U.S. women’s basketball team gets expanded training, pay for players

Getty Images
0 Comments

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi want their USA Basketball legacy to be more than just winning medals.

The four-time Olympic gold medalists came up with an idea for a training plan for USA Basketball leading up to next year’s Tokyo Olympics that would help the Americans go for an unprecedented seventh consecutive title: USA Basketball, which usually trains together only for short periods of time during a crowded calendar, would get a core group of eight players together for five training sessions over the next year.

The players would be paid $2,000 a day at each of the training camps and games leading up to the Olympics, with the chance to also earn bonuses.

USA Basketball loved the idea. The new training plan was announced on Saturday before the All-Star Game, with Bird, Taurasi, USA Basketball coach Dawn Staley and national team director Carol Callan in attendance.

“I think as you get closer to the end of your time, you understand you can 100% have an impact as a player. Go out there and move the needle on the court with your play and winning, but there are other ways that I would like to have an impact and one would be this,” Bird said. “Getting paid gives players, who want the option, to stay at home and not go overseas in the winter.”

Joining Bird and Taurasi for the training segments as part of the core group are Sylvia Fowles, Elena Delle Donne, Nneka Ogwumike, A’ja Wilson, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Chelsea Gray. The U.S. will also have a fluid group of players from the national team training pool join the core group.

Many of the U.S. players, including Bird and Taurasi, have played in the winter overseas, where they have been paid potentially 10 times their WNBA salaries. Finding time to train with USA Basketball has been difficult because of the overseas schedules and the WNBA schedule. If the players are paid by USA Basketball, they have more of a reason to stay here.

They can earn roughly $100,000 for participating in all the training sessions.

“It’s legitimate, they knew they had to do it that way,” said Ogwumike, who has played in Russia and China in the winter. “That investment is what the players want. It’s quite amazing to afford that type of opportunity. Not just the investment in us, but the strategic nature of hitting different markets. We’ll have traveling tournaments.

“I was in a moment where I played a half-season in China. Don’t know if I can go overseas again. I have so much available to me here, it would benefit me not to go overseas. For them to put that investment in, that’s huge.”

The U.S. will get together in late September for the FIBA America’s Cup. The Americans will then get together in November and February to train and play in FIBA Olympic qualifying tournaments. The U.S. already has qualified for the Tokyo Games by winning the World Cup last fall. The Americans will also play exhibition games against college teams to train in the fall and winter.

“Our three priorities are to train and prepare for the Olympics, amplify the profile of the women’s national team and raise the profile of women’s basketball as a whole by using the best players in the world,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley told The Associated Press. “Besides training they’ll be auxiliary events around our training. We’ll do some clinics for Boys & Girls clubs to spread the gospel of the women’s national team.”

Tooley said the training idea is a smaller version of what the U.S. did in 1995-96 that kicked off its run of success.

“That’s when our amazing run started,” he said. “It’s like bookends almost.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Candace Parker done with USA Basketball

World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
Getty
0 Comments

Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

0 Comments

One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!