TSX DAILY: A Hall of Fame team that launched the no. 1 U.S. women’s pro league + fab Zurich T&F has four world leads & U.S. women stomp Portugal, 4-0

Matriarchs of the WNBA: the 1996 U.S. women's Olympic Basketball Team (Photo: USA Basketball)

≡ TSX DAILY ~ 30 August 2019 ≡

| 1. |  LANE ONE: Which of the three team nominees for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame was the best of them all? 

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame voting will finish next Tuesday, and we’ve already gone over the individual nominees. But what about the teams?

Three have been nominated, but only one will be elected:

● 1996 U.S. Olympic women’s Basketball team: gold medalists

● 1998 U.S. Olympic women’s Hockey team: gold medalists

● 2010 U.S. Olympic men’s Four-Man bobsled team: gold medalists

All three have amazing stories behind them.

The women’s basketball team had a group of players whose names still resonate today as legends of the game: Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo, Sheryl Swoopes and others. They didn’t just win their eight games in Atlanta, they crushed their opponents by an average score of 102-74 and defeated Brazil in the gold-medal game by 111-87.

The women’s hockey team was facing an uphill battle in the Nagano Games of 1998 vs. the four-time defending World Champions in Canada. But the Americans, led by Cammi Granato and Angela Ruggiero, came back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period of their round-robin game against Canada to win, 7-4, and then won a defensive battle in the gold-medal game, 3-1, to leave no doubt of the better team in the very first Olympic women’s tournament.

The men’s bobsledders achieved this: the first Olympic gold for a U.S. four-man sled in 62 years. Led by driver Steve Holcomb, the squad emerged from obscurity to among the best in the world up until Holcomb’s untimely death at age 37 in 2017.

So which was best? Check out the full column for the details, but only one of these teams helped create the leading women’s professional sports league in the United States. The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) was announced just months prior to the 1996 Games and launched in 1997 with the Olympic stars as the core attraction. The WNBA continues today, nearly a quarter-century later, thanks to the matriarchs on that Atlanta super squad. That’s a successful legacy.

There’s still time to vote for your favorite nominees for the Hall of Fame, but balloting ends on Tuesday, 3 September!

| 2. | ATHLETICS: Fabulous Weltklasse Zurich produces four world leaders and historic Warholm win

The best track & field meet of 2019 took place right on schedule, in the first of two IAAF Diamond League finals, this one at Zurich’s famed Letzigrund Stadium during Weltlkasse Zurich, with spectacular results.

The most amazing race came last, in the men’s 400 m hurdles, matching two of the fastest in history, reigning World Champion Karsten Warholm of Norway and Rai Benjamin of the U.S. (above) The race was everything expected, with Warholm out fast in lane seven and Benjamin chasing from lane five, and within striking distance as they entered the home straightaway.

But Warholm had just enough strength on the run-in to get the win, 46.92-46.98, the first time ever that two men had run sub-47 in the same race and nos. 2-3 performances in history. The rematch will come at the World Championships in Doha (QAT) in a month.

But there was a lot more, including:

● An impressive win for Noah Lyles of the U.S. in the men’s 100 m over current World Champion Justin Gatlin (USA) and an excellent field in 9.98;

● Amazing pacing by Donavan Brazier of the U.S. to come from sixth on the back straight to win the 800 m in 1:42.70, the third-fastest performance in American history;

● Another come-through pole vault performance for World Champion Sam Kendricks of the U.S., with a final-trial clearance at 5.93 m (19-5 1/2) to win over Mondo Duplantis (SWE: 5.83 m/19-1 1/2);

● A sensational long jump – his first and only fair jump of the evening – for Cuba’s Juan Miguel Echevarria, who reached 8.65 m (28-4 1/2), with no one else within 17 inches!

The women’s results were just about as impressive:

● Shaunae Miller-Uibo of The Bahamas destroyed an excellent 200 m field in 21.74, a world leader and the equal-fourth fastest mark in the event in this century;

● Imposing wins in the 1,500 m and 3,000 m Steeple for Sifan Hassan (NED: 3:57.08) and Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech (9:01.71), stamping both as clear favorites for the World Championships;

● American star Sydney McLaughlin overcame world-record setter Dalilah Muhammad of the U.S. for the second time in three races this season in the 400 m hurdles, 52.85-54.13 (third).

