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Diana Taurasi’s near-best scoring day leads U.S. into FIBA World Cup final

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Diana Taurasi had her highest scoring day in a major tournament in 12 years, leading the U.S. into the FIBA World Cup final in a 93-77 semifinal win over Belgium on Saturday.

Taurasi, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, scored 26 points, her second-highest total in 61 career games between the Olympics and worlds (28 in the 2006 World bronze-medal game). Breanna Stewart added 20. A full box score is here.

Taurasi’s barrage came a day after she scored two points against Nigeria, her lowest total since her fourth game for the U.S. at the 2004 Olympics, when she was 22 years old and the youngest U.S. Olympic women’s player in 16 years. Taurasi played 12 minutes against the African champion, picking up four fouls with a technical.

Her 350 career World Cup points rank third among Americans all time behind Lisa Leslie (393) and Teresa Edwards (371). Leslie’s record appears safe with one game left in Taurasi’s likely last worlds.

The U.S. gets Australia in Sunday’s final with a third straight world title and the first Olympic qualifying berth at stake.

The Aussies, led by WNBA scoring leader Liz Cambage, beat Spain 72-66 in the later semifinal. Cambage had 33 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.

“Probably Australia has been the best team in this tournament,” Taurasi said, according to USA Basketball.

Australia is 0-17 against the U.S. at the Olympics and worlds. This is the first gold-medal game between the rivals since the 2008 Olympics.

The U.S. started slowly for a second straight game in its semi, one day after trailing Nigeria for most of the first half.

Belgium led 26-21 after the first quarter and trailed by one at the half. The Americans took control with a 33-18 third quarter.

This American team is without stalwarts from its previous decade of undefeated play at the Olympics and worlds. Tamika Catchings and Lindsay Whalen retired after Rio. Candace Parker said she will not play for Team USA again after being left off the 2016 Olympic team.

Minnesota Lynx stars Seimone AugustusSylvia Fowles and Maya Moore, as well as Angel McCoughtry, are reportedly either resting or recuperating from injuries following the WNBA season.

Belgium, which will play for bronze, has been the revelation of the World Cup, its first appearance at a global championship. The Cats had zero world ranking points before it took bronze at 2017 EuroBasket, jumping from outside the top 77 in the world to No. 28 going into the World Cup.

The Belgians won their World Cup group, knocking off host Spain by nine points. Spain is ranked second in the world, the 2014 World and 2016 Olympic silver medalist. They routed France by 21 points in the quarterfinals. France is ranked third in the world.

The team is led by 6-foot-4 center Emma Meesseman, a 2015 WNBA All-Star with the Washington Mystics who skipped the 2018 WNBA season to focus on the national team. Guards Kim Mestdagh (fourth on Colorado State’s career points list and a daughter of Belgium’s head coach) and Julie Allemand (2016 Indiana Fever third-round draft pick, but no WNBA experience) are also threats.

Ann Wauters, a 37-year-old reserve center, spent nine years in the WNBA, making the 2005 All-Star Game.

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Sun Yang defends failure to take drug test

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MONTREUX, Switzerland (AP) — Chinese Olympic champion swimmer Sun Yang defended his failure to take a doping test by testifying at a rare public hearing Friday that inspectors drawing blood and urine samples failed to have the proper identification papers.

Courtroom translation problems in both English and Chinese marred the landmark hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, frustrating Sun’s lawyers during his opening statement and cross-examination. Sun’s mother later took the stand in sometimes-combative testimony in the afternoon, admonishing lawyers, “I haven’t finished yet.”

One lawyer said he could not tell if Sun was being evasive or if it was simply a misunderstood interpretation.

The case stems from the three-time Olympic champion’s refusal to cooperate with three anti-doping officials during a random test at his home in China in September 2018.

“During inspection, I realized they don’t have any authorized papers to prove their identification,” Sun testified.

A WADA expert disputed Sun’s account, saying the inspectors’ credentials were in order.

