Five For Friday: May 23, 2014
Natasha Hastings (C) runs to victory in the women's 200-meter open during the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge at Olympic Park on March 22, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.
This weekend marks the beginning of summer with Memorial Day weekend but many American athletes will not partaking in holiday barbecues. Instead, they will be sporting red, white and blue representing Team USA around the globe. U.S. Olympians will be everywhere from the Bahamas to the City of Lights this weekend competing in events such as the IAAF World Relays Championships, the French Open in Paris and World League volleyball. Back on U.S. soil, several basketball Olympians are in the chase for the biggest prize in professional basketball — an NBA championship.
As we ready for this busy weekend, here’s a look at five events to follow:
1) Track & Field
The inaugural IAAF World Relays Championships will deliver plenty of speed.
Olympic champions Sanya Richards-Ross, Dee Dee Trotter, Natasha Hastings and Christian Taylor are among 55 U.S. athletes who are in the relay pools for the event, which will be held Saturday and Sunday at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas.
Richards-Ross, a three-time Olympian, has won at least one gold medal at every Olympic Games in which she has participated. In London, she won gold medals in the women’s 400-meter individual race and 4x400 event. Trotter, also a three-time Olympian, was a relay teammate of Richards-Ross in London.
Taylor, a gold medalist in the triple jump at the London 2012 Olympic Games, was a quarter miler and eight-time Southeastern Conference champion at the University of Florida.
The U.S. men’s 4x400 pool includes 2013 world champions LaShawn Merritt, Tony McQuay and David Verburg; NCAA champion Torrin Lawrence and Taylor. Merritt is a two-time Olympian and McQuay was a silver medalist in the 4x400 at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Other relays in both men’s and women’s competition are 4x100, 4x200, 4x800 and 4x1500. The top eight finishes in the 4x100 and 4x400 will qualify for the 2015 IAAF World Championships.
London 2012 Olympians Mike Rodgers and Trell Kimmons are among the U.S. runners in the 4x100 pool that will challenge Jamaica, which has won the last three world titles and last two Olympic titles.
TV: 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday and 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Universal Sports
Four-time Olympic champion Serena Williams will begin defense of her French Open title Sunday at Roland Garros. Williams,who is ranked No. 1 in the world, is coming off her first clay-court title of the season in the Italian Open in Rome. A thigh injury forced Williams to pull out of the Madrid Open a week earlier, but she lost just one set in the Italian Open and seems primed for a big performance in Paris.
John Isner, a 2012 Olympian, is among the U.S. men in the field. The last American man to win the Grand Slam on clay was Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games gold medalist Andre Agassi in 1999. Bob and Mike Bryan, who won gold medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games, are top contenders in the men‘s doubles tournament. A victory in Paris would give the Bryans their 99th career ATP championship.
TV: Noon-3 p.m. ET Sunday, NBC
The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team, which is ranked No. 4 in the world, begins play in the 2014 FIVB World League tournament Friday in Varna, Bulgaria. The United States, coached by John Speraw, is in the same pool as sixth-ranked Bulgaria, No. 9 Serbia and Olympic champion Russia. After this weekend’s matches, the United States will play host to No. 2 Russia June 6 and 7 in Long Beach. California, Following six weekends of preliminary round play, the top two teams in the pool will advance to the World League Finals July 16-20 in Florence, Italy.
The U.S. roster includes 2012 Olympians Matt Anderson, Sean Rooney, David Lee, Paul Lotman, Reid Priddy and Russell Holmes. “I’m ready to play against opponents that are world class,” Lee said. “I’m excited. I want to go to World League finals again. It’s a great tournament for us to be in to elevate our level.”
4) Water Polo
The playoff round for eight of the world’s best women water polo teams will begin Friday in the FINA Intercontinental Qualification Tournament in Riverside, California. The winners of four quarterfinal matches Friday will meet in the semifinals Saturday. The medal round will take place Sunday at the Riverside Aquatics Complex.
The USA Women’s National Team opened with a pair of preliminary round victories: 14-5 over Japan, 16-5 over Kazakhstan and 12-11 over Canada.
LeBron James, a three-time Olympic medalist, is chasing after a three-peat NBA championship with the Miami Heat. He scored 22 points in the Heat’s 87-83 win over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday and he leads the Heat into Saturday’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals with the best-of-seven series tied at one. Joining him on the Heat roster is fellow Olympian Dwyane Wade.
Two other 2012 Olympians, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, are in a battle with the San Antonio Spurs. The Thunder trails the Spurs two games to none after Wednesday’s 112-77 win by San Antonio. Game 3 is Sunday.
TV: Pacers vs. Heat, 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN; Spurs vs. Thunder, 8:30 p.m. Sunday, TNT