There was much more to talk about; see our full coverage here. The second half of the IAAF Diamond League finals will take place on 6 September at the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels (BEL). That’s going to be quite a show as well!

| 3. | BASKETBALL: FIBA World Cup begins Saturday in basketball-crazed China as U.S. looks for record sixth title

The world championship of international basketball begins on Saturday in Foshan, China with Angola playing Serbia to begin two weeks of games to see whether a U.S. team of good, but not great NBA players can defeat the best from everywhere else.

FIBA, the international basketball federation, moved the event from 2018 to 2019 to stay away from the FIFA World Cup and raise the profile of its signature event. Placing it in basketball-crazed China is a good start. Having Milwaukee’s NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis  Antetokounmpo playing for Greece is another.

But as far as the sharpies are concerned, this is still the U.S.’s tournament to lose. Despite a four-point loss in Australia to the home team in an exhibition game – the other three were all solid wins – the American squad is a prohibitive favorite to win its third straight title. The top teams according to the line-setters are:

1. United States, at 11/20
2. Serbia, at 16/5
3. Greece, at 11/1
4. Spain, at 14/1
5. France, at 25/1

The U.S. will begin play on 1 September vs. the Czech Republic, followed by games on 3 September vs. Turkey and 5 September vs. Japan. The group stage will continue to 5 September, with the top two teams out of each group progressing to a second group round (of 16), with the top eight heading to the quarterfinals on 10 September. The championships matches will be on 15 September.

All-time, the U.S. and Yugoslavia are tied with five wins each in the 17 editions of this event, and the U.S. has won the last two. Much more in our tournament preview here.

| 4. | FOOTBALL: U.S. women’s National Team runs past Portugal, 4-0, before record crowd of 49,504

The second game of the U.S. women’s National Team’s “Victory Tour” was an easy, 4-0 victory over Portugal at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in front of a big crowd of 49,504.

The U.S. played without offensive stars Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle, all dealing with injuries. But the American women were on offense from the first moment of the game and produced a goal in the fourth minute as a Christen Press cross to the far side of the goal was tapped in by Tobin Heath.

Press’s corner kick in the 18th minute found the head of Morgan Brian and her shot bounced on the ground and past Portuguese keeper Patricia Morais and the lead was 2-0. The U.S. had more chances, but the half ended that way.

The second half was more of the same, but there were more and more chances for the U.S. as the Portuguese tired. Carli Lloyd (pictured) got into the scorebook – her 115th goal for the U.S. – in the 52nd minute, and then assisted with a perfect cross that was popped into the goal by Allie Long in the 82nd minute.

The two teams will play again on 3 September at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota. But the story in Philadelphia was as much about the crowd as the game, as 49,504 showed up, the largest-ever crowd for a stand-alone friendly match for the U.S. women’s team. The old high was 44,028 in 2015 – on the previous Victory Tour – in Pittsburgh, to see the U.S. stomp Costa Rica, 8-0.

Through two games of the Victory Tour, the U.S. is 2-0 and has outscored Ireland and Portugal, 7-0. More coverage here.

| 5. | SCOREBOARD: Crashes and a new leader in La Vuelta; historic Dutch gold at Judo Worlds

The sixth stage of La Vuelta a Espana was figured beforehand to be a hilly, but manageable route of 198.9 km, but with a nasty uphill finish.

That turned out to be important, as Jesus Herrada, brother of Jose – who finished third on Wednesday – took the lead in the final 200 m over Belgium’s Dylan Teuns for his first career win in a Grand Tour.

The struggle up to the finish also re-arranged the race leadership for the second consecutive day. Teuns is now the leader, with a 38-second edge over David de la Cruz (ESP) and a full minute over the prior leader, Miguel Angel Lopez (COL).

A crash at the 100 km mark, just last halfway, ended La Vuelta for early race leader Nico Roche (IRL) and star climber Rigoberto Uran (COL), who might have figured in the overall race standings. Friday’s route of 183.2 km to Mas de la Costa will end with a third straight uphill finish … and possibly another new race leader.

In Tokyo, Europeans won both judo titles on offer, with France’s Mahie Eve Gahie moving up from silver in 2018 to becoming World Champion at 70 kg. She defeated surprise finalist Barbara Timo of Portugal, who was trying to win the country’s first world judo title.

Dutch star Noel Van’t End, just 10th in the IJF world rankings, won the men’s 90 kg class, the first World Championships gold for the Netherlands in 10 years. He completed a waza-ari with 27 seconds left in the final match against Japan’s Shoichiro Mukai for his first Worlds gold.

With two more days of individual competition left, Japan is well ahead on the medal table, with 10 (3-4-3), with France second with four (2-0-2). A total of 22 countries have won medals so far. The day-5 IJF report (with photos) is here.