JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson being added to Team USA men's basketball roster

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USA TODAY 16 July, 2021 - 05:03pm 3 views

Who will replace Beal?

2020 Olympics: JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson replace Bradley Beal and Kevin Love on the USA Basketball men's national team. The team has made some last second replacements befoe heading off to Tokyo. Bullets Forever2020 Olympics: McGee, Johnson replace Beal, Love on USA MBB team

The USA men's basketball team is adding Javale McGee and Keldon Johnson after Kevin Love and Bradley Beal departed the team.

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WNBA players Stefanie Dolson, Katie Lou Samuelson, Allisha Gray and Kelsey Plum teach you everything you need to know about Olympic 3x3 basketball. USA TODAY

JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson have been added as replacements to the Team USA men's basketball roster, USA Basketball announced Friday night.

Johnson and McGee will join Team USA as it tries to recover from a series of setbacks ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, which begin in one week.  

Bradley Beal and Kevin Love withdrew this week. Love is still recovering from a right calf injury he suffered during the NBA season. Beal, who was placed in the COVID-19 protocol Wednesday, was ruled out of the Olympics on Thursday

“Our hearts truly break for Brad and Kevin, who did everything asked but for unfortunate and different reasons will be unable to join us in Tokyo,” USA Basketball men’s national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said in a statement. “We welcome Keldon and JaVale to our squad. Keldon has played well during our training camp and in the exhibition games in Las Vegas, and being a member of the San Antonio Spurs he is familiar with the things coach Popovich wants this team to do. JaVale has been involved in our USA National Team program since 2009, and we believe he will offer a valuable inside presence.”

McGee, a 13-year NBA veteran and three-time NBA champion, played 46 games this season for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets, averaging 7.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He was named a member of the USA Basketball 2010-12 men's national team and participated in the 2019 USA Basketball men's national team minicamp. He was named a finalist for the 2021 USA national team and U.S. Olympic men's basketball team on March 11.

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Johnson, a 21-year-old forward, has spent two years in the NBA playing for the San Antonio Spurs. He performed well as a role player against Australia Monday, scoring seven points on 60% shooting in 13 minutes. 

This is Johnson's first stint on the senior team after playing on the 2018 USA junior national select team for the Nike Hoop Summit. He also participated in the 2017 USA men's junior national team October minicamp.

Team USA's scheduled Friday night exhibition against Australia was canceled "out of an abundance of caution." The status of Saturday's exhibition against the Czech Republic, the last on the schedule, remains unknown.

Beal, a three-time All-Star, played 60 games and averaged a career-high 31.3 points in his ninth season. 

Love was part of the 2012 gold-medal squad in London and completed his seventh season with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 202-21. He missed 46 games because of the calf injury. 

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Spurs' Keldon Johnson drew tears from parents when he broke his Team USA news: 'It was a special moment'

The Athletic 18 July, 2021 - 07:01pm

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson drew tears from parents when he broke his Team USA news: ‘It was a special moment’

Kevin Love opts out of Games

The Review 18 July, 2021 - 07:01pm

The U.S. basketball team has lost two games and now two players on its road to Tokyo.

Kevin Love withdrew from the Olympics on Friday because of a right calf injury, forcing the Americans to replace a player for the second straight day.

Love’s withdrawal came after the Americans announced Thursday that Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal would miss the Olympics because he was in health and safety protocols.

It means the much of the U.S. roster will have little time together before its Olympic opener July 25 against France.

“I think coming into something like this, you know that things can come up, especially coming out of a pandemic and the possibility of guys maybe testing positive,” U.S. guard Damian Lillard said.

“Injuries happen. People have a change of heart. You just come into it expecting that. “But I think our primary focus was to come here and come together as a team, get our bodies moving around, get in shape to be able to go compete on the level that we want to compete on and I think we’ve moved in that direction as a group. We feel good about where we are.”

Lillard spoke after the team’s practice in Las Vegas. The Americans were supposed to play Friday night against Australia, but that exhibition was canceled because of health and safety concerns.

Veteran center JaVale McGee and Spurs guard Keldon Johnson were added later Friday to the 12-man Olympics roster as replacements.

Johnson, who plays for U.S. coach Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, was a member of the select team of young players training against the Americans, and had appeared in two of their exhibition games.

