A’ja Wilson leads U.S. women’s basketball past France, into Olympic quarterfinals

BY DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer

SAITAMA, Japan — A’ja Wilson scored 22 points and Breanna Stewart added 17 to help the U.S. beat France, 93-82, on Monday (Sunday night PT).

The win was the 52nd in a row for the U.S. dating to the bronze medal game of the 1992 Olympics. The U.S. went undefeated in group play – albeit not in the dominant fashion the team is used to – and advanced to the quarterfinals. The Americans (3-0) haven’t lost a game in group play since women’s basketball was added to the Olympics in 1976.

“It wasn’t a must-win, but we always want to win,” Stewart said. “To have that momentum going into the quarterfinals, this is where we start to peak.”

Even with the loss, France (1-2) advanced to the quarterfinals because of point differential with the other third-place teams. The team had to lose by 14 points or less to advance.

“We were completely aware,” Gabby Williams said of the margin France needed to advance. “It was 10 minutes by 10 minutes and trying to focus on staying with them. I think that was the goal.”

Both teams will find out later Monday night who they will play in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

France scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to take a 72-71 lead before the U.S. answered with 12 of the next 14 points to go up 83-74 with 5:45 left. Wilson had six points during the run.

Tina Charles’ 3-pointer made it 87-77, giving the U.S. its first double-digit lead of the game. France could get no closer than seven the rest of the way.

“We knew France had their backs against the wall,” Stewart said. “They had to play their best today and play within a certain margin to advance. We talked about it here and there. It’s super complicated. Most important thing for us was to win.”

Endene Miyem scored 15 to lead France.

The U.S. led 11-2 before France scored 16 of the next 18 points to go up 18-13. The French team led 22-19 after one quarter – the third consecutive game that the Americans trailed after the first 10 minutes. The U.S. got a scare in the first quarter when Taurasi left the game holding her right wrist. She was examined by the trainer and sat on the bench for the remainder of the quarter before returning with 4:20 left in the second period.

The lead exchanged hands for most of the second quarter as the U.S. continued to pound the ball inside to its dominant bigs of Wilson, Brittney Griner, Sylvia Fowles and Charles.

The Americans led 50-44 at the half.

TIP-INS

The U.S. has now beaten France in each of the past three Olympics. … Diggins, who turned 31 on Monday, returned to the court after she missed the last game after was banged up in practice. Diggins had three points. … The U.S. came into the game averaging a tournament-worst 21 turnovers per game. The team committed just 12 against France.

EXPERIENCED AMERICANS

A lot of attention has been on Sue Bird and Taurasi going for a fifth Olympic gold medal. Fowles is playing in her fourth Olympics. She is tied with Griner for third on the U.S. Olympic blocked shot list with 13, one behind longtime L.A. Spark Candace Parker. Lisa Leslie (Morningside High, USC, Sparks) is the all-time leader with 37 blocks.

🆚🇳🇬: 19 PTS | 60 FG% | 13 REB
🆚 🇯🇵: 20 PTS | 60 FG% | 10 REB
🆚 🇫🇷: 22 PTS | 75 FG% | 7 REB

🇺🇸 @_ajawilson22 has been unguardable in her Olympic debut 😤#Tokyo2020 #Basketball pic.twitter.com/RqU3rzzgew

— FIBA #Tokyo2020 (@FIBA) August 2, 2021

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Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn erases nightmare of Rio

TOKYO >> Puerto Rican hurdler Jasmine Camacho-Quinn stood behind the starting blocks at Olympic Stadium 10 minutes before high noon.

Behind her a giant Olympic flag swayed slightly in the breeze.

In front of her the Olympic 100 meter hurdles final, a race that five years earlier in Rio de Janeiro had brought her to her knees.

Camacho-Quinn was so distraught over stumbling her way to a disqualification in the 2016 Olympic semifinals she essentially went into self-imposed hiding at the University of Kentucky for much of the first semester after her return from Brazil.

“I felt embarrassed,” she said “like I let the whole country down.”

