- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2008

Candace Parker was 10 years old when she watched Lisa Leslie win her first Olympic gold medal in Atlanta.

Twelve years later, Parker will get a chance to help her Los Angeles Sparks teammate win an unprecedented fourth straight gold in the Beijing Olympics.

“I was sitting on my couch watching the 1996 Olympics with tears in my eyes saying, ‘I’m going to be there one day,’” Parker said.

They were two of the nine players placed on the U.S. women’s basketball team yesterday. The announcement came at Verizon Center before the Sparks played the Mystics in a WNBA game.

Also on the team are Olympic veterans Katie Smith, Tina Thompson, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird. This will be Smith’s third Olympics. Cappie Pondexter, Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles will make their Olympic debuts.

“These nine players are no-brainers,” U.S. Olympic coach Anne Donovan said. “It’s so exciting to have these nine players officially named to the team. It’s such a great mixture of Olympic gold medalists with some really tremendous young talent.”

Choosing the last three players won’t be as easy. They will be chosen from the remaining pool of 20 and possible candidates include Kara Lawson, Swin Cash, Lindsey Harding and Lindsay Whalen.

Ginobili plans to play

SAN ANTONIO - San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili said he expects his injured ankle to be healed by the time he and Argentina’s national team begin the defense of their 2004 gold medal in the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

“It’s something that I am looking forward to, and of course at the same time I want to get ready [and] healthy to try to defend it,” Ginobili said.

Practices for the team don’t begin until early July, meaning Ginobili will have more than a month to let his ankle recover. The Olympics are Aug. 8-24.

“Yesterday I got an injection to get the swelling off of the joint, and they told me that in a week, 10 days I’ll be totally fine,” Ginobili said. “So I trust them and I think I’m going to be perfectly healed.”

Ginobili hurt his left ankle early in the playoffs and it clearly hampered him in the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. After averaging 18.2 and 21.3 points in the first two series against Phoenix and New Orleans, Ginobili’s output fell to 12.6 points against Los Angeles.

Ginepri close to spot

PARIS - Robby Ginepri’s stay at the French Open is lasting longer than anticipated, and his travel schedule for August has been scrambled, too.

He’s Beijing-bound.

Ginepri clinched a berth on the U.S. Olympic team by winning three matches this week at Roland Garros. Yesterday he became the lone American to reach the fourth round, beating Florent Serra 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Ginepri is projected to climb from 88th into the top 60 in the next rankings, and the cutoff for making the men’s singles draw is expected to be in the mid-70s. Olympic slots will be filled based on the rankings of June 9, the day after the French Open.

“I’m definitely pleased to have the opportunity to play,” Ginepri said. “It wasn’t on the prior schedule, so we’re going to have to sit down and probably rearrange some things.”

James Blake and Sam Querrey will also play singles for the United States in Beijing, and the top-ranked doubles team of Mike and Bob Bryan will make the squad.

The U.S. women’s team is expected to include Venus and Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Ashley Harkleroad and top-ranked doubles player Liezel Huber. The Williams sisters are likely to play doubles together as well as singles.

Brazil claims edge

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil’s sports minister cited the country’s economic boom and the success of the 2007 Pan American Games as reasons why Rio de Janeiro should be picked to play host to the 2016 Olympics.

Orlando Silva leaves tomorrow for Athens, where the International Olympic Committee will release a short list Wednesday of the finalists bidding for the 2016 games.

Rio’s main competitors are Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid; while Czech capital Prague; Doha, Qatar; and Baku, Azerbaijan, are also bidding.

“The PanAm games were a great success and gave Rio credibility,” Silva told the Associated Press. “The installations were Olympic standard. Transportation, health, security, food, everything worked very well and was highly praised.”

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