Francesco Friedrich wants to be the best bobsledder in history. He may already be.

Francesco Friedrich
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Amid the recent chatter about sports GOATs, German bobsledder Francesco Friedrich hones his craft in Altenberg, site of the two-week world championships that finish this weekend.

Every run down an icy chute, every piece of conditioning, every second of studying tracks is a step closer to a goal that Friedrich may have already reached.

“He wants to be the greatest in bobsled history,” said older brother David.

David is considerably responsible for Friedrich’s success, which may have crescendoed on Super Bowl Sunday.

Friedrich won a record-breaking 10th world championship, taking the two-man event by 2.05 seconds, the largest margin in at least 15 years (since times are readily available online) and greater than the margin separating second place from 16th place.

This Saturday and Sunday in the prized four-man event, Friedrich bids to sweep both titles at a record-extending fifth consecutive global championship (Olympics and worlds).

“Bobsledding is 99 percent doing other things than your sport,” Friedrich said before worlds, noting the strength training, the mental prep and even gaining sponsors and finding the right push athletes to fill sleds for competition runs that total less than an hour over the course of a season. “The races are the last part of the puzzle.”

David was the first piece. The native of Saxony took up bobsled at 18. A year in, he crashed a four-man sled on his home track of Altenberg, losing consciousness and breaking his helmet.

David was placed in a coma for three weeks. German media at the time reported his life was not in danger.

The next year, Francesco followed his brother into bobsled.

“We didn’t consider to quit bobsled after the crash,” David wrote in an email. “We already know that such crashes could happen.”

Another crash happened months later. This time, the younger Friedrich was driving. David was the brakeman and got the worse of it. He had a broken vertebra and ultimately retired.

“In the beginning it was difficult for Franz,” David wrote, “but the X-rays showed us that it was an injury from the crash one year before.”

Friedrich continued on. The retirement of four-time Olympic champion Andre Lange in 2010 helped open the door for Friedrich to make his world championships debut in 2011. He placed 11th in the two-man, worst of the four sleds for Germany, the most successful nation in the sport’s history.

The next year, Friedrich placed fourth in the two-man. It was the last time he left a worlds without a gold medal.

“He is more powerful than many brakemen,” David, now a German junior skeleton coach, wrote. “Losing a race is his biggest motivation.”

That made what happened at the Sochi Olympics particularly moving. Friedrich was part of a German bobsled program that went medal-less at an Olympics for the first time in 50 years. He vowed, on the final day of the Games, that it would never happen again on his watch.

“From this point, I started to train harder, I think about the [mental] material more,” he said. “I have this whole thing more in my mind. All my decisions are to be the best, I think.”

They were the right decisions, resulting in historic dominance.

Starting in 2015, Friedrich competed in 13 Olympic or world championships events, winning 11 golds, one silver and placing fourth once. He ran his World Cup wins tally to 52, most for a male or female driver in history (breaking the record held by countrywoman Sandra Kiriasis, who did so with one event, not two, available for women).

This year, he won 15 of 16 World Cups and last week broke the record for world titles held by the man long considered the GOAT — Italian Eugenio Monti. Next year, he can become the first man to sweep two- and four-man titles at back-to-back Olympics (Kaillie Humphries won back-to-back two-woman titles in 2010 and 2014).

“Franz is a professor in bobsled,” David said. “He wants to leave nothing to chance.”

Friedrich is still just 30. He is meticulous. He is humble, helping find sponsors for other bobsledders. And looking for an adrenaline rush, if not in a sled, then chasing speed on a bike or in a car.

Friedrich has studied the legends who came before him, including Lange and Christoph Langen. (He said he has never seen video of Monti’s championships in the 1950s and ’60s, when bobsled was a technologically different sport.)

“My mentality is to pick from all the best,” Friedrich said. “I see them all. I see how they slide. I ask them what they do to be fast. I picked altogether from all the best. I go my own way, but I take some things from that.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup

The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new up-tempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup

The U.S. women’s basketball team won 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, headlined a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, included neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team had 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 60 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The U.S. beat China in the final, while host Australia took bronze to send 41-year-old Lauren Jackson into retirement.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), wasn’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, Results

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 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia 95, Canada 65 Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA 83, China 61 Gold-Medal Game