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Diana Taurasi’s near-best scoring day leads U.S. into FIBA World Cup final

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Diana Taurasi had her highest scoring day in a major tournament in 12 years, leading the U.S. into the FIBA World Cup final in a 93-77 semifinal win over Belgium on Saturday.

Taurasi, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, scored 26 points, her second-highest total in 61 career games between the Olympics and worlds (28 in the 2006 World bronze-medal game). Breanna Stewart added 20. A full box score is here.

Taurasi’s barrage came a day after she scored two points against Nigeria, her lowest total since her fourth game for the U.S. at the 2004 Olympics, when she was 22 years old and the youngest U.S. Olympic women’s player in 16 years. Taurasi played 12 minutes against the African champion, picking up four fouls with a technical.

Her 350 career World Cup points rank third among Americans all time behind Lisa Leslie (393) and Teresa Edwards (371). Leslie’s record appears safe with one game left in Taurasi’s likely last worlds.

The U.S. gets Australia in Sunday’s final with a third straight world title and the first Olympic qualifying berth at stake.

The Aussies, led by WNBA scoring leader Liz Cambage, beat Spain 72-66 in the later semifinal. Cambage had 33 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.

“Probably Australia has been the best team in this tournament,” Taurasi said, according to USA Basketball.

Australia is 0-17 against the U.S. at the Olympics and worlds. This is the first gold-medal game between the rivals since the 2008 Olympics.

The U.S. started slowly for a second straight game in its semi, one day after trailing Nigeria for most of the first half.

Belgium led 26-21 after the first quarter and trailed by one at the half. The Americans took control with a 33-18 third quarter.

This American team is without stalwarts from its previous decade of undefeated play at the Olympics and worlds. Tamika Catchings and Lindsay Whalen retired after Rio. Candace Parker said she will not play for Team USA again after being left off the 2016 Olympic team.

Minnesota Lynx stars Seimone AugustusSylvia Fowles and Maya Moore, as well as Angel McCoughtry, are reportedly either resting or recuperating from injuries following the WNBA season.

Belgium, which will play for bronze, has been the revelation of the World Cup, its first appearance at a global championship. The Cats had zero world ranking points before it took bronze at 2017 EuroBasket, jumping from outside the top 77 in the world to No. 28 going into the World Cup.

The Belgians won their World Cup group, knocking off host Spain by nine points. Spain is ranked second in the world, the 2014 World and 2016 Olympic silver medalist. They routed France by 21 points in the quarterfinals. France is ranked third in the world.

The team is led by 6-foot-4 center Emma Meesseman, a 2015 WNBA All-Star with the Washington Mystics who skipped the 2018 WNBA season to focus on the national team. Guards Kim Mestdagh (fourth on Colorado State’s career points list and a daughter of Belgium’s head coach) and Julie Allemand (2016 Indiana Fever third-round draft pick, but no WNBA experience) are also threats.

Ann Wauters, a 37-year-old reserve center, spent nine years in the WNBA, making the 2005 All-Star Game.

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Bobsled crashes, makes final 8 turns upside down (video)

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Belgian bobsledders An Vannieuwehnhuyse and Sophie Vercruyssen spent nearly 30 seconds sliding upside down, making the final eight turns on the track, after crashing in a World Cup race in Whistler, B.C., on Friday night.

They finally slowed to a stop after crossing the finish line nine seconds behind the fastest sleds in the first of two runs.

The athletes quickly emerged from the sled and gingerly walked off the track on their own power. They did not qualify for a second run later that night.

The Whistler track has been known for its difficulty since it opened one year before hosting the 2010 Olympics.

In the first four-man training session in 2009, four of eight sleds crashed on curve 13, which led the late Steven Holcomb to nickname it “Curve 50/50.”

