Yulia Lipnitskaya, 15, wins European Championships

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Fifteen-year-old Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya got the skate she wanted ahead of the Sochi Games at the European Championships Friday, earning her first-ever title there just weeks ahead of the Olympics.

Lipnitskaya cruised by defending champion Carolina Kostner, the Italian, who finished in third. Lipnitskaya’s teammate, 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova was second, scoring a 202.36 to the winner’s 209.72.

Lipnitskaya’s score was the highest of the international season leading into the Sochi Olympics by over two points. Mao Asada, who won three Grand Prix golds, had previously held that mark with her 207.59 at the NHK Trophy in November. Only Lipnitskaya and Asada topped the 200-point mark on the international stage this year.

“I’m very, very happy right now, I don’t even know what to say,” Lipnitskaya told the crowd through a translator. “I hope that I will be able to go to the Olympics now. But as European champion I think I should make the team. I hope for the Olympics my emotions and my skating comes together, and I’ll just show clean skating.”

Skating to “Schindler’s List,” the teenager has found the right balance of elegance and seriousness in a challenging free skate that involves eight triple jumps. She landed all of them Friday evening in Budapest, sending the crowd to its feet when she finished.

Lipnitskaya won two Grand Prix gold medals on the circuit in 2013, bettering the results of teammate Sotnikova. They are both expected to be picked for the Russian Olympic team when that announcement is made shortly after the European Championships.

The pressure may have been higher on Sotnikova, who was seen to be battling for the second Olympic spot with veteran Alena Leonova. But the 23-year-old Leonova stumbled on a triple-double combination and looked tired in the middle of her “Carmen” free skate. She shrugged at the finish, knowing that her effort perhaps was not good enough for a trip to the Olympics. Leonova finished fourth overall.

Kostner, in a backless black dress that she was debuting in Budapest, was a crowd favorite but couldn’t deliver a third title in a row at this competition, falling on a triple toe that she was also called for under-rotating. Kostner won the European Championships in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013.

France’s Mae-Berenice Meite was fifth and Kostner’s teammate Valentina Marchei ended in sixth.

Lipnitskaya becomes the youngest European winner ever. Fellow Russian Irina Slutskaya was 16 when she won the first of her seven European Championships in 1996.

The men’s and pairs free skates are Saturday in Budapest. NBC will air a packaged show of the competition Sunday from 4 to 6 pm ET, which will also be streamed on NBCOlympics.com.

Results
1. Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS) – 209.72
2. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) – 202.36
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA) – 191.39
4. Alena Leonova (RUS) – 178.15
5. Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) 173.37
6. Valentina Marchei (ITA) 165.25

Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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