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The Best 21-Year-Old Slovenian Athlete Isn’t Luka Doncic – The Ringer

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The Ringer, as a media concern, is known for many things: feature writing, TV criticism, polarizing food takes, occasionally waylaying passing pleasure yachts and press ganging their passengers to crew our pirate galleons. The usual.

But among our most celebrated functions is as a clearinghouse for basketball takes. And few current NBA players, if any, are as celebrated as Luka Doncic. Doncic, to the uninitiated, is a cherubic 21-year-old Slovenian guard for the Dallas Mavericks. He won NBA Rookie of the Year in the 2018-19 season and very nearly averaged a triple-double in 2019-20. Doncic is an undeniably exciting player, a willing outside shooter and audacious passer who’s not only capable of putting up 43 points, 17 rebounds, and 13 assists in a playoff game—which he actually did against the Clippers last month—but doing so with a panache and joie de vivre that recalls Meadowlark Lemon pulling down an opponent’s pants.

The Ringer so admires the young Dallas star that our in-house music composition arm, Ice2Ice, even created an anthem in his honor: the chart-topping 2018 crossover hit, “Halleluka.”

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But what if I told you … [pulls sunglasses down bridge of nose] … that Luka Doncic is not the best male 21-year-old Slovenian athlete going right now? That the true breakout hero of Slovenia is a man about half Doncic’s size, who is currently making his way up a remote Alpine road on a bicycle?

Friends, this is Tadej Pogacar, the Luka Doncic of cycling.

Pogacar has been an up-and-coming name on the cycling circuit for a few years now. In 2018, as a teenager competing in cycling’s second division, Pogacar won the Tour de l’Avenir, the de facto junior Tour de France. A year later, he debuted on the UCI World Tour, the highest level of men’s road cycling, with Team UAE Emirates. In May, he took a general classification win at the Tour of California, then in September followed it up by winning three stages at the Vuelta a Espana and finishing third. In doing so, Pogacar became one of the 10 youngest podium finishers in the century-long history of grand tour racing.

This is not merely a path to superstardom, it’s the path to superstardom. In 2017, a 20-year-old Colombian named Egan Bernal won the Tour de l’Avenir. The following summer, he won the Tour of California and impressed in his debut grand tour appearance, in which he helped teammate Geraint Thomas to overall victory. And in 2019, Bernal won La Grande Boucle itself, sneaking past Thomas and wearing the yellow jersey into Paris.

Pogacar could very well do the same this year. With four competitive stages left in the Tour, Pogacar sits in second place, 40 seconds behind race favorite and fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic in the general classification. On Stage 9, Pogacar made it through a rolling, mountainous course with the leaders, then out-sprinted Bernal, Roglic, and rising Swiss star Marc Hirschi to become the youngest Tour de France stage winner since Lance Armstrong in 1993. On Stage 15, a climb up the Col du Grand Colombier, Pogacar likewise burst out to beat Roglic to the summit.

These attacks are characteristic of Pogacar, and part of what makes him such an exciting rider to watch. Where Bernal is at his best grinding opponents to dust over long climbs, leaving a trail of gasping, defeated men in his wake, Pogacar is a slightly bigger, more powerful rider. (Only in the warped world of cycling is 5-foot-9 and 146 pounds considered “bigger.”) Grand tour contenders usually try to weigh as little as possible, as 10 extra pounds of muscle might as well be 10 pounds of sand when pedaling up a mile in vertical elevation. But Pogacar is not only able to hold serve against the best climbers in the world, he can out-drag his rivals to the line in a sprint and produce an explosive attack off the front of the group with miles left to go.

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This year’s Tour will likely be decided between Wednesday’s climb to the Col de la Loze, the highest summit in the race, and Saturday’s individual time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles, the climb on which four-time Tour winner Chris Froome announced himself as a grand tour contender in 2012. And unlike last year’s race, which was one of the most chaotic of the 21st century, this is pretty much a two-man competition now.

Bernal’s team, Ineos Grenadiers, has in some form or other won seven of the past eight Tours de France, but has all but no-showed in 2020. Bernal himself lost seven minutes to the Slovenians on Stage 15, knocking him out of contention just as the race was heating up. Third-place Rigoberto Uran, riding for American team EF Pro Cycling, has finished second in three grand tours and is a good enough time trialist to hold his own in Stage 20, but can’t keep up with Pogacar and Roglic at their best in the mountains. With the possible exception of sixth-place Richie Porte, who stayed with the Slovenians on the Grand Colombier and is racing his best Tour in years, everyone else is too far behind or not good enough against the clock to threaten Pogacar and Roglic.

