Allison Schmitt continues swimming comeback with national title

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Allison Schmitt‘s bid for a fourth Olympics, after taking nearly two years off competition, is very much in play.

Schmitt, an eight-time Olympic medalist, won the 200m freestyle in 1:56.97 at the U.S. Championships in Palo Alto, Calif., on Thursday. The event lacked Olympic champion Katie Ledecky, who is resting after last week’s world championships.

Schmitt was satisfied by going 1.3 seconds faster than she did at worlds, where she placed 14th. Her time on Thursday would have put her ninth at worlds, still missing the final, but it marked her fastest 200m free since August 2018.

“Ever since I decided I was going to get back into the pool, eyes were set on 2020,”said Schmitt, who started her work outside the pool in the past year as a counselor at Arizona State, where she’s pursuing a master’s degree in social work. “It’s definitely still a day-by-day process, has its ups and downs. But, as a whole, it’s been a good journey, and like I said, I’m really looking forward to this upcoming year.”

MORE: U.S. Swimming Champs TV Schedule

Schmitt, at 29, is the only female swimmer left from the 2008 U.S. Olympic team who is going for the Tokyo Games. Her American record from winning the 200m free at the 2012 London Games remains one of the few marks that Ledecky has chased but not broken.

Schmitt failed to qualify for the 2013 and 2015 Worlds but, after revealing her battle with depression, rallied to make the Rio Games in the 4x100m and 4x200m free relays. She returned to competition in April 2018.

Schmitt, ranked fourth in the U.S. this year in the 200m free, likely must improve on Thursday’s time come trials to become the oldest U.S. woman to race an individual event at an Olympics since 41-year-old Dara Torres in 2008. The top six in the event at trials in June are likely to make the Tokyo Olympic team in the relay, though.

In other events Thursday, Madisyn Cox took the women’s 200m breaststroke in 2:23.84, a personal best by 1.78 seconds. Her time, against a field lacking top Americans Lilly King and Annie Lazor, would have placed sixth at worlds.

Cox, the 2017 World bronze medalist in the 200m individual medley, missed last week’s worlds after a failing a drug test over what she said was a contaminated multivitamin. Her original two-year ban was reduced to six months, but she still had to miss last year’s nationals, which ruled her out of this year’s worlds.

Reece Whitley, at 6-foot-9, took his first national 200m breast title in a personal-best 2:09.69, delivering on promise as the 2015 Sports Illustrated SportsKid of the Year and cover star. Whitley, a rising Cal sophomore, ranks sixth in the U.S. this year in his best event. Thursday’s final lacked the top four.

Rising Texas junior Austin Katz captured the 200m backstroke in 1:55.72, which would have taken bronze at worlds. Katz, who did not make the world championships team, came into the meet ranked fifth in the world this year at 1:55.57.

Asia Seidt won the women’s 200m back in 2:08.90, which would have placed eighth at worlds. Regan Smith, the 17-year-old who broke the world record at worlds, opted not to race this event at nationals.

Australian 19-year-old Elijah Winnington took the 200m free in 1:46.19, a time that would not have made the final at worlds. The field lacked the top American freestylers like 2017 World silver medalist Townley Haas.

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U.S., China set for FIBA Women’s World Cup gold-medal game

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SYDNEY — Breanna Stewart and the United States used a dominant defensive effort to beat Canada and reach the gold-medal game of the FIBA Women’s World Cup for the fourth consecutive tournament.

Stewart scored 17 points and the Americans raced out to an early lead to put away Canada 83-43 on Friday, reaching a Saturday gold-medal game with China. The 43 points was the fewest scored in a semifinal game in World Cup history.

“Canada has been playing really well all tournament and the goal was just to come out there and really limit them,” said U.S. forward Alyssa Thomas. “We were really locked in from the jump with our game plan.”

China edged host Australia 61-59 in the later semifinal to reach its first global championship game since the 1994 Worlds, the last time it won a medal of any color. The U.S. beat China 77-63 in group play last Saturday, the Americans’ closest game of the tournament.

“Our goal was to to win a gold medal and we’re in position to do that,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The U.S. (7-0), which is on a record pace for points and margin of victory in the tournament, took control of the game early scoring the first 15 points. The Americans contested every shot on the defensive end as the Canadians missed their first nine attempts from the field. On the offensive end, Stewart, A’ja Wilson and Thomas basically got any shot they wanted.

“I think after that punch, it really took the air out of them,” Thomas said. “They didn’t know what to do with their offense anymore after that.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

Laeticia Amihere, who plays at South Carolina for former U.S. coach Dawn Staley, finally got Canada on the board nearly 5 minutes into the game making a driving layup.

By the end of the quarter the U.S. led 27-7. Canada had committed four turnovers — the same number the team had against Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals which was the lowest total in a game in 30 years.

The Americans were up 45-21 at the half and the lead kept expanding in the final 20 minutes. The win was the biggest margin for the U.S. in the medal round topping the 36-point victory over Spain in the 2010 World Cup.

Canada (5-2) advanced to the medal round for the first time since 1986 and has a chance to win its first medal since taking the bronze that year.

“We didn’t get it done today, but what we’re going to do is take this with what we learned today and how we can turn it up tomorrow,” Canada captain Natalie Achonwa said. “It’s still a game for a medal and it’s just as important for us.”

The U.S. has won seven of the eight meetings with Canada in the World Cup, although the last one came in 2010. The lone victory for Canada came in 1975.

The victory was the 29th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86. This is only the second time in the Americans’ storied history they’ve reached four consecutive gold-medal contests. They also did it from 1979-90, winning three times.

This U.S. team, which has so many new faces on it, is on pace to break many of the team’s records that include scoring margin and points per game. The Americans also continued to dominate the paint even without 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, outscoring its opponents by an average of 55-24.

Amihere led Canada with eight points.

RECORD BREAKING

The low point total broke the mark of 53 that South Korea scored against Russia in 2002.

“We’re starting to build that identity,” Wilson said of the defensive effort. “We’re quick and scrappy and I think that’s our identity.”

The U.S. is averaging 101 points a game. The team’s best mark ever coming into the tournament was 99.1 set in 1994.

STILL RECOVERING

Kahleah Copper sat out after injuring her left hip in the win over Serbia in the quarterfinals. Copper landed hard on her hip driving to the basket and had to be helped off the court. She hopes to play on Saturday. Betnijah Laney, who also got hurt in the Serbia game, did play against Canada.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for 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, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes 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 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’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 71, Australia 69 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia vs. Canada Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA vs. China Gold-Medal Game