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U.S. U23s lose to Honduras, fail to qualify for Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Honduras punched their ticket to the men’s soccer competition at this year’s Tokyo Games with a 2-1 semi-final victory over the United States at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Sunday.

Los Catrachos, who finished fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics after falling to hosts Brazil in the semi-finals, went ahead on goals by American-born Honduran Juan Carlos Obregon and Luis Palma before the U.S. pulled one back in the 52nd minute.

Honduras, who have qualified for four consecutive Olympics, opened the scoring in the final seconds of first-half stoppage time when Obregon bundled the ball home after Denil Maldonado headed it across the face of the goal.

Disaster struck for the Americans in the 47th minute when goalkeeper David Ochoa got caught in possession and his pass was swiftly blocked by Palma and bounced straight into the net for what proved to be the game-winning goal.

The United States, who have not qualified for the Olympics since the 2008 Beijing Games, got on the board when Jackson Yueill rifled in a shot from outside the area.

Honduras, who reached the semi-finals of the eight-team tournament as the top team in Group B, will next face either Mexico or Canada in Tuesday’s final.

Group A winner Mexico and Canada are playing in Sunday’s second semi-final to determine the other team that represents North and Central America and the Caribbean at the July 23-Aug. 8 Tokyo Olympics.

 

As both semi-final winners qualify for the Olympics, the final qualification match is essentially an exhibition. The eight-team tournament was originally scheduled to be held in March 2020 but was postponed because of COVID-19.

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USA falls to France at Tokyo Games for first Olympic men’s basketball loss since 2004

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Team USA’s invincibility in men’s basketball is long gone, and the journey to a fourth consecutive gold medal is already fraught with adversity.

France gut-punched the Americans with a brilliant finish for an 83-76 victory to open the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. It snapped a 25-game Olympic winning streak dating back to 2004 for Team USA.

The final blow came when Evan Fournier drilled a 3-pointer with a minute to play to give the French the lead for good, completing their comeback after the U.S. had an eight-point lead with four minutes to play. It was the biggest of his 28 points in one of the finest games he has played in his career.

It was followed by an incredible possession in which the Americans managed to get five shots off and missed them all. The final three were wide-open 3-point attempts by Zach LaVineKevin Durant and Jrue Holiday.

“I got to lead the team because I know these guys,” Fournier said. “It’s a hell of a win. Our country is going to be extremely proud. But it’s just one game, to be honest.”

If there was a moment in this game that best encapsulated the situation between these two teams, it came at the end, when the French calmly shook the Americans’ hands and left the floor with the same business-as-usual demeanor Fournier displayed. Two years ago at the World Cup in China, France celebrated wildly after beating a much-less-talented Team USA.

“There’s nothing to be surprised about,” Team USA coach Gregg Popovich said before launching into what has become his go-to statement after losses.

“When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed, but I don’t understand the word surprised. That sort of disses the French team, so to speak, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30 or something. That’s a hell of a team.”

The French won the bronze at that World Cup, but their talent does not compare to that of the Americans. And it does not explain how a U.S. team built for scoring and shooting went an unexplainable four and a half minutes without a basket down the stretch.

Fatigue was a factor. Three players didn’t get to the team hotel until 1 a.m. on gameday, an unusual set of circumstances. But one of them, Jrue Holiday, was masterful in the fourth quarter as he scored 12 of his 18 points and contributed several other energy plays to help the U.S. build a lead.

Team USA Basketball Can Fix Itself Before Tokyo Olympics | Time

The Americans then had a host of stars to lean on such as Durant, Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard. But they failed as the French ran an execution clinic.

Popovich seemed irritated by media questions about the upset, as has been his custom. He has overseen losses in five of the past eight games he has coached for the national team dating back to 2019. There were some who admitted the loss was a disappointment, however.

“I think we have a history of dominance and maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning. And it’s not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start,” said Lillard, who shot just 3-of-10 and had two critical turnovers late in the game.

“I think that’s why a lot of people will make it seem like the end of the world, but our job as professionals and this team and representing our country at the Olympics, we’ve got to do what’s necessary and we still can accomplish what we came here to accomplish.”

Popovich said he’d been thinking about this rematch for two years and daily since the game was drawn in February. But he never figured out how to slow down Fournier as he repeatedly got free for open looks on the perimeter. Even Holiday, who was brilliant in the NBA Finals, helping the Bucks clinch the title Tuesday, couldn’t stem the tide.