McGee, who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets last season, has won three NBA titles but has no Olympic experience. He has been involved in the national team program since 2009.

Love would have been trying for a second Olympic gold medal, having played for the Americans in London in 2012. He also was on the team that won gold two years earlier in the world championships.

That past USA Basketball experience helped him get selected for this roster despite his difficult NBA season. Love missed 46 games because of the injury and averaged just 12.2 points in 25 games.

He played in two of the Americans’ three exhibition games in Las Vegas, scoring one point.

The U.S. was already short-handed before the losses of Beal and Love. Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, along with Phoenix star Devin Booker, won’t join the team until after the NBA Finals.

With them not joining the team until after camp and forward Jerami Grant also in health and safety protocols — though with his Olympics not expected to be in jeopardy — the Americans are currently without half the players they will take to Tokyo.

Guard Zach LaVine said he didn’t have any concerns about the team’s readiness.

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Five (bad) thoughts on USA hoops

Yahoo News 18 July, 2021 - 10:16am

And none of them are complimentary.

Simply calling it a "national embarrassment" doesn't cover it.

My one good thought is that Kevin Durant's place on the team should be applauded. He's had a tough few years and could use the mental time off, like most of the NBA's top 15 players are getting.

But back to the negative feelings, of which I have five:

I asked a local basketball guru about the two exhibition losses, back to back, to Nigeria and Australia. I thought Nigeria, ranked 22nd heading to Tokyo, was by far worse, but you'd figure after being beaten by Nigeria that USA would come back with a vengeance against Australia, the No. 3 ranked team in Tokyo. You would be wrong.

Australia was better, destroying Nigeria (108-69) a few days later. But the point is USA, despite having one of the top five players in the world in Kevin Durant, which should be enough, looks very pedestrian on both sides of the ball.

Team USA's reboot with Australia never happened because of COVID issues, but it doesn't matter. What is done, an embarrassing loss to the Aussies, is going to take time to overcome. Unless a gold medal is at the end of the rainbow, of course.

The USA women's hoop team went the college route, but due more to the fact that the best women in the world are in the throes of the WNBA season, playing through mid-September.

Well, USA Basketball blew it when it became apparent the Dream Team-ish dudes, as in LeBron James, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, etc. opted out. The Olympics are a big bothe

r. The college kids probably would've lost but much more enjoyable to follow. And the fact they could've played together for a month, before the Olympics, would've been huge. The first complaint from an NBA player about Olympic accommodations — dorm life — will be one too many.

USA men's coach Gregg Popovich will retire as one of the game's all-time great coaches, a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, etc., etc. But his early work with this team and his handling of criticism makes me wonder if this gig is too big for him. I respect the fact that he did his due diligence as an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski, but this gig calls for old 'Pop,' the dude who ran a tight ship in competing for championships every year in San Antonio.

That hasn't been the case. His Spurs teams are done as contenders, having not gotten out of the first round of the playoffs in five of the last seven years. It's not his fault USA Basketball is getting a bevy of second rate "all-stars." But isn't the NBA flooded with talent to beat the likes of Nigeria and Australia?

His support for black players and coaches has been admirable. But his political taunts have not been. His snapping at a writer last week was as embarrassing as the losses as he took zero culpability in the bad play.

Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum is a legit NBA All-Star, though he wasn't voted on any of the All-NBA's three teams (top 15 players). So you would figure, being upset, he would show the writers (whom he blamed) what a top 10 or even a top 5 player is. Nope.

Instead, he's the third leading scorer (11.5 ppg), behind two NBA superstars Damian Lillard (18.0) and Kevin Durant (17.0). He has no offensive rebounds and no steals. This is a small sample size — two games — but this is an important Olympics for him. I'd assume his game picks up, but being the third best player on an also-ran Olympic team is nothing to be proud about.

Could USA finish out of medal?

I will answer that question: Yes. This USA men's team is in rough shape, in a lot of ways. True, they haven't been together as much as most of the top 10 teams at the Olympics will have been, but losing two long-range shooters — Bradley Beal and, to a lesser extent, Kevin Love — due to COVID protocols and replacing them with, get this, JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson, makes you wonder how low down the totem pole the NBA has gone to find players.