A tribunal appointed by swimming world body FINA gave Sun only a caution in January, but the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed the case to CAS.

Its judges are not expected to give a verdict from Friday’s 12-hour hearing until next year, and if the ruling goes against him, Sun could be banned from the Tokyo Olympics.

The 6-foot, 7-inch Sun became a star in China as its first man to win an Olympic title in swimming. He won the 400m and 1500m at the 2012 London Games. He added gold in the 200m in Rio.

The 27-year-old Sun also has 11 world championships and is a polarizing figure in the sport.

Annoyed by official secrecy surrounding Sun’s three-month ban for a positive test in 2014, Australian rival Mack Horton in Rio called him a drug cheat.

Sun provoked more anger among rivals by winning two world titles in July while the CAS appeal was pending. Horton and Brit Duncan Scott refused to stand on the podium with him in Gwangju, South Korea.

The translation problems at Friday’s hearing began almost from the start, and it was unclear at times how much of the testimony and questions were understood, with both judges and lawyers expressing frustration.

At one point, Sun’s London-based lawyer, Ian Meakin, apologized for asking his client leading questions, saying: “The translation was so bad.”

Richard Young, a lawyer for WADA, said the translation was so bad that “you couldn’t tell if he was monumentally evasive or couldn’t understand the questions.”

When the hearing resumed after a break, juding panel president Franco Frattini also apologized “for the poor quality of the interpretation.”

The court noted that Sun’s team selected the translators, who were replaced at a lunch break by a WADA staff member. Lawyers were told an accurate transcript of the morning sessions would later be provided to all parties.

Sun detailed how he and his entourage had doubted the qualifications of the officials conducting the doping test at his home that escalated into a confrontation.

“How are you able to trust them?” said Sun, whose personal doctor had been summoned to the scene in the middle of the night.

A security guard instructed by Sun’s mother used a hammer to smash a box containing a vial of his blood during a late-night dispute after the swimmer questioned the collection team’s credentials.

Sun said he was not respected by the officials, including a chaperone he said asked to take his photograph.

“This is really ridiculous,” Sun said in translated comments.

Although Sun and his entourage were criticized for their conduct, the first tribunal panel said the sample mission was void and invalid because anti-doping protocol was not followed. Technically, Sun was judged to be not properly notified of needing to give samples.

WADA has asked for a ban of between two and eight years, believing Sun voluntarily refused to submit to give samples.

“That is pretty sensational,” Young, the WADA lawyer, said of the hammer-smashing incident. “But he was nailed on a tampering violation before any of that happened.”

If WADA’s appeal is upheld, Sun risks a longer sanction that could bar him from the Tokyo Games because it would be his second offense. He served a three-month ban imposed by Chinese authorities in 2014 after testing positive for a banned stimulant.

That initial ban was quickly addressed by Sun and his legal team on Friday. He said it was a prescribed medication for a heart issue because he sometimes fainted after training.

Lawyers for WADA repeatedly asked Sun if he had learned in his long career of the serious consequences for refusing to give a sample. He repeatedly answered that the lead anti-doping official had not warned him specifically.

Sun’s anti-doping history was detailed, with 180 samples given at competitions and during training from 2012-18. A total of 60 were organized by the Sweden-based firm IDTM, which sent the collection team to Sun’s home.

CAS judge Philippe Sands pressed Sun whether IDTM staff had shown different kinds of documents of authorization on the 59 previous occasions he gave samples without problems.

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Yevgenia Medvedeva leads as Russians dominate Rostelecom Cup

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As Yevgenia Medvedeva met coach Brian Orser after her Rostelecom Cup short program, she exhaled with one word: Finally.

The world’s dominant skater in the last Olympic cycle returned to her former home of Moscow and performed her highest-scoring short program since the PyeongChang Olympics, tallying 76.93 points for the lead.

“I am happy with my skate, because it finally worked out the way it should,” Medvedeva said, according to the International Skating Union.

