Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi on fifth Olympic basketball team as U.S. squad named for Tokyo

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Ready for a run at a seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal, the 12 U.S. women who will don the USA Basketball jersey in Tokyo were announced Monday morning on the “TODAY” show.

Led by soon-to-be five-time Olympians Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team is an even mix of six veterans and six athletes headed to their first Olympic Games.

Sylvia Fowles returns for a fourth Olympic team, only the seventh U.S. basketball player to do so, while Tina Charles will play on her third. Both Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart were on the 2016 squad in Rio.

Jewell Loyd and A’ja Wilson will step onto an Olympic court for the first time this summer, but were on the winning FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2018. Ariel AtkinsNapheesa CollierSkylar Diggins-Smith and Chelsea Gray will play five-on-five for the first time in a senior-level event. Collier won the Youth Olympic gold medal in 3×3 basketball in 2014.

The team is coached by Dawn Staley, a three-time Olympic and two-time World champion herself, who was named head coach in 2017 after Geno Auriemma led the U.S. women to victory in London and Rio.

She is joined by assistant coaches Dan Hughes, Cheryl Reeve and Jennifer Rizzotti.

“USA Basketball has never been in a better place,” Staley said in a release. “I’m honored to be the coach of such an amazing collection of talented women, both those named to the team and those who gave their all the last few years but won’t be with us in Tokyo. The fact that some of the players who won’t suit up this summer would start for any other country is a testament to their talent and to what USA Basketball has done to build a program that lifts up our female athletes every single day.  I’m so proud to be the coach of Team USA and like all of the coaches, support staff, and our players, I can’t wait to make America proud this summer.”

Notably absent from the roster are 2019 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne and 2016 WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike, who was on the last two World Cup teams. Delle Donne, who played in Rio, is still recovering from two back surgeries and has not yet done any five-on-five work in her return, according to Washington Mystics coach Mike Thibault.

The 12 women combine for a career international record of 749-37.

RELATED: Meet the U.S. women’s basketball roster for Tokyo

The team ranges in age from 24 (Atkins, Collier, Wilson — though Atkins and Wilson turn 25 during the Olympics) to 40 (Bird), and even includes two mothers. Taurasi’s wife Penny gave birth to son Leo in 2018, while Diggins-Smith gave birth to her son in April 2019.

Having also won the last three World Cups (and eight of the last 11), the Americans remain ranked No. 1 in the world. They are expected to face their stiffest competition from world No. 2 Australia, the 2018 World Cup runner-up, and No. 3 Spain, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist.

Bird and Taurasi, 39, have been competing for the U.S. for more than two decades and will set or tie numerous records next month.

Only six other basketball athletes from any nation have played at five Olympics, including just one other American in five-time medalist Teresa Edwards (four golds, one bronze). No basketball player has won five gold medals.

Only one Olympic basketball player, Puerto Rico’s Jose Rafael Ortiz, has competed at an age older than Bird will be in Tokyo (by a matter of 20-plus days).

Their former teammate, Tamika Catchings, held the title of oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player at 37 years old in Rio five years ago; Bird will become both the oldest American and the oldest woman to play at 40 years, 284 days on the day of their first game.

Finally, Bird and Taurasi hold a Guinness World Record for most consecutive gold medals in a team Olympic event at four. Currently tied with fellow basketball great Lisa Leslie and Chinese diver Wu Minxia, they could build on that record.

The team itself has won every Olympic title since the 1996 Games in Atlanta and with a seventh straight one would tie the U.S. men’s basketball team (1936-1968) for most consecutive Olympic gold medals in a team sport.

The U.S. women begin play on July 27 against Nigeria. They continue Group B play against host nation Japan on July 30 and world No. 5 France on Aug. 2.

The U.S. also qualified a women’s team for the Olympic debut of 3×3 basketball; the four players are expected to be named later this week.

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Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

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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).

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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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.

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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