People always say to me, ‘Usain when you leave the sport, the sport is going to go down,”‘ Bolt said. “But I’m not going to look at it like that. There are a lot of athletes stepping up.”

Plans to overhaul the sport and make it more exciting have been sidetracked by the Russian doping scandal.

The vast majority of the Russian athletes who will miss the Rio Games are are in track and field, where 67 of its 68 athletes were ruled out when a ban on the Russian team was upheld at the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week.

Sebastian Coe, head of track and field’s governing body, has to deal with that.

But Coe is also the man tasked with making track and field “more exciting,” as Bolt explains.

“I’m assuming Seb Coe has a plan,” said Bolt, who advocates more street races. “Over time with different ideas, and the athletes that are coming up, the sport will stay current. It will take a while but I think it will get back to its former glory when I walk away.”

Unless he decides to continue, Bolt’s glory era is due to end after the 2017 world championships in London.

He is absolutely certain he will be greatly missed.

“In football you have the debate who is the best footballer, but no one can debate who the fastest man in the world is,” Bolt said. “It’s going to be a long time, I think, before somebody comes who will be as talented as me to break my records.”

MORE: Every Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt Olympic race (video)

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