McGee and Johnson, are not noted shooters, which is important in the international game. The teams ranked second through seventh behind USA — Spain, Australia, Argentina, Serbia, Greece, France and Lithuania — all might actually be better. I'm serious. This is going to be interesting to watch.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.

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2021 Olympics: Team USA women’s basketball roster, schedule, players to watch

The Athletic 18 July, 2021 - 09:38am

The star-studded United States women’s basketball team looks to secure a seventh consecutive gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Top-ranked Team USA has won its last 49 Olympics games, with 48 of those wins coming by double digits. The team has taken home the gold medal in the last six Olympics, since 1996, for a total of eight gold medals, one silver and one bronze.

The U.S holds numerous Olympic records, from most points in a single game (Lisa Leslie, 35, in 1996 vs. Japan) to most points as a team (121 in 2016 vs. Senegal) to most Olympic games played (Diana Taurasi in 2004, ‘08, ‘12, ‘16). The team will be returning two veterans in Taurasi and Sue Bird, who have each won four gold medals.

Half of the players participating in Tokyo won gold at the 2016 Rio Games, so the team has a wealth of Olympic experience. The U.S. enters the competition as the heavy favorite.

The teams will compete at Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo.

Here’s what you need to know about Team USA, the new tournament format and the schedule:

Coaches: Dawn Staley (head coach), Dan Hughes (assistant), Cheryl Reeve (assistant), Jennifer Rizzotti (assistant)

The Olympic basketball tournaments are moving away from the two groups of six teams used in the past and instead will have three groups of four this year. The top two teams from each group, as well as the two best third-place teams, will advance to the quarterfinals.

Pool A: Canada, Serbia, South Korea, Spain

Pool B: France, Japan, Nigeria, USA

Pool C: Australia, Belgium, China, Puerto Rico

July 27: Nigeria vs. USA, 12:40 a.m. ET

July 30: USA vs. Japan, 12:40 a.m. ET

France vs. USA, 12:40 a.m. ET

Aug. 4, 12:40 a.m., 4:20 a.m., 8 a.m. ET

Aug. 6, 12:40 a.m., 7 a.m. ET

When the roster was revealed in June, coach Dawn Staley said in a statement: “The fact that some of the players who won’t suit up this summer would start for any other country is a testament to their talent and to what USA Basketball has done to build a program that lifts up our female athletes every single day.”

A’ja Wilson, Jewell Loyd: Both are pursuing their first Olympic gold and have already won FIBA World Cup gold medals. Wilson, the 2020 WNBA MVP, is averaging 19.4 points in 21 games this season. Loyd is coming off the best season of her seven-year career with an 18.1 points per game average.

Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird: About to compete in their fifth and likely last Olympics, Bird and Taurasi are joining elite company, as only six athletes worldwide have competed in five Olympic basketball competitions. Each donned a USA Basketball jersey for the first time in 2000. Taurasi, a three-time WNBA champion, became the first player in WNBA history to reach 9,000 career points in June at 39 years old. A 12-time All-Star, Bird is currently averaging 10.9 points and 5.5 assists at 40.

Napheesa Collier: The youngest player on the team at 24, Collier will be on the world stage for the first time at a FIBA senior five-on-five competition, along with Skylar Diggins-Smith, Ariel Atkins and Chelsea Gray.

Spain: While Team USA is the overwhelming favorite, Spain is contending for a medal after capturing silver in 2016. In the 2020 FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament, the No. 3 world-ranked Spaniards averaged 74.7 points per game, 38 rebounds and 23 assists.

Nigeria: A trio of well-known sisters in the U.S., Nneka, Chiney and Erica Ogwumike will represent Nigeria together in Tokyo. Nneka and Chiney are both Stanford graduates who were drafted No. 1 in the WNBA Draft in 2012 and 2014, respectively. Youngest sister Erica was drafted into the WNBA in 2020 but did not make a roster. The 2016 WNBA MVP, Nneka won gold medals for the U.S. at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2014 and 2018. But she was left off of the U.S. roster for Tokyo, which caused a stir on social media and led to her joining her sisters in representing their parents' native Nigeria.

Six first-time Olympians made the women's basketball roster, but there wasn't enough room for Nneka Ogwumike or Arike Ogunbowale.