Russia also topped the men’s and pairs’ short programs and the rhythm dance. The last time one nation swept all four disciplines at a Grand Prix was Russia at this competition in 2005. Rostelecom Cup concludes with all of the free skates on Saturday. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

Medvedeva, who must win after Saturday’s free skate for any chance at December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final, topped a short program at a top-level senior international competition for the first time in two years.

Since that last time, she struggled with a broken bone in her foot. She saw then-training partner Alina Zagitova surpass her as the world’s best female skater for Olympic gold (and, this season, other, younger Russian teens). She dealt with growing pains from the transition to a new coach and new environment, with Orser’s group in Toronto.

One short program does not mean the Medvedeva is all the way back, even with all clean jumping passes highlighted by a triple flip-triple toe loop. However, Medvedeva was night and day better than at Skate Canada three weeks ago, when she stumbled out of a double Axel and then fell and slid into the boards on a triple Lutz. Medvedeva replaced the Lutz for a triple loop on Friday.

It might not be possible for her to win on Saturday, though, given second-place Alexandra Trusova has the ability to land four quadruple jumps. (Quads aren’t allowed in women’s short programs, but they are in free skates).

Trusova, a 15-year-old ranked No. 1 in the world, outscored Medvedeva by 19.89 points in the free at Skate Canada three weeks ago. American Mariah Bell is in third, looking for her second straight Grand Prix medal.

Rostelecom Cup Short Programs
Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 76.93
2. Alexandra Trusova (RUS) — 74.21
3. Mariah Bell (USA) — 67.11
4. Alexia Pagani (SUI) — 65.12
5. Ekaterina Ryabova (AZE) — 64.01
6. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 63.09
7. Yuna Shiraiwa (JPN) — 60.57
8. Nicole Schott (GER) — 57.29
9. Chen Hongyi (CHN) — 57.17
10. Yuhana Yokoi (JPN) — 56.51
11. Stanislava Konstantinova (RUS) — 54.36
12. Emmi Peltonen (FIN) — 52.46

Men
1. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 92.81
2. Dmitri Aliev (RUS) — 90.64
3. Makar Ignatov (RUS) — 87.54
4. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 87.29
5. Deniss Vasiljevs (LAT) — 87.08
6. Nam Nguyen (CAN) — 87.01
7. Kazuki Tomono (JPN) — 80.98
8. Michal Brezina (CZE) — 80.27
9. Morisi Kvitelashvili (GEO) — 75.87
10. Alex Krasnozhon (USA) — 75.46
11. Daniel Samohin (ISR) — 56.94
12. Vladimir Litvintsev (AZE) — 54.42

Pairs
1. Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 80.14
2. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.81
3. Ksenia Stolbova/Andrei Novoselov (RUS) — 68.74
4. Minerva Fabienne Hase/Nolan Seegert (GER) — 67.74
5. Evelyn Walsh/Trennt Michaud (CAN) — 62.76
6. Miriam Ziegler/Severin Kiefer (AUT) — 61.84
7. Rebecca Ghilardi/Filippo Ambrosini (ITA) — 55.08
8. Audrey Lu/Misha Mitrofanov (USA) — 54.03

Ice Dance
1. Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) — 86.09
2. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 82.56
3. Sara Hurtado/Kirill Khaliavin (ESP) — 72.01
4. Natalia Kaliszek/Maksym Spodyriev (POL) — 69.97
5. Allison Reed/Saulius Ambrulevicius (LTU) — 59.79
6. Anastasia Shpilevaya/Grigory Smirnov (RUS) — 67.04
7. Anastasia Skoptcova/Kirill Aleshin (RUS) — 66.52
8. Marjorie Lajoie/Zachary Lagha (CAN) — 64.70
9. Adelina Galyavieva/Louis Thauron (FRA) — 63.22
10. Jasmine Tessari/Francesco Fioretti (ITA) — 62.68

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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