And then she decided to stop hiding.

“Five years ago I said that I wasn’t going to let that race determine my future,” Camacho-Quinn said.

Instead she will forever be defined by two brilliant races within 17 hours, the second of which Camacho-Quinn captured the 100 hurdles gold medal and so much more for Puerto Rico.

“I am pretty sure everybody is celebrating, is excited. They’ve been through so much,” Camacho-Quinn said referring to a series of earthquakes that have hindered efforts to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.  “For such a small country it gives people, little kids hope.”

She began sobbing and for a moment was unable to speak.

“I am just glad I am the person to do that. I am really happy right now (tears). Anything is possible.”

Camacho-Quinn was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of an American father, James Quinn, and a Puerto Rican mother, Maria Camacho. She decided to represent her mother’s native country in international competition.

“I’m 100 percent Puerto Rican,” she said.

At Kentucky she became the first freshman to win the NCAA 100 hurdles title and then turned pro.

“It’s been a roller coaster since I’ve been a pro,” she said.

With seven of 10 hurdles in the 2016 Olympic semifinal behind her, Camacho-Quinn appeared headed toward the final. But she clipped the eight hurdle throwing her off-stride, hit the ninth squarely with her lead leg, stumbling for three steps, unable to clear the 10th and final barrier. She lost her balance and swerved into the lane to her right, earning a disqualification, staggered across the finish line and dropped her knees, her face, her tears pressed against the track.

What she described as the “ups and downs” continued after Rio. Injuries kept her out of the 2019 World Championships in Doha.

But she put it together this season, riding a 13-race undefeated streak into Tokyo that included a 12.38 Diamond League victory in Florence.

Much of the pre-Olympic focus, however, was on Keni Harrison of the U.S., Camacho-Quinn’s former training partner.

Harrison had also been haunted by 2016. Then also the gold medal favorite, Harrison failed to make the U.S. team. A month later she found some consolation in breaking the 28-year-old world record with a 12.20 blast in a Diamond League meet in London. Harrison, like Camacho-Quinn, a former NCAA champion at Kentucky, found redemption in winning the U.S. Trials last month.

But Camacho-Quinn put Harrison and the rest of the field on notice Saturday night with an Olympic record 12.26 clocking in her semifinal.

Afterward she was asked not if she would win the following morning but if she would break Harrison’s world record.

“I just take it step by step,” she said. “Don’t overthink it, don’t panic and everything will happen.”

She followed her own advice for most of the final, blowing away Harrison and the rest until she let the world record creep into her mind in the race’s final stages.

“At this point I was really running for the world record,” Camacho-Quinn said. “I hit the hurdle, but everything happens for a reason. I came through with the gold. My first gold medal.”

This time she made it across the finish line in one piece her 12.37 still well ahead of Harrison (12.52) and Jamaica’s Megan Tapper (12.55).

“I almost fell when I crossed the line, didn’t.”

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Good news for gender equality as court green lights Meland v. Padilla

One California law unconstitutionally forces people to make decisions on the basis of sex, patronizes women by disregarding their individual preferences, and makes it harder for everyone to succeed in the workplace. But there’s good news: The law may be on its way out.

This summer, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals gave the green light to Meland v. Padilla, a lawsuit challenging California’s Senate Bill 826, the nation’s first state law to force corporate shareholders to take a candidate’s sex into account when they vote for board members. Enacted in 2018, SB 826 requires all publicly traded companies incorporated or even just headquartered in California to have at least one female board member, a quota that increases depending on the board’s size. Corporations that violate the quota face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and will be publicly chastened on the Secretary of State’s list of non-compliant corporations.

But SB 826 imposes a solution in search of a problem. There are reasons women may not have parity on corporate boards that have nothing to do with institutional discrimination but rather are based on individual preferences. Studies show that, on the whole, men place a high premium on a larger paycheck, while women value flexibility at work more. That’s why the number of women-owned businesses has increased 3000% since 1972, and why women are increasingly choosing to work in the “gig” economy.

