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

Sabrina Ionescu
Getty Images
0 Comments

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

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon
Getty
0 Comments

Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record in winning the Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:01:09 to lower the previous record time of 2:01:39 he set in the German capital in 2018.

Kipchoge, 37 and a two-time Olympic champion, earned his 15th win in 17 career marathons to bolster his claim as the greatest runner in history over 26.2 miles.

His pacing was not ideal. Kipchoge slowed in the final miles, running 61:18 for the second half after going out in an unprecedented 59:51 for the first 13.1 miles. He still won by 4:49 over Kenyan Mark Korir.

“I was planning to go through it [the halfway mark] 60:50, 60:40,” Kipchoge said. “My legs were running actually very fast. I thought, let me just try to run two hours flat, but all in all, I am happy with the performance.

“We went too fast [in the first half]. It takes energy from the muscles. … There’s still more in my legs [to possibly lower the record again].”

MORE: Berlin Marathon Results

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa won the women’s race in 2:15:37, the third-fastest time in history for somebody who ran one prior marathon in 2:34:01. Only Brigid Kosgei (2:14:14 in Chicago in 2019) and Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25 in London in 2003) have gone faster.

American record holder Keira D’Amato, who entered as the top seed, was sixth in 2:21:48. D’Amato, who went nearly a decade between competitive races after college, owns the American record of 2:19:12 and now also the 10th-best time in U.S. history.

“Today wasn’t my best day ever, but it was the best I could do today,” she said in a text message, according to Race Results Weekly, adding that she briefly stopped and walked late in the race.

The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.

The world record was 2:02:57 — set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 — until Kipchoge broke it for the first time four years ago.

The following year, Kipchoge became the first person to cover 26.2 miles in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible showcase rather than a race.

Kipchoge’s focus going forward is trying to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles in Paris in 2024. He also wants to win all six annual World Marathon Majors. He’s checked off four of them, only missing Boston (run in April) and New York City (run every November).

Kipchoge grew up on a farm in Kapsabet in Kenya’s Rift Valley, often hauling by bike several gallons of the family’s milk to sell at the local market. Raised by a nursery school teacher, he ran more than three miles to and from school. He saved for five months to get his first pair of running shoes.

At 18, he upset legends Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to win the 2003 World 5000m title on the track. He won Olympic 5000m medals (bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008), then moved to the marathon after failing to make the 2012 Olympic team on the track.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
Getty
0 Comments

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 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