The early bird: Breaking down late night action in PyeongChang

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If you were asleep anytime between midnight and 6:00a.m. EST in the United States, then it’s fair to say that you probably missed a couple of events in PyeongChang. Here at OlympicTalk, we’ll take you through the evening’s stories and results.  Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla won the first gold medal of the Olympic Games, as she cruised in the final four kilometers of the women’s skiathlon. But perhaps the bigger story of that race belongs to the silver medalist: Marit Bjorgen. By reaching the podium in the skiiathlon, the Norwegian has officially become the most successful female Winter Olympian.

Watch: Marit Bjorgen makes Olympic history

Snowboarding: USA’s Gerard emerges as serious contender

It was a big day for Norway and Canada as the two nations continue to dominate the sport. Norway and Canada combine for eight of 12 slopestyle finalists.

In Heat 1, it was all about X Games champion Markus Cleveland as he overcame a poor Heat 1 performance to land atop the standings. He was joined by compatriots Mons Roisland and Torgeir Bergrem.

Heat 2 provided some of the biggest names in the sport with Mark McMorris and Max Parrot of Canada leading the standings. Team USA’s Red Gerard took one step closer to being one of the youngest American Olympic medalists, finishing third. Meanwhile, Belgium’s Seppe Smits barely held onto the final qualification spot.

With the two giants of the sport competing, and with Gerard looking to steal their thunder, the slopestyle final is bound to be dramatic.

Watch snowboarding recaps and highlights

Ice Hockey: Sweden hold off Japan

The Japanese women’s ice hockey team proved to be an unexpected challenge for Sweden. This is only the third time that the island nation qualified for the Winter Olympics (1998, 2014), and only scored a single goal in Sochi. Known for being a doormat team for the other competitors, Japan seemed to turn the switch after conceding within the first three minutes of their opening game.

Rather than fold, the Japanese were able to withstand the pressure put on by the Swedes and were eventually able to squeak the puck past GK Sarah Grann late in the second period to draw level. The second intermission gave Sweden an opportunity to regroup following Japan’s sudden pressure, and managed to grab another early goal in the third period off a tight angle by Sarah Hjalmarsson.

NBCOlympics.com: Japan’s Women’s hockey team eyes next step 

Cross Country Skiing: Diggins in fifth as Kalla claims first PyeongChang gold

Norway’s Marit Bjoergen led the field in the first 7.5km of the skiathlon, pushing the pace up through the transition into the ski change. Swede Charlotte Kalla made a bursting move from the pack around the 12km mark, creating a nine second gap between her and the 10 time Olympic medalist. Kalla’s stunning move at the 12km mark proved to be the decisive break that was necessary to defeat the legendary Norwegian skiier, as Kalla won with a time of 40:44:9.

America’s Jessie Diggins finished fifth, 14.7 second behind the leader.

Freestyle Skiing

Qualifying continued for the men’s moguls, with Michael Kingsbury cementing his place as the man to beat for the competition.

Short Track

18 year-old Maame Biney advanced out of her 500m heat with a time of 43.665 seconds. She will be joining Britain’s Elise Christie, who posted a new Olympic Record time of 42.872 seconds.

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