NBA season expected to end before Olympics, but which stars will be in Tokyo?

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An NBA season schedule plan is tentatively approved to avoid overlap with the Olympics, after doubt earlier this fall, but what’s left to decide is which of the league’s superstars will be in Tokyo.

A month ago, it appeared the NBA season would clash with the Games and definitely keep at least some of the world’s best male basketball players from representing their nations.

On Sept. 22, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said his best guess was the season starting in January with a standard 82-game schedule and playoffs. In that scenario, the Olympics would have started while the NBA playoffs were happening.

Silver acknowledged then that Olympic participation may be limited, including a scenario where the “top 15” NBA players weren’t in Tokyo, “but other great American players are competing.”

That awkward situation was avoided with this week’s news, but USA Basketball still has plenty of work ahead.

The U.S. finished seventh at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, its worst-ever senior national team tournament result. After that failure, some NBA stars who didn’t suit up for the World Cup declared intent to play at the Olympics.

USA Basketball named 44 finalists for its 12-man Olympic team on Feb. 10, though in the past players have either withdrawn or been added to the pool as the Games approached.

Before the pandemic, two of the U.S.’ potentially most valuable players, LeBron James and Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers, said it was too early to say if they would definitively accept an Olympic roster spot.

That was when the NBA Finals were due to end at least one month before the Opening Ceremony. Now, if the Lakers return to the NBA Finals again next season, they will play within one or two weeks, perhaps a matter of days, of the U.S.’ first Olympic game, an unprecedented situation.

The deadline for nations to submit Olympic rosters is July 6.

NBA stars from some other nations may be unable to compete in the final Olympic qualifying tournaments in late June or early July while the NBA playoffs are happening.

That includes Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Luka Doncic (Slovenia), Nikola Jokic (Serbia) and Jamal Murray and Andrew Wiggins (Canada, whose coach, Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors, may also have to miss qualifying).

A total of 24 nations were split into four different tournaments where each winner qualifies for the 12-nation Olympic tournament. Previously qualified: the U.S., Spain, France, Argentina, Australia, Nigeria, Iran and host Japan.

The NBA has participated in every Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games. Before the NBA era, U.S. Olympic men’s basketball teams consisted of college players.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

Joan Benoit Samuelson
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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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