Candace Parker unsure of 2020 Olympic run after Rio snub

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Dawn Staley was announced as the next U.S. women’s basketball head coach on March 10. Candace Parker said Tuesday that she learned of Staley’s hiring “a couple of days ago” from a Los Angeles Sparks teammate.

Parker was surprisingly left off the Olympic team more than 13 months ago. As the WNBA season gets going, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion has little to say about her future with the U.S. national team, if there is to be one at all.

Does she want to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at age 34?

“I don’t know,” Parker said before beating the New York Liberty on Tuesday night. “I haven’t thought about it.”

Parker was playing overseas for a Turkish club when Staley was announced as the successor to Geno Auriemma nearly three months ago.

Parker played collegiately at the University of Tennessee, the main rival to Auriemma’s Connecticut teams, but Parker suited up for Auriemma at the 2012 London Olympics and led the team in rebounds and blocks.

Auriemma was not part of the five-person selection committee that left Parker off the Rio Olympic team. Committee chair Carol Callan said the forward Parker played a position that was “the strength of” the U.S. team. Two of the three first-time Olympians in Rio, Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart, played the same position as Parker.

The selection committee for the 2020 Olympic cycle has not been announced. The next major tournament, the FIBA World Cup, is not until September 2018. Parker has plenty of time to weigh her options.

In the meantime, she praised Staley, both on social media after Staley won the NCAA title with South Carolina in April and on Monday night.

“I’m proud of her,” Parker said. “I think she deserves it [the U.S. head-coaching job]. She’s an outstanding coach winning a national championship.”

Parker is coming off an outstanding year since being left off the Rio team. She achieved her top career goal — a WNBA title, even greater than Olympic gold, she has said — with the Sparks last season, earning finals MVP.

Parker dedicated the campaign to her college coach, Pat Summitt, who died in June after battling Alzheimer’s for nearly five years.

After her first four games this season, Parker is the only WNBA player averaging 15 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.

Parker has said a primary motivation to play in Rio was that her daughter, Lailaa, then 7 years old, would be able to watch her at the Olympics and remember it.

After missing the Rio team, Parker spoke of being caught off-guard, mad and upset. She would not commit to hypothetically being an injury replacement if one of the 12 named players had to bow out. That situation did not arise.

Parker said last June that it was “too early to tell” if she would wear a USA jersey again.

Now, Parker has that WNBA title. Her next goal? Winning another WNBA title.

“You can luck up and do anything one time, not that you’re going to luck up and win a championship,” said Parker, who also won two NCAA titles at Tennessee. “There’s a lot of people that have one championship. I said it in college, all the greats had multiples. That’s kind of what I’m aiming for.”

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Kelly Cheng, Sara Hughes, beach volleyball’s new sensation, win World Tour Finals

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In just a few months since reuniting, Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes have become not just the best women’s beach volleyball team in the U.S., but also, arguably, the world.

Cheng and Hughes, former partners who got back together for a 2024 Olympic run, won the World Tour Finals for the biggest title for a U.S. pair since April Ross and Alix Klineman took gold in Tokyo.

The 27-year-old Californians swept reigning world champions Duda and Ana Patricia of Brazil 21-18, 21-16 in Sunday’s final in Doha.

Cheng and Hughes have entered four tournaments since reuniting last fall and won all of them — once on the domestic AVP tour and now three international events.

They are rolling into the start of the 2024 Olympic qualifying window next week. It’s likely that the top two U.S. women’s pairs across international events over the course of the next 18 months qualify for the Paris Games.

Cheng and Hughes were previously NCAA champion teammates at USC, then the most promising, young U.S. pro team before splitting in 2018. Cheng made the Tokyo Olympics with Sarah Sponcil (lost in the round of 16), while Hughes’ Tokyo bid flamed out when partner Summer Ross suffered a back injury in 2019.

“It was a lot of the unknown and being young and kind of immature and listening to maybe outside forces and not really knowing how to deal with things as well,” Hughes said in October of their past breakup. “We’ve pretty much moved past that in our relationship. Moving forward with one another, we’re completely different players, and we’re a lot more mature. It feels like the right time. The past is past. We’re just moving forward.”

Cheng and Hughes have taken over from April Ross and Klineman as the top U.S. team. After winning Olympic gold, Klineman underwent shoulder surgery in January 2022 and last week announced she is pregnant and may return from childbirth for a “last-second” 2024 Olympic qualifying bid.

April Ross, a 40-year-old with an Olympic medal of every color, last competed in March, then withdrew before June’s world championships, where she was entered with Emily Day, with an unspecified injury. She has not announced if or when she plans to return to competition.

The U.S. earned at least one beach volleyball medal at every Olympics that the sport has been on the program (since 1996), and a men’s or women’s gold at all but one Olympics. Eighteen months out from the Paris Games, Cheng and Hughes are the best hope to keep the podium streak going.

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Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

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Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

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