Jerry Colangelo: I will remember who did not show up for World Cup

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DONGGUAN, China (AP) — USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said Thursday that when the time comes to start assembling the Tokyo Olympic roster, he won’t forget those who backed out of commitments to play in the World Cup this summer.

Of the 35 players originally selected for the U.S. player pool, only four are in China for the World Cup. The U.S. lost to France in the quarterfinals, ending a streak of seven major international tournaments — four Olympics and three World Cups — where the Americans captured a medal, the last five of them being gold.

“I can only say, you can’t help but notice and remember who you thought you were going to war with and who didn’t show up,” Colangelo said. “I’m a firm believer that you deal with the cards you’re dealt. All we could have done, and we did it, is get the commitments from a lot of players. So with that kind of a hand you feel reasonably confident that you’re going to be able to put a very good representative team on the court.

“No one would have anticipated the pull-outs that we had.”

The U.S. lost again to Serbia on Thursday, and will finish no better than seventh — the worst finish ever by an American men’s team in a major tournament. The previous worst was sixth at the 2002 World Championship, and the U.S. coaches with this World Cup team insist that in terms of return on effort invested this group deserved better.

Many players cited schedule concerns as a reason to not play this summer, while others are dealing with injuries and some are acclimating in advance of joining new teams when training camps start in less than three weeks. The new international schedule is a challenge as well, with the World Cup and the Olympics in consecutive offseasons for the first time since 1967 and 1968.

More than 50 players were part of the U.S. World Cup plan at one point or another. Of those, 12 went to China, two got cut after the first week of training camp — and the other three dozen or so dropped out on their own.

“We just have to get our act together for the Olympics,” Colangelo said.

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

The U.S. will go to Tokyo seeking a fourth consecutive gold medal, and getting stars to play on the Olympic team is rarely a problem. The World Cup team wasn’t exactly loaded with superstars — only two of the 12 U.S. players on the World Cup roster were All-Stars this past season (Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton), while nine of the 12 players on the 2016 Olympic team were coming off All-Star appearances.

“The players did everything they can do,” Colangelo said. “They are a good group of guys. But we went in with higher expectations in terms of roster, and it didn’t kind of happen the way we were hopeful and anticipating and expecting. That, to me, was a big disappointment.”

Colangelo also expressed disappointment for U.S. coach Gregg Popovich, who will also lead the Tokyo-bound team next summer. Popovich missed out on making the 1972 Olympic team as a player and was an assistant coach on the 2002 World Championship and 2004 Olympic teams that failed to win gold medals.

“I told Pop I felt really bad for him because I wanted him to have a chance to win a gold medal after his experience with USA Basketball in the past,” Colangelo said. “But it wasn’t meant to be in this competition.”

So now, his eyes are turning to Tokyo.

It won’t take long for the recruiting process to start, either.

“Going forward for USA Basketball, we’re going to need the cooperation of teams, agents and then there has to be communication with players 1-on-1 to solidify those commitments,” Colangelo said. “I am going to be anxious to see how many players reach out early to indicate that they wish and want and desire to play.

“But I’ll make this statement: It’s as much about maybe who we don’t want as much as who we want.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup schedule, results

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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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