French coach Vincent Collet also outmaneuvered Popovich by deploying a super big lineup in the second half by playing 7-footers Rudy Gobert and Vincent Poirier together.

That length against a much smaller American lineup zippered shut driving and passing lanes. After going to the double-big-man lineup after the French fell behind by 10 early in the third quarter, Team USA scored just 29 points in the last 18 minutes.

“Every team has to do what fits with their personnel,” Popovich explained. “And with our team having our two big guys, Draymond [Green] and Bam Adebayo, out there gives us a lot of pace, makes us move well, and works best for the combination of people we have.”

Still, thanks to Holiday, Team USA was in position to win. Two years ago when the score was 74-67 in the fourth quarter in Dongguan, China, the French closed with a 22-5 run to keep the U.S. out of medal contention. On Sunday, Team USA once again led 74-67 in the fourth, and France finished it with a 16-2 run, punctuated by Fournier’s 3-point dagger in the final minute.

Durant played perhaps the worst game of his storied Olympic career, getting in foul trouble and shooting just 4-of-12. His early fouls came when he defended Gobert on switches, forcing him from the floor after he’d had a hot start and scored seven points in the opening minutes. He ended up fouling out in just 21 minutes.

The Americans now will likely have to win their final two pool-play games against Iran and the Czech Republic to advance to the medal round. They could technically advance on scoring margin if they lose another game, however.

“We were just trying too hard to do the right thing,” Lillard said. “Instead of just being who we are — the best players in the NBA.”

Culled from ESPN

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Sha’Carri Richardson won’t run at Tokyo Olympics after being left off U.S. relay list

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Banned sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was not on the Olympic roster released Tuesday by USA Track and Field, a decision that means the American’s positive test for marijuana will cost her a chance at running on the relay team in Tokyo, in addition to her spot in the 100-meter individual race.

Richardson’s positive test nullified her win at Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon last month and the spot that went with it in Tokyo in the 100. Her 30-day suspension will end before the start of the relays on Aug. 5, which left open the possibility she could win a medal as part of the 4×100 relay team.

But her name was not on the roster USATF sent out. The federation had two discretionary picks beyond the top four finishers in the 100-meter final at trials but chose not to offer a spot to the 21-year-old sprinter, who was expected to challenge for Olympic gold.

Asked about how Richardson was taking the news, her agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, responded: “We haven’t spoken about it at all. It was actually not a topic we focused on.”

In a statement, USATF said it was “incredibly sympathetic toward Sha’Carri Richardson’s extenuating circumstances” and “fully agrees” that international rules regarding marijuana should be reevaluated.

“So while our heartfelt understanding lies with Sha’Carri, we must also maintain fairness for all of the athletes who attempted to realize their dreams by securing a place on the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team,” the statement read.

In this case, that meant offering the remaining relay spots to the sixth- and seventh-place finishers, each of whom moved up in the pecking order after Richardson’s disqualification. They are English Gardner and Aleia Hobbs.

Richardson tested positive for a chemical found in marijuana after her victory on June 19. She said the stress of her biological mother’s recent death combined with the pressure of preparing for trials led her to use the drug.

“I know I can’t hide myself, so in some type of way, I was trying to hide my pain,” she said on NBC’s “Today” show.

Over the weekend, she sent out a pair of tweets: “All these perfect people that know how to live life, I’m glad I’m not one of them!” and “2022-2025 undefeated!”

Richardson also told “Today” that this isn’t the end of her Olympic dreams.

“This is just one Games,” she said. “I’m 21, I’m very young. … I have plenty of Games left in me to compete in and I have plenty of talent that backs me up, because everything I do comes from me naturally. No steroid, no anything. This incident was about marijuana, so after my sanction is up I’ll be back and able to compete, and every single time I step on the track I’ll be ready for whatever anti-doping agency to come and get what it is that they need.”

Shortly after the 2012 Olympics, international regulators loosened restrictions on marijuana use, increasing the threshold for a positive test to a level designed to catch athletes who were using it in the immediate hours before competition. Potential bans were reduced from two years to as little as the 30-day suspension that Richardson is serving.

But where some professional leagues, such as the NFL, NHL and NBA, have greatly reduced enforcement of marijuana rules, with the acknowledgement that the drug does not enhance performance, the Olympic world continues to test for and punish use in some circumstances. According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, in addition to substances that trigger performance enhancement, the banned list can include drugs that can pose health risks to athletes or violate the “spirit of sport.”

It’s a stance that has triggered a wide-ranging debate, largely in the realm of social media but also in Washington. Last week, President Joe Biden said that while he was proud of the way Richardson handled her ban, “the rules are the rules.”