While the law may be well-intentioned, it disrespects the fact that women are unique individuals who make unique choices. It treats women as incapable of choosing their professions or negotiating the terms of their employment—and as victims if they choose flexibility or other benefits over jobs with more traditional hours or responsibilities, or higher pay.

And it fits with a larger pattern: Throughout America’s history, male-dominated governments (like the California legislature) have condescendingly replaced individual women’s decisions with one-size-fits-all standards.

Back in the early 20th century, for example, many states imposed minimum wage laws on women workers, purporting to benefit women by ensuring higher pay. But rather than giving women greater opportunities, those laws put many of them out of work altogether.

As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who spent her legal career fighting gender discrimination) once noted, laws aimed at “helping” women frequently result in depriving them of their freedom of choice. Based “on the notion that women could not cope with the world beyond hearth and home without a father, husband, or big brother to guide them,” she wrote, “the state impeded both men and women from pursuit of the very opportunities and styles of life that could enable them to break away from traditional patterns and develop their full, human capacities.”

Indeed, the National Woman’s Party, the original champion of the Equal Rights Amendment, wholeheartedly rejected “protective” legislation that singled women out for what they considered to be restrictive and discriminatory treatment.

At that time, California law prohibited businesses from employing women over 8 hours a day or 48 hours a week, or hiring women for jobs that required them to carry objects weighing 10 pounds or more up stairways rising more than 5 feet—supposedly to “protect” them. Those laws, NWP argued, were actually “used to deny women the right to earn their own livelihoods and to support their dependents.”

By dictating how many women should serve on a company’s board, SB 826 similarly ignores the preferences of women to pursue the career paths of their choice, supplanting those decisions with the economic choices that bureaucrats think women should make.

Government-mandated gender quotas send the message to women—and their would-be employers and colleagues—that they can’t earn a leadership position without Big Brother’s helping hand. Even supporters of gender-based quotas recognize that they could mean “women would be appointed to corporate boards as tokens for the sake of compliance, which could reinforce stereotypes and make it even harder for intelligent and hardworking women to break the glass ceiling.”

Indeed, studies have shown that women hired under a quota system as opposed to merit are often branded with a “stigma of incompetence” that makes it difficult for them to be taken seriously and less likely to be recommended for future responsibilities, regardless of their actual performance on the job.

That’s why Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry and Senior Vice President of retail at Apple, called mandates like SB 826 “dangerous.” Ahrendts, who has been named one of the most powerful businesswomen in the world by Forbes and Fortune, as well as one of the top creative minds in business (without regard to gender), said filling a position should always be “about putting the best person in the job who can unite people and create value.” Ultimately, that’s best for everyone, including women.

Laws that force people to make decisions on the basis of sex are discriminatory and harm the women they purport to help, so it’s good that the courts will be taking up the challenge to SB 826.

Some women prefer flexible working conditions and are willing to trade that for higher wages. Others are happy to keep regular office hours in exchange for career growth.

Women are not homogenous—and one-size-fits-all government regulations prevent individuals from making the decisions that work best for them.

Christina Sandefur is the executive vice president at the Goldwater Institute.

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It pays to be related to people in power

In his book, “A Magician Among the Spirits,” Harry Houdini relates the story of the life and career of a sketchy spiritualist named Daniel Dunglas Home. He was “outwardly a lovable character with a magnetic personality” as well as a fondness for jewelry, Houdini wrote. “In his later years, he set up a studio in Italy and gave his attention to sculpture between seances and ‘sold busts at prices quite out of proportion to their artistic merits.’”

Houdini cited a report in an 1864 London newspaper, but you don’t have to be a Fleet Street reporter or a fraud-busting illusionist to see how easy it is to materialize cash in an art gallery.

After all, the value of a painting is whatever someone will pay for it. Why they will pay that much is entirely another question.

“The variety of frauds in the art world is almost infinite and that is facilitated by the fact that the art world operates with a secrecy that no other investor would dream of operating in,” Herbert Lazerow, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, told the New York Times back in June.

