Top prospects, WNBA rookies make statement in World Beach Games 3×3 hoops

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Before No. 1 high school basketball prospect Paige Bueckers starts her career at Connecticut — or before she even graduates from high school — she is taking some time to help the U.S. women’s 3×3 team make a late charge in the world rankings before next year’s Olympics.

On the beachside court at Qatar’s Katara Beach, the 19th-ranked U.S. women opened the World Beach Games with a couple of routs over the Dominican Republic (22-5) and Jordan (22-4), clinching a spot in the knockout rounds.

Top-ranked Russia should have provided tougher competition Tuesday, with the group win and a better seed in the playoffs at stake, but the U.S. rolled to a 22-3 win.

The U.S. women are currently ranked 19th, but check back as the rankings change daily. The rankings require a bit of calculus, but in general, they reward not just results but participation, a disadvantage for North American teams that don’t have as many international events within easy traveling distance.

Their effort in Qatar won’t be enough to climb into the top three to take one of the automatic Olympic qualifying spots by the Nov. 1 deadline, but they should easily have enough points to reach the qualifying tournament in March.

In last year’s 3×3 World Cup, the U.S. women also defeated Russia 21-13 in pool play but dropped a 17-14 decision to Italy in the quarterfinals. Ruthy Hebard, a University of Oregon forward from Alaska who is projected as a top pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, is the sole carry-over from that team to this year’s World Beach Games team. Hebard and Oregon teammate Sabrina Ionescu, who is not playing in Qatar, were on the U.S. team that took gold at the Pan Am Games this summer.

Two of Hebard’s teammates in Qatar, Jackie Young and Napheesa Collier, have just finished their rookie seasons in the WNBA. Collier, the 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year with the Minnesota Lynx, has plenty of international experience, including a win in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. Young, who is making her international debut, was the top pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft and led the Las Vegas Aces with 4.5 assists per game in her rookier year.

Bueckers, who will turn 18 next week, has already helped U.S. teams win three gold medals in youth full-court tournaments 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup, the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup, the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship plus 3×3 gold at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. She was MVP of the U19 World Cup earlier this year.

The team had a balanced attack in its first two games, with Hebard and Collier each averaging 6 points per game under 3×3’s unique scoring system 1 point for a field goal inside the arc, 2 points for a shot beyond the arc, and 1 point for a free throw. Bueckers hit 4 of 8 2-pointers in the first two games and averaged 5.5 points, and Young chipped in 4.5 per game.

Young took charge against Russia, hitting 7-of-14 1-point shots and two free throws for 9 points. Collier had 6 points, including a 2-pointer. Bueckers hit two shots from beyond the arc for 4 points, and Hebard added 3 on 1-point shots. The team’s defense held Russia to 14% shooting.

The U.S. did not enter the men’s 3×3 competition in Qatar. The men are already guaranteed a spot in next year’s Olympic qualifying event.

Elsewhere at the World Beach Games:

  • Daniela Moroz won the women’s kitefoil racing event, Guenther Oka and Jamie Lopina each took bronze in wakeboarding, and Gakuji Tozaki earned bronze in the karate kata event, which is now an Olympic event.
  • The U.S. women’s beach soccer team, which just completed its first-ever training camp, finished 1-2 in pool play.
  • In 4×4 beach volleyball, the U.S. women have advanced to the final, while the U.S. men will play in the semifinals.

STREAMING: World Beach Games on OlympicChannel.com

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Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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