Nigeria president says basketball teams to sit out competition through Olympic qualifiers

Nigeria men's basketball
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Nigeria’s men’s and women’s basketball teams will not take part in international competition for two years, the nation’s president said, jeopardizing chances of qualifying teams for the 2024 Olympics.

President Muhammadu Buhari said Nigeria is immediately withdrawing “following the unending crises that have plagued and nearly crippled basketball development in the country,” read a statement from the federal ministry of youth and sports development.

The Nigeria Basketball Federation reportedly faced possible suspension last November over leadership and election issues in recent years.

Sunday Dare, the minister of youth and sports development, said the government can now “revamp the sport from the grassroots as well as revive the domestic leagues which have become moribund.”

FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, and the Nigeria Basketball Federation have not responded to requests for comment on how it affects Olympic qualification.

If Nigeria sits out the entire two years, it will be ineligible for the Olympics under the recently published qualification timeline.

Nations bidding for Olympic qualification, other than host France, must take part in the FIBA World Cups in 2022 (women) and 2023 (men) and/or the first of two rounds of Olympic qualifying tournaments in 2023.

Last year, the Nigerian men’s team beat the U.S. in a pre-Olympic exhibition game, marking the Americans’ first defeat to an African nation.

Nigeria, led by longtime NBA coach Mike Brown, then went 0-3 at the Tokyo Games. It had eight NBA players, most of any nation other than the U.S. in Olympic history.

Nigeria’s men played in the last three Olympics, starting with their debut in 2012, compiling a 2-11 record.

The Nigerian women also qualified for Tokyo, also going 0-3, though they played the U.S. women the closest of anybody, losing by nine.

Nneka Ogwumike, the 2016 WNBA MVP who was left off the U.S. team for Tokyo, was denied a late transfer to the Nigerian team for the Olympics. Ogwumike’s parents were born in Nigeria, she has dual citizenship and one of her sisters, Erica, did play for Nigeria in Tokyo.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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