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Skylar Diggins-Smith’s first game as a mom will be with USA Basketball

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Skylar Diggins-Smith said she participated in her first full practice since last year on Friday. On Saturday, she will be available to play in a game for the first time since having her son, when the U.S. women’s national team opens its four-stop tour against top college teams at Stanford.

Diggins-Smith, who did not play the 2019 WNBA season after childbirth and tweeted that she played the entire previous season while pregnant, said she has no restrictions.

“Just getting back in shape and rhythm and timing, some of those things I’m going to have to get back on-the-job training,” she said after practice Friday, a little over a month after participating in a training camp when she wasn’t at full-go. “I’m not even thinking about what percentage I am or putting any pressure on myself to be on a certain timeline or anything. I am what I am, and I know I still got a little more I can give.”

Diggins-Smith, a four-time WNBA All-Star, is one of the most accomplished would-be, first-time Olympians pushing for playing time at guard as Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi close out their international careers.

The WNBA’s No. 3 overall draft pick in 2013 was among the final cuts for the 2014 World Championship team. An ACL tear in 2015 derailed Rio Olympic hopes.

In February 2018, new U.S. head coach Dawn Staley named Diggins-Smith first when listing potential need fillers at the point. Diggins-Smith then played at an all-WNBA second-team caliber that season. Her last game before childbirth was Aug. 21, 2018, in the Dallas Wings’ playoff exit.

The FIBA World Cup, the biggest international tournament outside the Olympics, began a month later without her. After childbirth, Diggins-Smith tweeted that she took two full months away from everything due to postpartum depression.

She’s back and ready to do whatever U.S. coaches ask of her as the run-up to Tokyo Olympic selection starts.

“They know me. I’m just here to be myself,” Diggins-Smith said. “Whatever your role is — it may not be the normal role that you have on your team in the WNBA. Whatever the case may be. I’m just here. I’m back on the floor. This is my first 90 minutes, two hours together [at practice Friday], so I don’t really know what anybody expects of me, but just trying to give good effort, good energy, talk on defense and, yeah, just do whatever they’re asking me to do.”

Diggins-Smith has spoken with many moms in the WNBA.

That included Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who played 14 WNBA seasons and was the Wings’ interim head coach to close out Diggins-Smith’s last season in 2018. McWilliams-Franklin learned she was pregnant with her first child in high school, after which scholarship offers were rescinded. McWilliams-Franklin reportedly said she lost endorsements sitting out part of the 2002 season due to pregnancy.

Diggins-Smith noted that Dallas teammates Tayler Hill and Glory Johnson are also moms.

Hill, the fourth overall draft pick in 2013, learned she was pregnant after her WNBA rookie season, had son Maurice in June 2014 and returned less than two months later for the final stretch of her second season.

Johnson, the fourth overall draft pick in 2012, had her twin daughters, Ava and Solei, nearly four months premature in October 2015 and has sometimes gone months away from them while playing overseas.

“A lot of moms around the league to turn to and a lot of working moms, period, that I have to reference, to talk to,” Diggins-Smith said. “Some who I just met. It’s interesting to hear everybody’s stories and everything that they’ve been through. It’s definitely inspiring, aspirational to see and hear some of these stories.”

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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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