A’ja Wilson lands, leads U.S. into FIBA Women’s World Cup quarterfinals

A'ja Wilson FIBA World Cup
Getty
0 Comments

SYDNEY — A’ja Wilson admitted she was tired.

The WNBA MVP had just gotten to Australia less than 24 hours ago, fresh off a championship and the U.S. was playing its toughest opponent of the World Cup.

After a slow start, Wilson was clutch in the fourth quarter, finishing with 20 points to help the U.S. beat China 77-63 on Saturday.

“I don’t know how I’m doing it,” Wilson said. “You just put things aside … It’s like riding a bike. I am exhausted, I’m not going to lie about it. At this point I don’t even think about it. I’m surrounded by greatness. I really lean on them. I don’t even know which way is up. I see it’s daylight and feel I need to go to sleep.”

The U.S. now has won 25 consecutive World Cup games since losing in the 2006 semifinals to Russia. The Americans advanced to the quarterfinals and are one away from matching their record 26-game run from 1998-2006.

These two teams came into the game unbeaten in the tournament. The U.S. (3-0) led 25-20 with 6:23 left in the first half before outscoring China 19-5 the rest of the second quarter, including the final 13 points. Alyssa Thomas and Breanna Stewart combined for seven of the 13 points during the game-changing burst.

Wilson closed the half with a putback that made it 44-25. She and Las Vegas teammates Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum were playing in their first game since getting to Australia on the last day. The trio were in Las Vegas celebrating the franchise’s first WNBA championship before arriving in Sydney.

MORE: FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

The U.S. led 56-40 with 2:18 left in the third before China scored the final seven points of the period to get within nine. The Aces trio scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to make it a 16-point game again.

“They put me in the best position to score the basketball,” Wilson said of her teammates finding her in the fourth quarter.

China though wouldn’t go away. Trailing 67-51, Li Meng scored four points in a 9-0 burst to get her team to 69-60 with 2 minutes left.

Wilson ended the drought with two free throws and a reverse layup to seal the win.

Li finished with 21 points to lead China (2-1).

China had cruised to wins in its first two games, routing both South Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina by an average of 55 points. The Chinese team hadn’t faced a defense like the U.S. which had been solid in its first two games.

There was a big pro-Chinese crowd of roughly 9,400 fans for the game, including Hall of Famer Yao Ming, who is the chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association. He was shown on the video board and received a huge ovation from the crowd.

“The China fan base, whether it was the local fan base here or they came from abroad, was just tremendous,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Their support made a fun environment. I heard some USA people. This is what you want.”

HOSTILE CROWD

Plum went to the foul line at one point in the second half and the fans were booing her. She smirked at it and calmly sank both free throws.

“I heard the noise. I don’t think I’ve been booed in a long time,” Plum said laughing. “I don’t think Connecticut (fans) even booed me.”

STUDYING ABROAD

Plum and Gray both said they got Wi-Fi on the long flight to Australia to study the U.S. playbook.

“I kind of had a couple hours to look through it,” Plum said.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
0 Comments

The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

0 Comments

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!