Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue win final Skate America of their careers, tie win streak record

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LAS VEGAS — Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue could not ask for a better beginning of the end.

The decorated ice dancers have previously proclaimed that this 2021-2022 Olympic season will be the final one of their lengthy careers, and so far it is a dream.

With Sunday’s Skate America title, Hubbell and Donohue have won the first two competitions of their season — both on home ice.

Their Skate America victory completes a sweep of the four in a row to which they were assigned and ties them with skating legends Nathan Chen, Todd Eldredge, Michelle Kwan and ice dancers Meryl Davis/Charlie White for the event’s longest win streak across all disciplines.

They also ended their time at the Orleans Arena with season’s best free dance (125.96) and total (209.54) scores. Their rhythm dance at last month’s U.S. International Figure Skating Classic earned 84.06 points, while they scored 83.58 on Saturday.

“I couldn’t be happier with the performance today,” Hubbell said. “Some days you take inspiration from different things, whether it be the work you put in at home or that my mom is in the stands. Something clicked this morning and I really wanted to skate for myself and really be there with Zach and present for the performance from beginning to the end.

“I think we both accomplished that goal and, in doing so, accomplished the other goal, which was to come out with the gold.”

Knowing this is their last season has allowed Hubbell and Donohue to soak in every experience and prepare for each competition in a way they would not have prior.

“Certainly our approach this Skate America was to try and be in the best shape we’ve ever been at Skate America and I can say we’re very proud of where we are physically,” Hubbell explained. “This is a great sign in October. … Overall, I would say we just felt very ready and prepared and supported by the work that we did at home and put out what felt more like a December or January performance for us.”

Hubbell and Donohue finished fourth, after he put both hands down on the ice, at their Olympic debut in 2018. After medaling at all three world championships held since – the only team to do so – they are favored to medal at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics come February.

U.S. teammates Madison Chock and Evan Bates, considered longtime rivals of Hubbell and Donohue both domestically and internationally, were a close second in Las Vegas with 208.23 points. Their Daft Punk free dance was just 0.28 behind Hubbell and Donohue’s, which is set to Anne Sila’s “Drowning.”

Canadians Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorenson took the bronze with a distant 190.13, followed closely by Spain’s Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz at 189.69.

The top four teams train at Ice Academy of Montreal, led by coaches Marie-France DubreuilPatrice Lauzon and Romain Haguenauer.

While this was Hubbell and Donohue’s fifth Skate America appearance – and medal – in six years, it was the first for Chock and Bates in six years. They won the event in 2014 and 2015, then did not receive it as one of their two Grand Prix assignments until now.

“Six years is a really long time,” Bates reflected. “Obviously when we were here in Chicago in 2015, it was such a different time in our careers and we were really achieving a lot of results and in that six-year span since we really went through it. We had some low moments and went through just a lot together.

“Reflecting on what life was like six years ago and what our partnership was like then, we’ve come a long way.”

The on- and off-ice couple, who have competed at two Olympics together while Bates was also at the Vancouver 2010 Games with then-partner Emily Samuelson, has since switched coaches, moved countries, dealt with Chock’s ankle injury and surgery as well as her concussion – not to mention the ups and downs of competition results and navigating the pandemic.

Chock and Bates’ Olympic season free dance program tells the story of an alien and an astronaut that are able to come together despite their differences.

“Of course if you asked us two years ago, ‘Will you guys be doing a galactic, alien-astronaut program for the Olympic Games?’ We’d probably say, ‘No, what are you talking about,'” Chock laughed. “However, in the last few years while we’ve been at the Ice Academy of Montreal, the coaches have helped us realize more is possible than ever before. We are capable of doing so much more than we could have ever dreamed of four years ago, and they have really allowed us to embrace that creative freedom and embrace who we want to be as athletes and artists on the ice.

“From that came this wonderful, intergalactic, star-crossed program that we are so passionate about because not only is it a unique piece of music and unique story we are telling but we also have a much deeper message between the two of us that we hope to convey to everyone as we perform, and that’s one of love and acceptance. I think that can resonate with everyone of any country across the board, and I think when you have the Olympic Games and such a large platform, it’s such a wonderful opportunity when we step out on the ice to share our message and show our love for what we do.”

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

FIBA Women's World Cup
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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
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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