The way Pogacar is riding right now, it would take an absolutely imperious opponent to hold him off. But that’s precisely what Roglic represents. Roglic, a 30-year-old former world junior ski jump champion, is distinguished from his competitors by his goatee, tattoos, and impenetrable poker face. With his win on Stage 4, Roglic has now won at least one stage in every grand tour he’s entered—a combination of time trial wins, daring solo breakaways, and hair-raising descents. It was Roglic who beat Pogacar to overall victory in last year’s Vuelta.

Roglic is the best all-around rider in the world, one of the best time trialists in the peloton, and an excellent sprinter for a grand tour contender. Even with Bernal in the peloton, Roglic entered this year’s Tour as the heavy favorite, backed by one of the best supporting casts ever assembled.

Every dominant Tour de France team of the past 25 years has operated what’s known as a “train.” One dominant leader is surrounded by a multitude of support riders who sit at the front of the peloton and drive the bunch at such a fast pace that it’s incredibly difficult for individuals to gain time on an attack. That’s how Lance Armstrong won his seven Tour titles, and Ineos Grenadiers won their seven titles in eight years.

Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma teammates, working in concert, are just as impressive as their leader. Veteran road captain Tony Martin, former Giro d’Italia winner Tom Dumoulin, and former Tour of California champions George Bennett and Robert Gesink were all household names in the cycling world before this season, and Jumbo-Visma also has two of this season’s breakout stars.

Former cyclocross ace Wout van Aert won the prestigious Italian one-day races Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo last month, and in between pulling Roglic across hilly terrain, he’s found time to win two sprint stages for himself in this year’s Tour. And Roglic’s closest helper on tough climbs is 26-year-old American Sepp Kuss, who’s emerged as one of the most explosive climbers on the planet. Last year, while helping Roglic to victory in the Vuelta, he took off to win a stage on his own and slowed down to high-five spectators on the way to the finish.

Roglic has not yet been dropped on a climb at this year’s tour, but that’s not to say he hasn’t been attacked. The only problem for his opponents is that at least one of Kuss or Dumoulin has hung around to the end of every climb, which means that if Pogacar (or Uran or Lopez or former yellow jersey wearer Adam Yates) attacks, Roglic can have a teammate pace him back to the head of the race without expending much energy at all.

Pogacar, by contrast, has climbed up to second place in the race with very little help from his team. UAE Team Emirates was set up for a dual-leader strategy with Pogacar and Fabio Aru, a former Vuelta winner who’s battled illness in recent years and abandoned this year’s race on Stage 9. Jumbo-Visma’s train strategy is designed to isolate the other contenders, and sure enough, by the time van Aert hands off to Dumoulin or Bennett, Pogacar is usually alone—but he’s always been able to hang on.

Based on the events of the past two weeks, the race will be decided on the Stage 20 time trial, which includes 30 kilometers of flat-to-rolling terrain at the start, followed by a six-kilometer stretch that goes up 500 meters in elevation. On a flat course, Roglic would usually be the heavy favorite, but this year’s Slovenian national time trial championship featured similar terrain, and Pogacar beat Roglic by nine seconds on a course less than half as long as the Tour de France time trial. If Pogacar keeps the gap where it is until Saturday, he’ll have a chance to pull off a huge upset.

Not just a huge upset, but the biggest sporting achievement by any young Slovenian this year. Surely that’d be an occasion worthy of celebrating in song.

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Murray leads as Cardinals cruise past Cowboys – TSN

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Maybe Kyler Murray will lose a game on the home field of the Dallas Cowboys one of these days.

It wasn’t going to be on a night when the Arizona quarterback watched the star running back of his hometown team have another night of fumble-itis.

Murray accounted for three touchdowns in his first game back home as a pro, Ezekiel Elliott set up the visiting team’s first two TDs with fumbles and the Cardinals beat the Dallas Cowboys 38-10 on Monday night.

The speedy quarterback who won three high school championships and a Big 12 title at the home of the Cowboys improved to 7-0 as a starter at AT&T Stadium, throwing for two scores despite a rough start through the air and rushing for 74 yards and a TD.

“That’s not easy when that’s what everyone has been talking about all week,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “He’s probably had this one circled on his calendar since it came out. But I thought he handled himself well.”

It was the “Monday Night Football” debut for Murray, a star in high school football-obsessed Texas while playing in the Dallas suburbs, and Kingsbury, who also had a happy first trip to his native Texas as an NFL coach.

“It was fun, brought back a lot of memories,” Murray said. “Felt like I’ve been playing there every Sunday honestly. It’s comfortable, felt good.”