The Times was reporting on the potential uses of the art market for money laundering. In January, Congress passed legislation that subjects antiquities dealers to the same type of anti-money laundering regulations that are imposed on banks. The law also requires the Treasury Department to study whether these regulations should be expanded to the wider art market. New laws in Europe are already moving in this direction.

In February, the then-president of the Art Dealers Association of America told an industry group that the art world is in the “paranoid-terrified phase of what’s going to come down the pike,” predicting “a whole lot of paperwork and a whole lot of compliance.”

The Times reported that the dealers’ association and auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s have spent almost $1 million since 2019 quietly lobbying to prevent new regulations that risk blowing up the secrecy, privacy and tax opacity that are the treasured traditions of the art world.

And then Hunter Biden came along and ruined it for everybody.

In February 2020, the New York Times profiled then-candidate Joe Biden’s son and wrote this about his artwork: “Mr. Biden set out late last year to find gallery representation with the help of Lanette Phillips,” described as a longtime Biden family friend who had recently hosted a star-studded fundraiser for the former VP. “Biden did not sign with a gallery, and Ms. Phillips said this week that she is no longer advising him, but Mr. Biden is still setting his sights on exhibiting his work.”

At that time, Hunter Biden’s dad was in something of a political slide, but the Times reported, “Democrats worry that [Hunter’s] curious overseas dealings could pose a threat to his father’s presidential campaign, should he rally back to front-runner status in the March primaries.”

The “curious overseas dealings” included a big-money role with Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, and a business venture in China, both at a time when his father was vice president and access to him was a thing of value that could be monetized.

Today, with his father in the Oval Office, Hunter Biden’s artwork is curiously worth a tremendous amount of money. He is now represented by the Georges Bergès Gallery. Two art shows have been scheduled where the newly professional artist will meet with prospective buyers. A private showing will take place in Los Angeles this fall, and then a larger exhibition will be held in New York. The gallery expects the paintings to sell for as much as $500,000.

He might as well have painted a brown paper bag and invited favor-seekers to fill it with unmarked bills in small denominations.

The pathetic White House press team has gamely defended this transparent conduit for influence-peddling as part of “the highest ethical standards of any administration in American history.”

Maybe they don’t remember that when newly elected President Barack Obama was considering Hillary Clinton for the job of Secretary of State, he insisted on a written ethics agreement that put new limits on foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation and gave the White House approval over former president Bill Clinton’s paid speeches.

You don’t need a degree in fine arts to see the value of Hunter Biden’s paintings.

Influence-peddling and the sale of access to powerful public officials is a form of corruption that enriches people in government and their families. An awful lot of it is perfectly legal, and the U.S. Supreme Court has made it more difficult to prosecute bribery and extortion in politics. Before the courts will see any illegality, the cash-for-favors agreement virtually has to be in writing, in a 36-point font.

On July 22, reporters asked if the agreement between the younger Biden and the New York gallerist is in writing and can be shared publicly. “I can check and see if there is more detail,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded.

“The universal truth is that everything is connected,” Hunter Biden told a reporter, “and that there’s something that goes far beyond what is our five senses and that connects us all.”

He’s right about one thing. The Biden family has turned connections into an art form.

Write Susan Shelley: Susan@SusanShelley.com and follow her on Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

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Bellator 263: AJ McKee submits Pitbull to win $1 million title fight