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Keldon Johnson was one of the last people to know he made Team USA

Yardbarker 17 July, 2021 - 11:12pm

Keldon Johnson isn’t on Twitter, so he was one of the last people at Team USA’s training camp in Las Vegas to find out that the has been added to the Olympic team, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Johnson and JaVale McGee were announced as replacements Friday after Bradley Beal was sidelined by health and safety protocols and Kevin Love withdrew over concerns about his injured calf.

Johnson came to Las Vegas as a member of the U.S. Select Team, which scrimmages against the Olympians in training camp. He got a chance to play during exhibition games because team members Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton are all taking part in the NBA Finals.

Johnson originally signed up for a four-day commitment as part of the select team, but now his Olympic experience will last until the Games conclude on Aug. 8. He said the best part so far was breaking the news to his family, many of whom have military experience.

This article first appeared on Hoops Rumors and was syndicated with permission.

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Spurs' Keldon Johnson part of Team USA's Plan B

San Antonio Express-News 17 July, 2021 - 05:00pm

Spurs forward Keldon Johnson does not have a Twitter account.

In his daily and ongoing quest to avoid nonsense that doesn’t matter, this can be a useful decision.

It also can leave him out of the loop on days like Friday, when Johnson came to breakfast at Team USA training camp in Las Vegas amid reports he was about to be promoted to the full-fledged Olympic squad.

The first person to greet Johnson was Gregg Popovich, his coach with both USA Basketball and the Spurs.

“Pop said, ‘Did your life change a little bit?’” Johnson said. “I was like, ‘Nah, what are you talking about?’”

Moments later, USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo cleared up the confusion, informing Johnson he was being invited to continue with Team USA to Tokyo as an injury replacement.

The 21-year-old Johnson is set to become the youngest member of this year’s Olympic squad, and one of only three Spurs to play for Team USA in the Olympics.

The other two names are notable enough: David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

“This is all a big surprise,” said Johnson, who completed his second NBA season in May. “I couldn’t really say when I got drafted, ‘I’m going to be an Olympian going into my third year.’ That’s crazy.”

Johnson’s ascension to Team USA is a feel-good story around San Antonio. It is also a sign that things are not quite going to plan for USA Basketball.

Johnson arrived in Las Vegas as a member of the U.S. Select Team, a quasi junior varsity squad meant to work out against the full U.S. national squad.

With Bradley Beal sent home because of COVID-19 protocols Wednesday and Kevin Love withdrawing with a recalcitrant calf strain, Team USA found itself needing to reshuffle the roster barely a week before the July 25 opener in Tokyo.

USA Basketball tabbed Johnson and Denver center JaVale McGee to help round out the roster.

Johnson’s major qualification was that he was available. Having been in Vegas since mid-July, Johnson filled the twin bill as both being in basketball shape and being familiar with how Team USA wants to play.

“For the last week, we’ve been working on how we want to play on both ends of the court,” Popovich said. “If somebody is coming in kind of blind and out of shape, you’re not sure how much that is going to help. It’s going to take a certain individual we think can pick it up quickly, but also someone who is going to be in pretty good condition.”

Yet the challenge for Popovich and the rest of USA Basketball, as the team wraps up camp in Vegas this week and prepares to head to Tokyo, lies beyond figuring out how to defend Spain or Australia or Slovenia.

As the events of the past week underscore, Team USA cannot defend its gold medal if players can’t stay healthy and on the floor.

That is proving to be a difficult and unpredictable task with a pandemic still in progress.

“Our goal overall is we are trying to get everybody safely to Tokyo, and at the same time prepare a basketball team to be successful,” Popovich said.

After more than a year of living and working amid the virus, Popovich and the rest of Team USA understood the chaos COVID might sow at any moment.

“I guess we’ve got a lot of practice for sure,” Popovich said. “All we can do is be as vigilant and careful as we possibly can. There’s no magic pill or anything like that.”

On the court, the going has been slow for Team USA as players look to get into shape and learn to play together.

The U.S. dropped games against Nigeria and Australia to open exhibition play in Vegas before breaking through with a 108-80 victory over Argentina on Tuesday.

That step forward came with a massive leap backward a day later, when Beal and Love left the team.

Another player, Jerami Grant, is also in COVID protocols but has for now not been ruled out of the Olympics.