Fired after six seasons at Texas Tech in 2018 without any winning records in Big 12 games, Kingsbury was hired by Arizona soon after and has the Cardinals (4-2) tied for second place in the tough NFC West. Arizona is above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2015, its most recent playoff year.

Andy Dalton had the rest of Dallas’ four turnovers with two interceptions in his first start for the Cowboys in place of injured star Dak Prescott, just down the road from where he had a standout career at TCU.

The nine-year starter in Cincinnati led a come-from-behind victory over the New York Giants in Week 5 after the gruesome-looking compound fracture of Prescott’s right ankle. There wasn’t anything resembling a rally this time.

While the Dallas offence didn’t look anything close to the NFL-leading unit it was with Prescott — and lost the fourth of its five projected starting offensive linemen in four-time All-Pro Zack Martin (first-quarter concussion) — Elliott’s miscues led to the fifth straight game in which the Cowboys have trailed by at least two touchdowns.

The Cowboys (2-4) overcame two of those deficits, which is why they were guaranteed to stay in first place in the woeful NFC East no matter what happened in the last of three straight home games — and a third straight road game for Arizona.

“The record, it is what it is right now, the division is what it is right now, but it’s still early,” Dalton said. “There’s a lot of football left to be played, and for us, we’ve got to improve as a football team.”

Elliott was benched briefly after the two-time rushing champion lost a second fumble in the same game for the first time in his career. He has five fumbles (four lost) already this season — one shy of his career high for an entire season as the NFL’s worst turnover margin dropped to minus-12 with four giveaways and no takeaways.

Murray was playing in the $1.2 billion stadium with the retractable roof and giant video board for the first time since leading Oklahoma over rival Texas there in the Big 12 championship game.

While the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner misfired on eight of his first 11 passes and finished 9 of 24 for 188 yards, Murray hit Christian Kirk in stride on an 80-yard touchdown for a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.

“It wasn’t as good as it should have been,” said Murray, who tied Jim Hart’s 1968 franchise season record for QBs with his sixth rushing TD. “Wasn’t as accurate as I should have been. Wasn’t up to par for my standards, so I’ve got to be better.”

Kirk opened the scoring on a 6-yard jet sweep that counted as a pass after the first fumble from Elliott. Kenyan Drake scored from the 1 after the second Elliott miscue, while Murray added a 1-yard TD run.

With the game out of hand in the final two minutes, Drake broke free for a 69-yard touchdown run, giving him 164 yards.

CAPTAIN KIRK

A former Texas A&M standout, Kirk came in with two 100-yard games and five touchdowns in three wins over Arkansas at the home of the Cowboys. Both of his catches in this game were for scores.

“When the bright lights come on, the cream of the crop rises,” Kirk said. “It’s something about big moments, the level of play always elevates. It’s just rising to the occasion.”

INJURIES

Martin was briefly injured and returned, then went out for good after taking a knee to the helmet. Second-year player Connor McGovern took his spot, leaving left guard Connor Williams as the only preseason starter still in the lineup.

PANDEMIC CROWD

The Cowboys have had fans at all four home games, with the biggest so far (barely) at 25,174 against the Cardinals. While it was the most coronavirus-friendly setting so far with the retractable roof open for the first time, TV shots showed plenty of fans without masks over their noses. Dallas is filling about 31% of the 80,000-seat stadium. The state allows up to 50%.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Seattle at home Sunday to start a stretch of three straight home games that is also scheduled to include the bye, meaning Arizona won’t be on the road for a month barring COVID-19 changes.

Cowboys: Washington on Sunday in the first of two consecutive road games against NFC East opponents.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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U.S., Britain call out Russian hacking spree, cyberattacks against Olympics – CNBC

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U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division John Demers speaks at a news conference at the Department of Justice, in Washington, U.S., October 19, 2020.
Andrew Harnik | Reuters

Britain and the United States on Monday condemned what they said were a litany of malicious cyberattacks orchestrated by Russian military intelligence, including attempts to disrupt next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

British and U.S. officials said the attacks were conducted by Unit 74455 of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, also known as the Main Centre for Special Technologies.

In an indictment unsealed on Monday, the U.S. Justice Department said six members of the unit had played key roles in attacks on targets ranging from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to the 2017 French elections. The charges covered four years of malicious cyber activity, from 2015 to 2019.

British officials said the GRU hackers had also conducted “cyber reconnaissance” operations against organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Games, which were originally scheduled to be held this year but postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The officials declined to give specific details about the attacks or whether they were successful, but said they had targeted Games organisers, logistics suppliers and sponsors.

