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

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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.”

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Anna van der Breggen is first cyclist to sweep road world titles in 25 years

Anna van der Breggen
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Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen added the road race crown to her time trial victory at the world road cycling championships, becoming the second rider in history to win both events at the same edition.

“This is, for me, pretty good so far,” she said.

Van der Breggen, the Rio Olympic road race champion, won after a solo attack with more than 25 miles left of an 89-mile course in Imola, Italy, on Saturday.

She prevailed after more than four hours of racing by 80 seconds over countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, the 2019 champion. Van Vleuten raced nine days after breaking her left wrist in a Giro Rosa crash.

Italian Elisa Longo Borghini took bronze in the same time as van Vleuten after losing a photo-finish sprint. Lauren Stephens was the top American in 11th.

Full results are here.

The race lacked American standout Chloé Dygert, who crashed out of the time trial while leading on Thursday and required leg surgery.

Van der Breggen joined Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo as the only male or female cyclists to sweep the time trial and road race at a single worlds. Longo did so in 1995 at age 36.

Van der Breggen, 30, said in May that she will retire after the 2021 Olympic season.

It will be the end of one of the great cycling careers. She is now a three-time world champion and nine-time world medalist to go along with her road race gold and time trial bronze in her Olympic debut in Rio.

Worlds conclude Sunday with the men’s road race. A TV and stream schedule is here.

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MORE: A more equal future for women’s cycling? Lizzie Deignan has high hopes

2020 French Open TV, live stream schedule

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Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams can each tie Grand Slam singles titles records at the French Open, with daily live coverage among NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel.

NBC coverage starts Sunday with first-round action at Roland Garros, its 38th straight year covering the event. Tennis Channel airs the majority of weekday coverage. Peacock, NBC Universal’s new streaming service, has middle weekend broadcasts.

All NBC TV coverage alo streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Nadal is the primary men’s storyline, favored to tie Roger Federer‘s male record of 20 major titles and extend his own record of 12 French Open crowns. Federer is absent after knee operations earlier this year.

The Spaniard’s primary competition is top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the 2016 French Open champion whose only defeat in 2020 was a U.S. Open default for hitting a ball that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Williams bids again to match the overall Grand Slam singles mark of 24 held by Australian Margaret Court. Williams, a three-time French Open champion, lost in the third and fourth round the last two years and is coming off a U.S. Open semifinal exit.

The women’s field is led by 2018 champion Simona Halep but lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

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French Open TV Schedule

Date Time (ET) Network Round
Sunday, Sept. 27 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. NBC
Monday, Sept. 28 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Tuesday, Sept. 29 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Wednesday, Sept. 30 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Thursday, Oct. 1 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Friday, Oct. 2 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
Saturday, Oct. 3 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Sunday, Oct. 4 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Monday, Oct. 5 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Tuesday, Oct. 6 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Oct. 7 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Thursday, Oct. 8 5 a.m.-2 p.m. Tennis Channel Women’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Friday, Oct. 9 5 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis Channel Men’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Saturday, Oct. 10 9 a.m. NBC Women’s Final
Sunday, Oct. 11 9 a.m. NBC Men’s Final