Also complicating Team USA’s search for chemistry, three players — Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday — will not join the squad until the NBA Finals are completed.

Including Johnson and McGee, Team USA will arrive in Tokyo with five players who were not on the full roster when camp began two weeks ago.

Popovich said he has been watching the NBA Finals, which entered Saturday’s Game 5 knotted 2-2, with an eye on his three future Team USA members.

“We all think about what would be the best way to include them and blend them into the group,” Popovich said. “There’s no formula for that. It’s going to be a little bit by the seat of the pants.”

Despite the hiccups, both on and off the floor, players remain confident Team USA can earn a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal once they get to Tokyo.

“I think we’re the best basketball players in the world,” said Zach Lavine, Chicago’s All-Star guard. “We know how to compete and do things under certain circumstances. We’ve got to go out here and get the job done regardless.”

If there is any silver lining, it’s that Team USA’s turmoil has opened the door for Johnson to have the opportunity of a lifetime.

When Colangelo asked Johnson to consider coming with the team to Tokyo, Johnson didn’t think twice.

“It was a no-brainer,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he had but one small regret in accepting Team USA’s invitation.

He had been planning to return to Vegas in early August to cheer on the Spurs’ summer league squad.

Now he will be 5,000 miles away across an ocean, trying to win a gold medal with Team USA.

The way Johnson sees it, the offer was too good to pass up.

“You just rearrange things and make things work,” Johnson said.

Once in Tokyo, Popovich and a revamped Team USA will hope to do the same.

"Kobe Bryant is a god to me": Kevin Durant jokes about what the Lakers legend taught him in their first meeting for Team USA Basketball | The SportsRush

The Sportsrush 17 July, 2021 - 12:00pm

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever see a basketball player impacting so many people with his pure competitive streak. The Black Mamba represents the embodiment of an artist’s obsession with attaining perfection at his craft.

Play after play, day after day, year after year, Bryant trained harder than any basketball player he came across. He’d notoriously aim for 400 made shots on every single shooting practice session. It was this competitive streak to his preparation that allowed his game to age like wine.

Also Read – “Kevin Durant wants to meet a Japanese high school teammate”: NBA insider reveals Nets superstar’s motivation behind committing to Team USA Basketball at Tokyo 2020

When Kevin Durant was an 18-year-old prospect out of Texas A&M, he was named to USA Basketball’s Select Team roster for a series of exhibition games and a summer camp. This was the first time that he met the Lakers legend.

Kevin Durant is among the renowned sportspersons to have made an appearance on Hot Ones. Hosted by Sean Evans on the YouTube channel First We Feast, this is a show where celebrities join the host for a series of progressively spicier and hotter wings while answering his questions.

Durant’s appearance was particularly remarkable given his great answers and dignified mannerisms while eating. The then-Warriors star took 2 bites of each wing and didn’t take a sip of water or milk, unlike other guests.

During one of the segments on this show, Sean pulled up a series of pictures for KD to elaborate on. One of those was from the year 2007 in which the Slim Reaper shared the reel with the Black Mamba. Durant confirmed that this was indeed their first meeting ever:

“That was the first time I met Kobe Bryant, at Team USA Basketball camp. I don’t really remember the conversations, but I can remember that I was very nervous, I was shaken.”

“Kobe is a god to me, basketball-wise. Just to see him actually know my name, at that time I was 18. It was surreal.”

Sean Evans went on to ask KD if he learnt anything from the Black Mamba, to which the Slim Reaper had an elegant answer: “Yeah, every time you touch the ball, shoot it!”

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Women will lead the way for Team USA at the Olympics

CT Insider 17 July, 2021 - 05:00am

The traditional torch relay began in March and the flame will cross through all 47 of Japan’s prefectures before arriving at National Stadium in Tokyo on Friday, July 23, to shine a ceremonial light on the world’s perseverance.

The 2020 Summer Olympics — the event is retaining, in name and branding, the year it was forced to vacate due to COVID-19 — are upon us, delayed by 12 months and having resurfaced with still-fluid protocols that prohibit spectators in most venues.

Tokyo will enter a state of emergency for July 12-August 22 due to COVID, with cases rising steadily. The Olympics, with 16 days of competition in that time frame and with venues stretching across seven prefectures, presents an additional risk.