Justice Department Assistant Attorney General John Demers declined to discuss the more recent attacks against the 2020 Games.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The GRU’s actions against the Olympic and Paralympic Games are cynical and reckless. We condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said: “The FBI has repeatedly warned that Russia is a highly capable cyber adversary, and the information revealed in this indictment illustrates how pervasive and destructive Russia’s cyber activities truly are.”

A poster showing six wanted Russian military intelligence officers is displayed before a news conference at the Department of Justice, on October 19, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Andrew Harnik | Getty Images

Russia was banned from the world’s top sporting events for four years in December over widespread doping offences, including the Tokyo Games which were originally scheduled for this year but postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The attacks on the 2020 Games are the latest in a string of hacking attempts against international sporting organisations that Western officials and cybersecurity experts say have been orchestrated by Russia since its doping scandal erupted five years ago. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Britain and the United States said on Monday the hackers were involved in other attacks, such as the hack of the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in South Korea, which compromised hundreds of computers, took down Internet access and disrupted broadcast feeds.

The attack in South Korea had previously been linked to Russia by cybersecurity researchers but was made to look like the work of Chinese or North Korean hackers, Britain’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The attacks on the 2020 Summer Games are the latest in a campaign of Russian malicious activity against the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” it said.

“The UK is confirming for the first time today the extent of GRU targeting of the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea.”

Other offensive cyber operations allegedly conducted by the GRU officers since 2015, according to the Justice Department, included the global cyberattack known as NotPetya.

In 2017, destructive NotPetya malware spread globally out of Ukraine, infecting and locking up thousands of computers belonging to major corporations. Experts say NotPetya caused upwards of $1 billion in losses. At the time, companies publicly affected by NotPetya included FedEx Corporation and pharmaceutical giant Merck.

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Coach K Told A Kobe Bryant Story About 2008 Olympics That Proves The Mamba’s Competitive Level Was Unmatched – BroBible

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There are two athletes in the past 30+ years who proved to be next level in their preparation and obsession to compete: Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. With 11 NBA championships between them, “The Black Mamba” and “His Airness” were unmatched in their relentless drive, going above and beyond in order to win at all costs. It’s why they’re two of the best ballers to ever lace ’em up — and why people truly believe in the “Mamba Mentality” implemented by Kobe.

While we got a behind-the-scenes look at Jordan’s mentality during this year’s amazing documentary, The Last Dance, following the tragic death of Bryant in January, we’ve been getting a bunch of stories about what made him so unique and what drove him. Similar to MJ, Kobe was different, man, and had a desire that just couldn’t be duplicated.

In the latest example of that, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who also guided Team USA to the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, sat down with The Old Man and the Three with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter to talk shop. Naturally, Kobe Bryant came up, with Coach K telling an awesome story about the Lakers superstar taking on the challenge of shutting down the best scorer on every opposing team America played during the tournament.

Considering Bryant averaged 28.3 points a game during the 2007-08 season prior to the Olympics, it’s wild to hear Coach K talk about the guy’s willingness to try and stop another player from scoring instead of scoring himself. But, hey, that’s part of what made Kobe Bryant so incredible: His desire and mindset.

Here’s a snippet from the interview Coach K did during his time on The Old Man and the Three with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter podcast a few days ago.

“‘I need to ask you a favor. I want to guard the best perimeter defender on every team that we play.’

“Now, he’s the NBA scoring champ. He’s the best player in the league at that time. He had seven 50-point games that year. And he knew that he’d have to change a little bit to be a leader.”

“He pauses and, you know, his eyes, he and Jordan had the same eyes; they killed you with their eyes. And he leans forward and says, ‘Coach, I promise you I’ll destroy them.’ So I thought, ‘holy shit,’ this is good.

“So we go and have a team meeting, and, in the first practice, he doesn’t take a shot. He does not take one shot.”

“I call him over afterwards and he said, ‘Coach, I promised you, I’ll destroy them.’ And I said, look, you’ll destroy teams offensively… will you shoot the friggin’ ball? And he said from then on that I was the only coach, ever, to ask him to shoot.

“You know what he was doing, JJ? He knew that, for us to win the gold medal, we would have to beat Argentina, whether it be the semis or the Gold Medal Game, and that he wanted to guard Ginobili. Believe me, he already had that figured out. And he was going to prepare to guard Ginobili.”

You can watch the entire interview with Coach K below, which dives into a lot about the legendary Duke coach’s career, as well as some of his experiences around the great Kobe Bryant.

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(H/T The Spun)

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