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China’s Olympic men’s basketball streak in danger; Iran, Nigeria qualify for Tokyo

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China sent a men’s basketball team to every Olympics from 1984 through 2016. Its streak is in danger of being snapped.

China lost to Nigeria 86-73 in its last FIBA World Cup game on Sunday. That means Iran claimed the lone Asian Olympic qualifying spot available at the tournament, after the Iranians beat the Philippines 95-75, also Sunday.

China will get a last chance to qualify to play at its 10th straight Olympics at a tournament next year, where it likely must go through a higher-ranked European nation.

Nigeria’s win meant that the D’Tigers are going to their third straight Olympics. Nigeria needed to beat China to overtake Tunisia for the lone African Olympic berth available at the World Cup.

Nigeria, which went 1-4 at its two Olympics in 2012 and 2016, has a roster that includes current and former NBA players Al-Farouq Aminu, Josh Okogie and Ike Diogu.

Iran goes to its first Olympics since going winless in 2008, when it qualified with a boost by not having to better host nation China. Its roster is led by former Memphis Grizzlies 7-footer Hamed Haddadi.

Iran and Nigeria join Australia and Japan as the first four teams in the 12-team Olympic field. Four more nations will qualify for the Olympics at this month’s World Cup — two from the Americas and two from Europe.

The last four will be determined next year at those last-chance qualifying tournaments.

Only Australia has played in more consecutive Olympic men’s basketball tournaments on the active list than China.

China and the U.S. each played in every tournament starting with the 1984 Los Angeles Games. China didn’t participate in the Summer Olympics at all from 1956 through 1980. The U.S. boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games.

China lost 12 straight Olympic contests dating to when it hosted the 2008 Beijing Games. Now-retired Yao Ming led the team in 2000, 2004 and 2008, but the nation has never reached an Olympic semifinals.

Yao, now president of China’s basketball federation, was reportedly asked who was responsible for this failure. “Me,” he replied to end the brief interview.

Fellow former NBA big man Yi Jianlian is the new elder statesman, at 31 years old and perhaps on his way to a fifth Olympics. In 2004, Yi played at age 16. He remains the youngest man to play Olympic basketball since 1948.

MORE: FIBA World Cup schedule, results

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Israel is first nation to qualify for 2020 Olympic baseball tournament

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Israel’s baseball team, which captivated at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, is headed to its first Olympics next summer.

Israel won a joint European-African tournament to become the first nation to qualify for baseball’s return to the Games after the sport was voted off the program after Beijing 2008.

It joins host nation Japan. Four more countries will qualify — two at the global Premier12 in November, another from the Americas and one more from a last-chance qualifier next year.

Israel, ranked 19th in the world, advanced via its best opportunity in Italy this week. It upset the highest-ranked European nations — the Netherlands (No. 8) and host Italy (No. 16) — and wrapped it up with an 11-1 win over South Africa on Sunday.

Its run came two years after Israel, then ranked 41st, beat South Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Cuba before bowing out of the World Baseball Classic. And one week after Israel finished fourth at the European Championship.

Israel’s roster at this week’s Olympic qualifier lacked many of the MLB veterans that it had at the World Baseball Classic. Israeli citizenship was not required at the WBC.

Its most recognizable player is Danny Valencia, an infielder who played parts of nine MLB seasons from 2010-18.

MLB players are unlikely to feature at the Tokyo Games, but minor leaguers are expected to be eligible as in the past.

The rest of the Olympic field is likely to be nations from North America (such as the U.S., Cuba, Mexico or Canada) or Asia (South Korea, Chinese Taipei) or Australia.

Baseball will not be on the 2024 Olympic program but could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

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MORE: USA Baseball taps longtime catcher to be Olympic qualifying manager

J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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MORE: World Wrestling Championships TV Schedule