“Whether they should remain the rules is a different issue, but the rules are the rules,” Biden said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeted out a letter she and Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland sent to the leaders of both the U.S. and world anti-doping agencies, urging them to overturn the decision.

“Please strike a blow for civil liberties and civil rights by reversing this course you are on,” the letter said.

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World records rattled, Usain Bolt record falls, Olympic champs out at track and field trials

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Grant Holloway and Rai Benjamin ran the second-fastest times in history in their hurdles events, Gabby Thomas ran the third-fastest 200m ever, a Usain Bolt record fell and a pair of Olympic gold medalists failed to qualify for Tokyo.

It was a news-making penultimate evening at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

Holloway, the world 110m hurdles champion, missed Aries Merritt‘s world record by .01 by clocking 12.81 seconds in the semifinals. He then won the final in 12.96 about 100 minutes later, joined on the team by Devon Allen and Daniel Roberts.

Holloway’s semi was stunning in part because his personal best was 12.98 seconds. He moved from joint-18th-fastest in history to No. 2 in one heat at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

“The goal was to execute at a very high level,” Holloway told Lewis Johnson on NBC after the semis. “I knew once I did that, the sky was the limit.”

Benjamin won the 400m hurdles final in 46.83 seconds, .05 off Kevin Young‘s world record from the 1992 Olympics, the longest-standing record in men’s track. Benjamin, the world silver medalist, is set for a showdown with two-time world champion Karsten Warholm of Norway and Abderrahman Samba of Qatar in Tokyo. They’ve been Nos. 2-4 in history behind Young since 2019.

“.05 isn’t anything in the grand scheme of things,” said Benjamin, who leads a men’s 400m hurdles team of Olympic rookies, joined by Kenny Selmon and David Kendziera. “It hurts a little bit that it was right there, and I couldn’t grab it, but it’s just more fuel for the fire. … If I got a world record now, would I be able to maintain that level of fitness [for the Olympics]?”

Thomas won the 200m in 21.61 seconds, a time only bettered by Florence Griffith Joyner in the 1980s (21.34 and 21.56). She lowered her personal best in all three rounds from 22.17.

“I’m speechless,” said Thomas, who graduated from Harvard with a neurobiology and global health/healthy policy degree and is pursuing a masters in epidemiology at Texas. “I’m still trying to gather my thoughts. I can’t believe it right now.”

Thomas was joined on the 200m team by Jenna Prandini and Anavia BattleAllyson Felix was fifth in her baby event that she first raced at the Olympics at age 18 in 2004. She’ll race the 400m and up to two relays at her last Olympics in Tokyo.

ON HER TURF: Thomas’ atypical trip to Tokyo

World champion DeAnna Price won the hammer by twice breaking her U.S. record with 79.98- and 80.31-meter throws to rank No. 2 in history. Poland’s two-time reigning Olympic champion Anita Wlodarczyk holds the six best throws in history (was 15 best going into Saturday).

“Mind blowing,” Price said. “I was supposed to be a softball player.”

Price is joined on the Olympic team by Brooke Andersen and Gwendolyn Berry, who rank Nos. 2 and 3 in the world this year. Berry raised a fist on the podium after winning the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic pole vault champion who made the last 10 Olympic and world teams, finished fifth to miss the Tokyo team at age 39. Rio silver medalist Sandi Morris was third to grab the last spot on the team behind Katie Nageotte and Morgann LeLeux. Nageotte took three attempts at breaking Yelena Isinbayeva‘s world record from 2009.

Rio gold medalist Tianna Bartoletta finished 10th in the long jump final and will not defend her title in Tokyo. Brittney Reese, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, won with a 7.13-meter jump.

In semifinals, 17-year-old pro Erriyon Knighton ran 19.88 seconds to break Usain Bolt‘s U20 world record of 19.93. Last month, Knighton broke Bolt’s U18 world record. On Saturday, Knighton edged world champion Noah Lyles by .03 in their heat as both made Sunday’s final. Knighton can become the youngest male U.S. track and field Olympian since miler Jim Ryun in 1964.

Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin, the two fastest women’s 400m hurdlers in history, advanced to Sunday’s final. McLaughlin ran an easy 53.03 to win her semifinal. Muhammad was passed by Shamier Little in the last straight in their semifinal, 53.71 to 53.86.

In the javelin, Maggie Malone made her second Olympic team and Kara Winger is going to a fourth Games.

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