French fail to break US grip on Olympic basketball; Jepchirchir wins marathon

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
Basketball Brian Snyder POOLAFP
AUG 7, 2021 LISTEN
Brian Snyder POOL/AFP

The United States edged past France 87-82 to claim the Olympic men's basketball gold medal on Saturday, their fourth consecutive title. Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir won a gruelling women's marathon in 2hr 27min 20sec as runners struggled in hot and humid conditions.

NBA All-Star Kevin Durant hailed his team for overcoming adversity Saturday after pouring in a game-high 29 points to lead the United States past France 87-82 for a "beautiful" fourth straight Olympic men's basketball gold medal.

The Americans started slowly but earned a 22-18 lead after the first quarter and were 44-39 ahead at halfway, then survived some nervous late moments.

Gregg Popovich's men had headed to Tokyo after defeats to Nigeria and Australia in lead-up exhibition matches, sparking questions around their global dominance.

They then crashed to seventh-ranked France in their opening group game, their first defeat at an Olympics since the 2004 edition in Athens.

But spearheaded by Durant, they steadied the ship and began gelling, with a French team led by NBA stars Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum unable to repeat their opening match feat in the final.

Durant was once again the US backbone as he joined Carmelo Anthony as a three-time title-winner, both players having been members of the triumphant teams in 2012 and 2016.

He had already reinforced his stature by surpassing his fellow great during group play to become the US all-time leading Olympic points-scorer.

"This one feels good because we went through a lot," said 32-year-old Durant after the match.

"To fight through this adversity against a great team like these guys ... to come together so fast -- it was beautiful to see, it was beautiful to be a part of."

Smiles after the sapping heat of Sapporo

Meanwhile, in the stifling heat of the city of Sapporo, north of Tokyo, Peres Jepchirchir secured back-to-back women's Olympic marathon titles for Kenya on Saturday timing 2hr 27min 20sec.

The 27-year-old two-time half marathon world champion beat compatriot and world record holder Brigid Kosgei (2hr 27:36) whilst USA's Molly Seidel was third (2hr 27:46).

"It feels good. I'm so, so happy because we win as Kenya," said Jepchirchir.

"I'm happy for my family. I'm happy for my country."

Jepchirchir succeeds disgraced fellow Kenyan Jemima Sumgong, who won in 2016 in Rio to become Kenya's first female marathon champion.

However, Sumgong tested positive for the endurance booster EPO in 2017, leading to an eight-year doping ban.

Two hours into Saturday's race the temperature had risen to 30.6°C with 63 percent humidity.

Jipchirchir agreed the conditions had been gruelling.

"It was so hot, it was not easy," she said.

ModernGhana Links