U.S. upset by France at FIBA World Cup, first major loss in 13 years

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The U.S. men’s basketball team suffered its first global tournament loss in 13 years, beaten by France 89-79 in the FIBA World Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday.

The U.S., which was bidding for the first World Cup three-peat but without any NBA superstars, will leave worlds in China without a medal.

“It’s not about, well, the United States didn’t have their other guys,” said U.S. coach Gregg Popovich, at his first tournament since succeeding Mike Krzyzewski. “There’s no such thing as other guys. These are the guys that were here.

“It’s also a disrespectful notion to even bring something like that up, that, hey you guys didn’t have this guy and that guy. That’s disrespectful to France or whoever else is in the tournament. France beat us. It doesn’t matter who was on the team.”

The Americans had won 58 straight games with NBA players among the Olympics, World Cup and FIBA Americas since its last defeat in the 2006 World Cup semifinals to Greece.

The Americans, led by Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (29 points), battled back from a 10-point, third-quarter deficit to lead by seven early in the fourth.

But France, with Rudy Gobert (21 points, 16 rebounds), went on an 11-point run in the fourth to retake the lead and advance to a Friday semifinal against Argentina. A full box score is here.

“I don’t know how to describe,” Gobert said on ESPN2 of France’s first-ever win over the U.S. after nine losses between the Olympics and worlds and 21 losses when including the U17, U19 and World University Games levels. “I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time. … It’s probably the kind of game you’re going to talk about in 20 years. We’ve got to take it all in.”

Spain gets Australia in the other semifinal. Spain and France clinched 2020 Olympic spots as the last two remaining European teams, making it eight teams qualified so far for the tournament. The others are Japan, Australia, Iran, Nigeria, the U.S. and Argentina.

MORE: Every U.S. loss since the Dream Team

This U.S. team was deemed vulnerable after every NBA superstar withdrew from World Cup roster consideration.

What was left was a roster with two 2019 NBA All-Stars (Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton) and one player with Olympic experience (Harrison Barnes).

“You guys are going to go on and say who we didn’t have, but why don’t you all focus on who we do have?” Mitchell said. “We came ready to work for coach Pop.”

Walker, the team leader in the backcourt, struggled Wednesday with twice as many turnovers as made field goals (2 for 9). The Americans also got beat in the paint, outrebounded 44-28.

“Of course, people are going to say it was a big upset because of who we are and what this team has done in the past,” Walker said.

The concern for this team was first confirmed with a pre-tournament loss to Australia, snapping a 78-game win streak with NBA players when including exhibitions. Then tested again in group play last week, when the U.S. eked past 17th-ranked Turkey by one point in overtime.

The U.S., which qualified for the 2020 Olympics by advancing out of group play, was due for a step up in competition by starting knockout play against France.

The French have five NBA players, including Gobert, Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum. They challenged the Americans at the Rio Olympics, losing 100-97 in group play.

The U.S. plays Serbia in a consolation-round game Thursday in a rematch of the Rio Olympic final.

“Any loss hurts,” Popovich said. “This situation, it hurts more.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup schedule, results

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

Joan Benoit Samuelson
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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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