Preview: Kikkan Randall hoping to give U.S. first gold in cross-country skiing

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EVENT SCHEDULE
Tomorrow – Women’s skiathlon, 5 a.m. ET
Sunday – Men’s skiathlon, 5 a.m. ET
Feb. 11 – Men’s/women’s individual sprint, Session One at 5 a.m. ET, Session Two at 7 a.m. ET
Feb. 13 – Women’s 10km classic, 5 a.m. ET
Feb. 14 – Men’s 15km classic, 5 a.m. ET
Feb. 15 – Women’s 4x5km relay, 4:50 a.m. ET
Feb. 16 – Men’s 4x10km relay, 5 a.m. ET
Feb. 19 – Men’s/women’s team sprint, Session One, 4:15 a.m. ET and Session Two at 6:45 a.m. ET
Feb. 22 – Women’s 30 km mass start, 4:30 a.m. ET
Feb. 23 – Men’s 50 km mass start, 2 a.m. ET

TV SCHEDULE
Tomorrow – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. ET)
Sunday – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 2 p.m. ET)
Feb. 11 – 5 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET)
Feb. 13 – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN
Feb. 14 – 5 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN
Feb. 15 – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET)
Feb. 16 – 5 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET)
Feb. 19 – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET)
Feb. 22 – 4:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. ET)
Feb. 23 – 2-6 p.m. ET, NBC

MORE: NBCOlympics.com video – Inside the intense cross-country training

U.S. OUTLOOK
The Americans’ best opportunity for success is on the women’s side. Two-time World Cup individual sprint champion Kikkan Randall (pictured) is a threat to become the first American, man or woman, to win Olympic cross-country gold. Jessie Diggins, who teamed up with Randall to win the 2013 team sprint world championship, could also make an impact in her first Olympics.

As for the men, Simi Hamilton and Andrew Newell are solid sprinters but will have to work hard just to keep within striking distance. Noah Hoffman faces the same scenario in the distance events.

INTERNATIONAL OUTLOOK
Four years ago, Norway took the most overall medals (nine) and gold medals (five) in cross-country skiing. That may occur again in Sochi. Marit Bjorgen and Petter Northug are their main stars, with Bjorgen looking to continue her bid to become the most decorated Winter Olympian ever and Northug itching to add to the two golds he won in Vancouver. Their toughest competition may come from within their own team – such is the depth of the Norwegians.

Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk could challenge but is dealing with a foot injury, while Switzerland’s Dario Cologna is working his way back from tearing a ligament in his right ankle last November. Both won individual golds in Vancouver.

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 with redactions.

“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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