NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week: What to watch on Thursday

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Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and the U.S. women’s basketball dynasty take over NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week on Thursday night.

A marathon of four Olympic finals — 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2016 — starts at 7 p.m. ET. The night is capped with an Olympic film — “More than Gold: Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics” — at 2 a.m.

The U.S. women won their last 49 Olympic contests — a streak that dates to the bronze-medal game at the 1992 Barcelona Games. A seventh straight Olympic title in Tokyo would match the basketball record held by U.S. men’s teams from the first seven Olympic tournaments from 1936-68.

The seeds were planted before the 1996 Atlanta Games. A team was formed in summer 1995 that traveled more than 100,000 miles on a world tour, playing 52 games and winning all of them. That made the eight-game run to gold at the Olympics, all won by double digits, seem a formality.

The WNBA’s inaugural season was the following year.

LIVE STREAM: NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Thursday, 7 p.m.-3 a.m. ET

Lisa Leslie led the U.S. in scoring in 1996, 2000 and 2004. In Sydney, the U.S. played the first of three straight Olympic finals against Australia, which would become the sport’s primary rivalry. The Aussies were no match, even playing at home, as the Americans cruised 76-54. The Australian team featured a 19-year-old Lauren Jackson.

The 2004 Athens Games marked the arrival of Bird and Taurasi, the team’s two youngest players at 23 and 22. It was also the final Olympics for point guard Dawn Staley, who will now coach the Olympic team in Tokyo, likely with Bird and Taurasi as her starting guards. Unlike 1996 and 2000, the U.S. was tested. Notably in a 66-62 semifinal win over Russia.

The 2016 Olympic team won all of its games by at least 19 points, capped by a 101-72 blowout of Spain in the final.

Rio was supposed to be the last Games for Bird and Taurasi, expected to retire from the national team with their college coach, UConn’s Geno Auriemma, stepping down from U.S. coaching duties after the Games. But both returned under Staley and in Tokyo can become the first basketball players to win five Olympic titles.

MORE: USA Basketball career Olympic points leaders

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NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Thursday, April 23

Time (ET) Program Events Live Stream
7 p.m. Olympic Classics Women’s Basketball 1996 Final Stream Link
8:30 p.m. Olympic Classics Women’s Basketball 2000 Final Stream Link
10 p.m. Olympic Classics Women’s Basketball 2004 Final Stream Link
12 a.m. Olympic Classics Women’s Basketball 2016 Final Stream Link
2 a.m. Olympic Films Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics Stream Link

 

Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s road back through destruction, death

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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