VIDEO: Bobsledder ejected in World Cup crash

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The Story of Holcy's 50/50 It was a nasty afternoon of sliding in January 2009, just over a year until the 2010 #Olympics. Tour had been on the track in #Whistler for a few days when eight sleds decided to move from 2-man to 4-man. It was the first day international 4-man sleds would go off the top of the track. Four sleds made it through curve 13 and four sleds did not… they met the entrance of curve 14 on their heads, definitely worse for wear. That night Steve Holcomb, @justinbolsen, @ctomasevicz & I headed down to the garage to prep our backup sled for our first 4-man training the next day. We didn’t dare take the Night Train down the track, with a 50% chance of making it through. So we started to joke as we prepped our lightening bolt sled, that there was a fifty percent chance people were making it down on all four runners. That quickly turned into Holcy saying there was a fifty/fifty chance and we joked about it the rest of sled prep – which was trying to fit in the sled properly (since it wasn’t our normal sled), getting runners on, and everything else ready. We headed up to the rooms, still laughing about it and ordered delivery sushi. After we were done eating, Justin, Holcy, Emily Azevedo & I decided we were going to rip open the bag and make a sign for Holcy to duct tape to the roof on his track walk the next morning; if we were going to go down the track, we might as well have some fun with it, we thought! Within days, when the track announcer called the Germans “sliding 50/50”, the four of us couldn’t stop giggling! From then on, we always found it amazing that the name of the curve stuck and even on the @nbcolympics broadcast, curve 13 was forever enshrined as Curve 50/50. Today I learned that corner was renamed. For now and forever it'll be called “Holcy’s 50/50” – a loving memory of our fallen teammate, who never did crash our 4-man in that corner. A little more than a year after ripping that sushi bag, Holcy, Olsen, Curt, and I crossed the line to make history. I wish I could be in Whistler this weekend to hear the call of sliding "Holcy's 50/50"… Miss you my friend and brother. @ibsfsliding @teamusa @martinhaven @elanameyerstaylor

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Paralympian prepared with euthanasia papers to take own life

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Marieke Vervoort lives with nearly unbroken pain. The Belgian has an incurable, degenerative spinal disease, sleeps only 10 minutes some nights, and in 2008 she signed euthanasia papers so she can decide when to end her own life.

The 37-year-old Paralympian is prepared to die, but not now. Back home, newspapers have been reporting the wheelchair racer intends to kill herself after the Paralympics end next weekend.

“I think there is a great mistake about what the press told in Belgium,” Vervoort said Sunday, speaking in English and surrounded by reporters wanting to hear her compelling story.

“This is totally out of the question,” she added. “When the day comes, when I have more bad days than good days – I have my euthanasia papers. But the time is not there yet.”

This is Vervoort’s last Paralympics. She won silver Saturday night in the T52 400 meters, adding to the gold and silver medals she won four years ago in London. Her last wheelchair race will be Saturday at 100 meters.

She’s shown her will to live by tackling tough training, and it’s also helped keep her alive. But she has to give it up, as she has other things, as her body has broken down.

Her pain is so severe at times that she loses consciousness, and she said the sight of her in pain has caused others to pass out.

“It’s too hard for my body,” Vervoort said. “Each training I’m suffering because of pain. Every race I train hard. Training and riding and doing competition are medicine for me. I push so hard – to push literally all my fear and everything away.”

Vervoort is a strong advocate of the right to choose euthanasia, which is legal in Belgium. Like training hard, she said it gives her the control and “puts my own life in my hands.”

“I’m really scared, but those (euthanasia) papers give me a lot of peace of mind because I know when it’s enough for me, I have those papers,” she said.

“If I didn’t have those papers, I think I’d have done suicide already. I think there will be fewer suicides when every country has the law of euthanasia. … I hope everybody sees that this is not murder, but it makes people live longer.”

Vervoort said getting the papers was difficult, requiring examinations by several doctors who looked at her mental and physical state. She said it’s not like having the flu.

“You only get those papers when there is no way back,” she said.

As her body withers, she needs a helper to visit four times daily. She suffers from epileptic seizures, and had one in 2014 when she was cooking pasta and spilled boiling water over her legs. That resulted in a four-month hospital stay.

A beloved Labrador named Zenn now stays with her, pawing her when a seizure is about to occur. Zenn also pulls her socks out of the sock drawer, and helps carry groceries home when Vervoort buys too much.

“When I’m going to have an epileptic attack, she warns me one hour before,” Vervoort said. “I don’t know how she feels it.”

Vervoort said she keeps pushing back the day of her death, knowing it could come anytime – as it can for anyone. She said she can be pain-free one minute, and nearly pass out a few minutes later.

“You have to live day-by-day and enjoy the little moments,” she said. “Everybody tomorrow can have a car accident and die, or a heart attack and die. It can be tomorrow for everybody.”

Vervoort calls herself a “crazy lady.” She still hopes to fly in an F-16 fighter jet, ride in a rally car, and she’s curating a museum of her life going back to at least 14 when she was diagnosed with her rare illness. She also gives inspirational speeches, has picked out a singer for her wake, and says everyone will drink champagne, and not be bored with coffee and cake.

She wants to be remembered as the lady who was “always laughing, always smiling.”

“I feel different about death now than years ago,” Vervoort said. “For me I think death is something like they operate on you, you go to sleep and you never wake up. For me it’s something peaceful.”

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