  • AJ McKee blue gloves, kicks Patricio “Pitbull”Freire, red gloves, during Bellator 263: Pitbull vs. McKee at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, July 31, 2021. McKee defeated Freire to win the 145-pound World Grand Prix tournament million dollar prize and the championship belt. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • AJ McKee blue gloves, celebrates after defeating Patricio “Pitbull”Freire, red gloves, during Bellator 263: Pitbull vs. McKee at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, July 31, 2021. McKee defeated Freire to win the 145-pound World Grand Prix tournament million dollar prize and the championship belt. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • AJ McKee blue gloves, punches Patricio “Pitbull”Freire, red gloves, during Bellator 263: Pitbull vs. McKee at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, July 31, 2021. McKee defeated Freire to win the 145-pound World Grand Prix tournament million dollar prize and the championship belt. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • AJ McKee blue gloves, knees Patricio “Pitbull”Freire, red gloves, during Bellator 263: Pitbull vs. McKee at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, July 31, 2021. McKee defeated Freire to win the 145-pound World Grand Prix tournament million dollar prize and the championship belt. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • AJ McKee blue gloves, punches Patricio “Pitbull”Freire, red gloves, during Bellator 263: Pitbull vs. McKee at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, July 31, 2021. McKee defeated Freire to win the 145-pound World Grand Prix tournament million dollar prize and the championship belt. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • AJ McKee blue gloves, kicks Patricio “Pitbull”Freire, red gloves, during Bellator 263: Pitbull vs. McKee at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, July 31, 2021. McKee defeated Freire to win the 145-pound World Grand Prix tournament million dollar prize and the championship belt. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • AJ McKee blue gloves, celebrates after defeating Patricio “Pitbull”Freire, red gloves, during Bellator 263: Pitbull vs. McKee at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, July 31, 2021. McKee defeated Freire to win the 145-pound World Grand Prix tournament million dollar prize and the championship belt. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • AJ McKee blue gloves, has his arm raised after defeating Patricio “Pitbull”Freire, red gloves, during Bellator 263: Pitbull vs. McKee at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, July 31, 2021. McKee defeated Freire to win the 145-pound World Grand Prix tournament million dollar prize and the championship belt. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • AJ McKee blue gloves, celebrates after defeating Patricio “Pitbull”Freire, red gloves, during Bellator 263: Pitbull vs. McKee at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, July 31, 2021. McKee defeated Freire to win the 145-pound World Grand Prix tournament million dollar prize and the championship belt. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Patricio “Pitbull”Freire, red gloves, is choked-out by AJ McKee blue gloves, in the first round during Bellator 263: Pitbull vs. McKee at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, July 31, 2021. McKee defeated Freire to win the 145-pound World Grand Prix tournament million dollar prize and the championship belt. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • AJ McKee blue gloves, celebrates after defeating Patricio “Pitbull”Freire, red gloves, during Bellator 263: Pitbull vs. McKee at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, July 31, 2021. McKee defeated Freire to win the 145-pound World Grand Prix tournament million dollar prize and the championship belt. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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INGLEWOOD — A.J. McKee’s call-out finally came home.

The undefeated Long Beach star’s crusade, which started with his professional MMA and Bellator debut in 2016 when he dared to invoke the name of featherweight champion Patricio Pitbull, has been more than six years in the making.

On Saturday night at The Forum, McKee won the $1 million Bellator World Featherweight Grand Prix with a technical submission via standing guillotine choke of Pitbull in the first round to claim the belt and establish his superstar status in the sport.

After the pair largely squared off with little action to start the fight, McKee stunned the champion with a left head kick and dropped him with punches against the cage.

The 26-year-old phenom began to prematurely celebrate before Pitbull began to rise. McKee then pounced and locked in a standing guillotine choke, torqueing with all his might before Pitbull began to fade. Referee Mike Beltran jumped in at 1:57 to kick off a wild celebration in front of the partisan crowd.

Pitbull (32-5) hadn’t lost in five years, winning all seven title fights before Saturday – twice dethroning a champion and five times successfully defending his featherweight title.

McKee (18-0) kicked off his professional MMA career more than six years ago, having just turned 20 and collecting a victory via submission at Bren Events Center in Irvine and calling out Pitbull, who was seven months into his first featherweight title reign.

