Sabrina Ionescu’s unprecedented Olympic question: Which team to play for?

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There was no doubt which WNBA team would draft Sabrina Ionescu back on April 17. What’s unclear is which U.S. basketball team she would suit up for at the Tokyo Olympics next summer: the traditional 5×5 team or for the new Olympic 3×3 event.

Ionescu, the No. 1 overall pick of the New York Liberty, appeared a strong hopeful for 3×3, if the Tokyo Games had been held this summer. She was, as of January, the U.S.’ top player in international rankings for 3×3.

Ionescu even said last July, while at the Pan American Games for 3×3, that, if forced to choose between traditional 5×5 and 3×3 at the Olympics, she preferred 3×3, according to the Olympic Channel.

It made plenty of sense at the time. Consider Ionescu would play for the University of Oregon in the winter and spring of 2020 when U.S. Olympic 5×5 hopefuls would gather for practices and exhibitions ahead of the roster being named in June.

The Olympic postponement to 2021 changed all that. Now, Ionescu gets a (shortened) season of pro ball, plus an offseason to potentially prove herself in front of U.S. coach Dawn Staley, before the Olympic teams get named. (The U.S. must still qualify a 3×3 team for the Olympics, but it would be shocking if it fails.)

Ionescu did not state a preference between 3×3 and 5×5 when asked her thoughts on the situation on Sunday.

“I have no idea what they [USA Basketball] were going to do with the Olympics, if they were going to be this year. I wasn’t told anything. I was just playing and enjoying my college career,” she said ahead of her WNBA debut on Saturday. “It didn’t matter to me if I was going to get the opportunity to play 3×3 or 5×5, I would’ve taken it because it’s an honor to represent my country.”

Ionescu must have at least 3,600 FIBA ranking points in 3×3 come June 21, 2021, to be eligible for that team. Since ranking points expire after one year, she may need to take part in 3×3 competition or training camp tournaments in the next 11 months to be eligible.

Or, Ionescu could devote all of her basketball between the Liberty and, potentially, the national 5×5 team over the next year.

“I do have a year to be able to play against the best women in the world and just be able to see where I compare,” she said.

Ionescu turns 23 on Dec. 6. At least one player 23 years or younger made each of the last four U.S. Olympic women’s teams. Ionescu is younger than any point guard to make an Olympic team since 1988.

The U.S. is looking for somebody to take the baton from Sue Bird, who at 40 would become the oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player in history by three years in Tokyo.

Carol Callan, the U.S. women’s national team director who is also on the 3×3 selection committee, said in May that a conversation is merited with any player who has an opportunity to play on either Olympic team.

She noted that anybody on the Olympic 3×3 team would be guaranteed significant playing time since the roster is four players, with a substitution planned at every dead ball. Given the schedule, it’s not feasible for somebody to play both 3×3 and 5×5 at the Olympics.

“I have no idea what a player would think through that process because most players are pretty confident in their abilities, but if you thought you were going to be a role player for a 5×5 team, but you had a chance to be on 3×3, you might choose that,” Callan said.

MORE: USA Basketball career Olympic points leaders

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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