Rowdy Gaines, feeling deja vu, knows Olympic swim team will look different in 2021

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Rowdy Gaines knows the feeling of an Olympic dream deferred. About this time 40 years ago, Gaines was in line to go for five swimming gold medals at the Moscow Games. Then the U.S. boycott was announced.

“Little bit of deja vu,” Gaines, the longtime NBC Olympics swimming analyst, told NBC Olympics primetime host Mike Tirico shortly after the Tokyo Games were postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus. “There’s a big difference between the word boycott and postpone, but an athlete’s life, especially in our sport, comes and goes in a matter of a year or two. … It’s pretty devastating to see that a lot of kids are going to miss this opportunity this summer.”

Gaines, then 21, was at his peak in 1980, already a world-record holder and world champion. He would be 25 at the next Olympics in 1984, older than any U.S. Olympic swimmer in an individual event since 1956, according to Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

After a brief retirement, in an era where swimmers rarely competed beyond college age, Gaines rededicated himself and won three golds at the Los Angeles Games. It was the exception, not the norm.

“Champions in our sport are the ones that can live through the valleys,” Gaines told swimmers at Auburn, his alma mater, in his SEC Network documentary, “Rowdy.” “Living through the peaks is the easy part.”

How can a single year alter swimming?

Consider that in 2000, a 15-year-old Michael Phelps placed fifth in the Sydney Olympic 200m butterfly. Phelps broke the world record six months later and lowered it again at the 2001 World Championships, winning by seven tenths of a second over the Sydney Olympic gold medalist.

In 2015, Australians Bronte CampbellMitch Larkin and Emily Seebohm each won a pair of individual world titles. At the Rio Olympics, the trio combined for one medal, Larkin’s silver, outside of the relays.

“An athlete’s life can certainly come and go in a short span,” Gaines said. “So you’re going to have an athlete that was just barely hanging on to try to get to this summer. And I’ll use a name because I think most people are going to say it: Ryan Lochte.”

Lochte, 35, is bidding to become the oldest U.S. Olympic male swimmer in an individual event in history. To make the Olympic team in his trademark event, the 200m individual medley, he may have to fend off phenoms 20-year-old Michael Andrew and 18-year-old Carson Foster.

The flip side: the recent success of Andrew and Foster is by no means assured to continue for another year. How will swimmers who have never experienced the crucible of an Olympics handle this interruption?

“The example of a very young athlete that is just hitting his or her stride; right now, perfect timing,” Gaines said. “Then, all of a sudden, a year from now, things can change emotionally and physically.”

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Aksel Lund Svindal, Olympic Alpine champ, has testicular cancer, ‘prognosis good’

Aksel Lund Svindal
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Aksel Lund Svindal, a retired Olympic Alpine skiing champion from Norway, said he underwent surgery for testicular cancer and the prognosis “looked very good.”

“Tests, scans and surgery all happened very quickly,” Svindal, 39, wrote on social media. “And already after the first week I knew the prognoses looked very good. All thanks to that first decision to go see a doctor as soon as I suspected something was off.”

Svindal retired in 2019 after winning the Olympic super-G in 2010 and downhill in 2018. He also won five world titles among the downhill, combined and giant slalom and two World Cup overall titles.

Svindal said he felt a change in his body that prompted him to see a doctor.

“The last few weeks have been different,” he wrote. “But I’m able to say weeks and not months because of great medical help, a little luck and a good decision.

“I wasn’t sure what it was, or if it was anything at all. … [I] was quickly transferred to the hospital where they confirmed what the doctor suspected. Testicle cancer.”

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France vs. Mali Group B
4 a.m. Australia vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada vs. Japan Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final