Pitbull and McKee both started their journeys in the grand prix at Bellator 228 in September 2019 at The Forum — Pitbull dominating top contender Juan Archuleta in a unanimous decision after McKee recorded a highlight-reel 8-second knockout of Georgi Karakhanyan

Three months later against Derek Campos, McKee grinded out a third-round submission win despite tearing his lateral collateral ligament in his left knee at Bellator 236 in December 2019. And in November, he advanced to the final by forcing a tapout via a neck crank/guillotine choke of former Bellator bantamweight champion and NCAA wrestling champion Darrion Caldwell at Bellator 253 in November.

Pitbull, 34, had been regarded by some as the top 145-pounder in the world. The two-time Bellator featherweight champion also boasts the organization’s lightweight title after his first-round knockout of Michael Chandler at Bellator 221 in May 2019, joining Ryan Bader and Joe Warren as the only double champions in Bellator history.

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Dodgers’ extra-inning frustrations continue in Arizona

PHOENIX — Back on April 16 at Petco Park, the Dodgers scored five times in the 12th inning to beat the San Diego Padres.

If they had known then that it might be their only extra-inning win of the season, maybe they would have savored it a little more.

The Dodgers spotted the Arizona Diamondbacks a three-run headstart, ran them down in eight innings but lost in the 10th, 6-5, on Friday night.

The Dodgers have ventured into the dark alley of extra innings 12 times this season and came out at the other end with a victory just that one time back in the innocent days of April.

This loss kept them in lockstep with the rest of the NL West’s big three. The Giants and Padres also lost, maintaining status quo in the division – the Dodgers three games back, the Padres 5½.

Max Scherzer can’t get here soon enough – literally, they could use a starter Saturday.

The trade that will bring Scherzer to the Dodgers eventually – he is scheduled to join the team in Arizona on Saturday and make his Dodgers debut most likely on Wednesday – cost the Dodgers their Saturday starter, Josiah Gray.

Some bullpen games are planned. Others are thrust upon you.

Starter Tony Gonsolin faced just 11 batters on Friday and walked five of them, putting the Dodgers in an early hole and setting off a conga line of relievers.

Scherzer’s arrival and Clayton Kershaw’s imminent return from the injured list have made Gonsolin’s days in the starting rotation numbered. It’s a spot he has never really had much of a grip on.

Gonsolin spent the first two months of the season nursing a shoulder injury. In 10 games (nine starts), he has only occasionally looked over it.

Gonsolin completed five innings just twice in those 10 games. His fastball velocity has been consistently low – he averaged 93.3 mph on Friday, down from 95.1 mph last season. And his command has been erratic. Friday was the fifth time he walked three or more batters in a game. In total, he has walked 26 batters in 35-2/3 innings this season.

The only damage the Diamondbacks could manage before Manager Dave Roberts got Gonsolin out of the game was a two-run double by Josh Van Meter. They added a single run in the fourth against Phil Bickford and two more against Brusdar Graterol and Alex Vesia in the sixth.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers had just three baserunners in the first five innings against Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen – a walk, an error and a single. From the sixth through the 10th, though, they put 13 runners on base, chipping away with two runs each in the sixth and seventh innings. Chris Taylor drove in three of the four runs – one on a home run, two on a triple.

A pinch-hit RBI single by Albert Pujols in the eighth tied the score – and Kenley Jansen nearly untied it in the bottom of the eighth. Jansen loaded the bases before striking out Christian Walker and Carson Kelly.

But the Diamondbacks pushed across the winning run in the 10th against Jimmy Nelson, a double by Asdrubal Cabrera driving in the extra runner from second.

More to come on this story.

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U.S. edges Qatar on late goal to reach Gold Cup final against Mexico

AUSTIN, Texas — Gyasi Zardes scored in the 86th minute and the United States beat Qatar, 1-0, on Thursday night to reach the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Zardes, one of the few first-line U.S. players on a mostly junior varsity roster for this tournament, replaced Daryl Dike in the 63rd minute and combined with two other second-half subs, Nicholas Gioacchini and Eryk Williamson.

Gioacchini picked up a Qatari clearance attempt and fed Williamson, who returned the ball. Gioacchini passed to Zardes, and he scored with a right-footed shot from 7 yards, his 14th international goal and second of the tournament.