So more than half of the venues will be empty. The competition, though, will look and feel roughly the same as they did in Rio in 2016, in London in 2012 and for each installment over the modern era, with the best of the best having been assembled for two weeks of competition from which some emerge as legends.

What we’ve seen the Olympics to be over the years, and what we’re likely to see them become again, is a showcase for the strength of American women. Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Megan Rapinoe — they’re legends already, legends anyway — but their Olympic legacies will be refined and possibly finalized while others push further into the international consciousness.

American women are a force at the Summer Games.

That figures to be the same during this Tokyo showcase, even in an altered world that continues to tip-toe back toward normalcy.

The U.S. women’s basketball team has won gold at six consecutive Olympics, with Bird and Taurasi, UConn teammates in 2000-02, on board for four of them. UConn alums Tina Charles, Napheesa Collier and Breanna Stewart are also on the team.

“Especially doing it with Sue, it’s just a great honor,” Taurasi said. “It really makes you appreciate everyone who has helped you. Being around for 20 years now, [USA Basketball] is like a big family. It’s still very special. I’ve never taken being on the Olympic team for granted. It’s something I’ve dedicated my entire career to and I’ve always made a concerted effort to be on an Olympic team.”

The U.S. women’s basketball team — like the women’s 4x400 meter relay team in track and field — is going for a seventh consecutive Gold. Bird, 40, and Taurasi, 39, are looking to become the first basketball players, men or women, to win five gold medals. Their first was in Athens in 2004, with coach Dawn Staley as a teammate.

“I find this question to be funny,” Bird said. “If you’re an athlete and if you’re physically able and still enjoying it and having fun, the motivation never changes. What happens when you get older is things get harder. Physically, they get a little harder, maybe you’re not as mentally into it as you once were. But the motivation part never changes. Winning is fun. When you’re headed to an event like the Olympics and you’re representing your country’s best, it’s not hard to be motivated to want to get there. ... Even at this age and everything I’ve accomplished, I still feel like I have something to prove.”

Rapinoe, Bird’s fiancé, is the most prominent member of a U.S. women’s soccer team that is 39-0-4 in its past 43 games. The Americans, who have Stratford’s Alyssa Naeher as goalkeeper, had won three consecutive Gold medals before a surprising loss to Sweden and a fifth-place finish in 2016.

Individual events will turn the most heads, though, with the U.S. sending two transcendent stars — one into the gym, one into the pool — to Tokyo.

Simone Biles continues to do things as a gymnast that we haven’t seen before, with off-the-charts degrees of difficulty that enable her to win even through slip ups. She has four Olympic Golds (and a record 19 world championship golds), with a chance to add five more Golds in Tokyo. That would tie Biles with the Soviet Union’s Larisa Latynina, who won nine goals in 1956-64.

Biles, 24, has not lost an all-around competition since 2013. The American women are looking to win a third consecutive team Gold. Biles had to consider whether she wanted to compete in Tokyo after reaching a certain point in preparation last year and having to start over parts of the process.

“The main thing was just trying to stay healthy another year, trying to have your mental game up another year, it’s another year on the body,” Biles told Olympics.com in April. “It’s just a lot to think about, but then at the end of the day, it’s like we worked so hard. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep striving for this goal that all the athletes have kind of put in their head is the 2020 Olympics. And once it was postponed, it’s like I’ve gone too far to give up now.”

Ledecky, also 24, has five Olympic Golds, winning the 800-meter freestyle at 15 in 2012. She won four gold medals in 2016 (three individual freestyle events, one relay) and set two world records in 2016. If she wins all her freestyle events in Tokyo (200, 400, 800, 1,500 and 4x200 relay), Ledecky would pass Latynina (and maybe Biles) as the female with the most Golds in Olympic history.

“I think I’ve at least shown that you can have as long of a career as you want,” Ledecky said after the Olympic trials in Omaha. “You can sustain that level of success, all of that. It’s not to say it’s easy. It does take a lot of work.”

Much of the work toward Olympic success comes behind the scenes, out of public view, the AAU games Bird and Taurasi played, the youth events Biles competed in, the early laps Ledecky swam. Every four years — or five, in this case — the torch is lit, the lights go on and American women set the bar higher for future generations.

Keldon Johnson

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