Venezuela

AP

‘Worst skier alive’ makes it to cross-country worlds after deportation

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — For a Venezuelan cross-country skier who had only trained on wheels beneath a bright sun, the slopes of Finland proved a mighty challenge.

Adrian Solano wobbled nervously backward as he exited the starting gate at the world championships this week. He fumbled into the white powder after sliding down a small hill. And he tried awkwardly walking up an incline while others raced by him.

By Thursday, sports commentators circulating videos of his near-comedic cross-country performance online had dubbed him the worst skier alive.

Solano, however, teetered along, unfazed.

“From here to the Olympics!” he proclaimed in an interview with Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet.

Solano’s saga has hit a nerve among Venezuelans and angered the country’s highest officials, who are denouncing France for deporting the athlete in January while he was trying to get to Sweden to train on snow. Airport migration officials in Paris allegedly doubted his story, thinking his journey to the slopes was a ploy to leave his beleaguered country.

“We will issue a strong statement to the French government for their affront against a Venezuelan athlete,” Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, wrote in a Tweet Wednesday.

Stuck back in Caracas, Solano’s supporters started a GoFundMe page that brought him to Finland just in time to compete.

The only problem: He hadn’t practiced skiing on snow, only on wheels in Venezuela’s scorching heat.

In the first race, a 10km qualifying round, Solano failed to finish. He completed the first 3.5 kilometers in 37 minutes and 39 seconds — the same amount of time it took other competitors to finish the entire course. In the 1.6km cross-country sprint he finished last in 156th place, taking nearly 14 minutes.

“Embarrassing!” wrote one critic on his Instagram page, who went on to accuse him of receiving sponsorship from the Venezuelan government while countless go hungry.

“My friend,” he wrote in response, “I swear I am not here because of the government. I arrived thanks to people who heard my story and supported me.”

Still, many others are rallying to support Solano and his dream of one day waving the Venezuelan flag in the winter Olympics.

“I achieved a dream,” he said in his interview with the Norwegian newspaper. “This pushes me to try more every day.”

MORE: Famous Tonga flag bearer debuts at cross-country worlds

WATCH LIVE: Durant, Team USA Basketball look to power past Venezuela

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After blowing out China to begin its 2016 Olympic run, the United States men’s basketball team is looking to repeat the effort against Venezuela on Monday.

Kevin Durant’s game-high 25 points led the U.S. to an opening win over China, while Venezuela was comfortably beaten by Serbia.

WATCH LIVE: USA vs. Venezuela — 6 p.m. EDT

Nestor Garcia’s team is without Brooklyn Nets point guard Greivis Vasquez, and the American connection on the squad is Ole Miss forward Anthony Perez.

Rio Olympic men’s basketball rosters

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The 12 rosters with 12 men each are set for the Rio Olympic men’s basketball tournament.

The U.S. has won the past two gold medals, and is expected to do the same this time around. Spain has taken silver at the past two Olympics, and is the favorite to yet again meet the Americans in the gold-medal game. Serbia, France and Lithuania also figure to contend for medals.

Australia, China, France, Serbia, the U.S. and Venezuela are in Group A. Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, Lithuania, Nigeria and Spain are in Group B. The tournament tips off Aug. 6 and concludes Aug. 21.

View the entire schedule here. The rosters are below:

Argentina
Roberto Acuna
Nicolas Brussino
Facundo Campazzo
Gabriel Deck
Carlos Delfino
Marcos Delia
Patricio Garino
Manu Ginobili
Nicolas Laprovittola
Leo Mainoldi
Andres Nocioni
Luis Scola

Australia
David Andersen
Cameron Bairstow
Aron Baynes
Andrew Bogut
Ryan Broekhoff
Matthew Dellavedova
Chris Goulding
Joe Ingles
Kevin Lisch
Damian Martin
Pat Mills
Brock Motum

Brazil
Leandro Barbosa
Vitor Benite
Cristiano Felicio
Alex Garcia
Guilherme Giovannoni
Rafael Hettsheimer
Nene Hilario
Marcelinho Huertas
Augusto Lima
Rafael Luz
Raulzinho Neto
Marquinhos Vieira

China
Ding Yanyuhang
Guo Ailun
Li Gen
Li Muhao
Sui Ran
Wang Zhelin
Yi Jianlian
Zhai Xiaochuan
Zhao Jiwei
Zhou Peng
Zhou Qi
Zou Yuchen

Croatia
Marko Arapovic
Luka Babic
Miro Bilan
Bojan Bogdanovic
Mario Hezonja
Filip Kruslin
Darko Planinic
Zeljko Sakic
Dario Saric
Krunoslav Simon
Rok Stipcevic
Roko Ukic

France
Nicolas Batum
Nando De Colo
Boris Diaw
Antoine Diot
Mickael Gelabale
Rudy Gobert
Thomas Heurtel
Charles Kahudi
Joffrey Lauvergne
Tony Parker
Florent Pietrus
Kim Tillie

Lithuania
Marius Grigonis
Paulius Jankunas
Robertas Javtokas
Adas Juskevicius
Mantas Kalnietis
Antanas Kavaliauskas
Mindaugas Kuzminskas
Jonas Maciulis
Domantas Sabonis
Renaldas Seibutis
Edgaras Ulanovas
Jonas Valanciunas

Nigeria
Josh Akognon
Alade Aminu
Ike Diogu
Ebi Ere
Michael Gbinije
Ekene Ibekwe
Shane Lawal
Andy Ogide
Chamberlain Oguchi
Stan Okoye
Michael Umeh
Ben Uzoh

Serbia
Stefan Bircevic
Bogdan Bogdanovic
Nikola Jokic
Stefan Jovic
Nikola Kalinic
Milan Macvan
Stefan Markovic
Nemanja Nedovic
Miroslav Raduljica
Marko Simonovic
Vladimir Stimac
Milos Teodosic

Spain
Alex Abrines
Jose Calderon
Victor Claver
Rudy Fernandez
Pau Gasol
Willy Hernangomez
Sergio Llull
Nikola Mirotic
Juan Carlos Navarro
Felipe Reyes
Sergio Rodriguez
Ricky Rubio

United States
Carmelo Anthony
Harrison Barnes
Jimmy Butler
DeMarcus Cousins
DeMar DeRozan
Kevin Durant
Paul George
Draymond Green
Kyrie Irving
DeAndre Jordan
Kyle Lowry
Klay Thompson

Venezuela
Nestor Colmenares
John Cox
David Cubillan
Gregory Echenique
Windi Graterol
Heissler Guillent
Dwight Lewis
Miguel Marriaga
Anthony Perez
Miguel Ruiz
Gregory Vargas
Jose Vargas