The 20th-ranked U.S. matched its record with 13 consecutive home wins and advanced to Sunday night’s final in Las Vegas against defending champion Mexico, which beat Canada, 2-1, in Houston.

CONCACAF filled out the field for the Gold Cup, the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean, with 2022 World Cup host Qatar as an invited guest.

Goalkeeper Matt Turner made three big first-half saves for the U.S.

Qatar had a chance to go ahead in the 61st minute but Hassan Al-Haydos sent a penalty kick over the crossbar following a foul by James Sands. Al-Haydos took a stutter step and tried to fool goalkeeper Matt Turner with a panenka, a soft shot down the middle.

Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Zack Steffem, Josh Sargent and other U.S. regulars missed the Gold Cup for vacation followed by preseasons with their European clubs.

U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter started the same lineup in consecutive games for the first time since the 2019 Gold Cup semfinal and final.

The match was played at Q2 Stadium, which opened last month and will host the Americans’ World Cup qualifier against Jamaica on Oct. 7.

The U.S. beat Mexico in their last meeting in a dramatic finish to win the CONCACAF Nations League.

In the other semifinal …

Mexico 2, Canada 1: Orbelin Pineda scored on a penalty shot in first-half stoppage time, his fifth international goal and third of the tournament, and Tajon Buchanan tied the score in the 57th with his first goal. Héctor Herrera scored in the 10th minute of second-half stoppage time, his ninth international goal, for 10th-ranked Mexico.

VAR intervened to hand Mexico a chance from the penalty spot after a review confirmed a foul on Canada’s Donell Henry in the area and Pineda converted to put El Tri in front at the break.

Buchanan drew Canada level early in the second half with an excellent individual effort, picking up a long ball on the left edge of the area, beating his defender and firing past Mexico keeper Alfredo Talavera at the far post.

Mexico again benefitted from a video review, with Canada’s Mark-Anthony Kaye whistled for a foul on the edge of the box after a VAR check, but Maxime Crepeau saved Carlos Salcedo’s penalty shot to preserve the draw.

The match was stopped as the second half progressed because of an anti-gay chant from the Mexico fans, but play resumed shortly after.

Herrera pounced on a ball at the top of the area and fired home in stoppage time to hand Tata Martino’s team a berth in the title game after nearly 13 extra minutes that were at times very tense.

The Canadians were without striker Lucas Cavallini and defender Steven Vitoria due to yellow-card accumulation. They were also without forwards Cyle Larin and Ayo Akinola because of injuries.

Canada was in its first semifinal since 2007 and was seeking its first championship since 2000. The Canadians are the only country other than the U.S. and Mexico to win the tournament.

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Trinity League Football Podcast: Top offseason highlights, players on the rise, storylines to watch


The Trinity League Football Podcast is back to get you ready for the 2021 season, which begins with Mater Dei and St. John Bosco ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the nation by MaxPreps.

Listen to this week’s episode here, and subscribe in Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts to get every episode as they publish.

In this episode, Dan Albano and Trinity League insider Scott Barajas recap the offseason highlights in the Trinity League, discuss players on the rise and spotlight the top storylines for each team as they get ready to start the season.

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Santa Margarita graduate Katie McLaughlin helps U.S. relay strike Olympic silver

Katie McLaughlin and her teammates did their job, setting up Katie Ledecky for her anchor leg in the women’s 800-meter freestyle relay at the Toyko Olympics on Thursday, July 29.

The U.S. star responded right on cue, racing with the determination to deliver a silver medal and American record for the Santa Margarita High product in an epic final.

McLaughlin teamed with veteran Allison Schmitt, fellow Olympic rookie Paige Madden and Ledecky to bring Team USA to the wall in 7 minutes, 40.73 seconds, four-tenths of a second behind China’s world-record 7:40.33.

Ledecky rallied past heavily favored Australia, which touched in 7:41.29 for the bronze.

The final was so fast, the United States and Australia also raced well under the world record, a 7:41.50 by Australia in 2019.

.⁦@KatieMcLaugh1in⁩ isn’t wrong about 800 free relay ⁦@ocvarsity⁩ ⁦@OCVswimdivepic.twitter.com/g52Cv4rL5t

— Dan Albano (@ocvarsityguy) July 29, 2021

McLaughlin, 24, did her part, splitting a 1:55.38 in her third leg to keep the Stars and Stripes positioned third behind China and Australia.

Ledecky sizzled a 1:53.76 and nearly caught China.

Madden also delivered in the clutch, splitting a 1:55.25 that moved the U.S. team to third after it was fourth after a 1:56.34 leadoff leg by Schmitt.

Madden and McLaughlin also raced in the second and third spots for the United States in prelims, producing the two fastest times for the team.

For McLaughlin, the relay marked her Olympic debut and Tokyo finale. The former Mission Viejo Nadadores and Nellie Gail Gators club swimmer qualified for the Games in the 800 free relay, and delivered.

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Simone Biles will not defend Olympic all-around gymnastics title

TOKYO

Tokyo—Only minutes into the Olympic Games team final Tuesday, Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast of her generation or any other, lost her special awareness on a vault and stumbled on the landing.

Biles, the four-time Olympic and 19-time World champion, walked to where Team USA had gathered and informed her teammates and coaches she was withdrawing from the competition, citing mental health concerns, knocking these Olympic Games of their already shaky bearings.

Biles rocked the Tokyo Olympics again Wednesday afternoon with the announcement that she will not defend her all around time Thursday and a decision that raises the likelihood that the Games and NBC will lose their biggest star before the most troubled Olympics in 40 years even hit their halfway point.

“After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement. “We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”

The statement did not address whether will compete in the individual apparatus finals which start Monday. Jade Carey, Biles’ U.S. teammate, will replace her in the all around competition.

Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’ place in the all-around. Carey initially did not qualify because she was the third-ranking American behind Biles and Sunisa Lee. International Gymnastics Federation rules limit countries to two athletes per event in the finals.

Even before Biles’ most recent announcement the Games were still reeling from her initial withdrawal the night before.

“It’s not really about the scoring, it’s not really about the medals,” Biles said late Tuesday night “I understand some people will say something, but at the end of the day, we are who we are as people.

“I say put mental health first, because if you don’t, then you’re not going to enjoy your sport and you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to. It’s OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself because it shows how strong of a competitor and a person that you really are, rather than just battle through it. … Hopefully I’ll get back there and compete a couple more events. We’ll see.”

The first sign of trouble came on Biles’ vault. She planned to do a Yurcenko 2 1/2, but only managed 1 1/2 rotations before stumbling on the landing. She received a 13.766 score, well before her usual marks in an event in which she is the Olympic champion and a two-time Worlds gold medalist.

“I did not choose to do a one-and-a-half,” Biles said laughing. “I tried to do a two-and-a-half, and that just was not clicking. It’s very uncharacteristic of me, and it just sucks that it happened here at the Olympic Games. With the year that it’s been, I’m really not surprised how it played out.

“So it definitely wasn’t my best work.”

Biles said she has increasingly felt pressure from being the face of these Olympic Games. She is also a survivor of sexual abuse by former U.S. Olympic and national team coach Larry Nassar has been a vocal and persistent critic of USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and FBI’s handling of the Nassar case.

“In the back gym, coming in today, it was like fighting all those demons, ‘I have to put my pride aside, I have to do it for the team,” Biles said. “At the end of the day, I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health, and not jeopardize my health and well-being. …

“I just don’t trust myself as much as I used to. I don’t know if it’s age. I’m a little bit more nervous when I do gymnastics. I feel like I’m also not having as much fun, and I know that this Olympic Games,” she continued starting to weep, “I wanted it to be for myself.

“I was still doing it for other people, so it hurts my heart that doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.”

More to come on this story.

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