Olympic figure skating stars discuss Pyeongchang plans

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SOCHI, Russia – With figure skating complete at the 2014 Olympic Games, the biggest stars of the sport are unsure of what’s next – or if they’ll be in Pyeongchang four years from now.

“I don’t know how to explain what I’m going to do,” said Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova through an interpreter. “We can’t predict the future. We want to take it one step at a time, so we’re not thinking about the Olympics.”

Sotnikova’s controversial upset win over South Korea’s Yuna Kim created a media storm. The day after she bubbled with excitement at a press conference, she was less definitive about the future of her career in an interview with NBCOlympics.com.

“I don’t know [if I’ll go to Pyeonchang],” the 17-year-old added. “Maybe. I would like to start to prepare for the next Olympic Games in one or two years. Right now I’m just happy because I won this gold medal for my country.”

Ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White were unable to say what their future plans were, including if they would compete at the World Championships next month in Japan. The same went for their rivals and training partners, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won the Olympic silver behind the Americans.

Yet Gracie Gold, the 18-year-old Chicago native who works with legendary coach Frank Carroll, was more forthcoming with her plans – and expectations.

RELATED: Frank Carroll is at another Olympics

“I want to finish off this season with a really strong World Championships,” Gold said after the gala exhibition. “I would like to win gold there and I think it’s a real possibility. We’ll sit down after and see what we can accomplish in the next four years.”

The reigning U.S. champion was fourth at the Olympics in singles after helping Team USA to bronze in the inaugural team event.

“Everyone has their dreams,” said Gold. “I don’t write my dreams down; they just live inside of me. My immediate goal is a medal, if not the gold in Pyeongchang. So much can change in four years, so I’ll just have to stick around.”

Gold, as well as teammates Ashley Wagner (22) and Polina Edmunds (15) have said they’ll stick around to try and qualify for Pyeongchang, as well.

Japan’s Mao Asada, who placed sixth after a disappointing short program put her in 16th, said she wasn’t sure if she’d make a third Olympic appearance.

“This time, my heart is very tired,” the 23-year-old, who won silver in Vancouver, told NBCOlympics.com. “My first Olympics I just wanted the gold medal, but this one was for me.”

Russia boasts a strong ladies crop – all under 18. In addition to Sotnikova, 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya helped the team win gold earlier in the Games before placing fifth in the individual competition. Yelena Radiyonova, who turned 15 last month, was unable to compete in Sochi because of age restrictions.

“We have a very strong team for the next four years,” said Russian ice dancer Nikita Katsalapov, who won bronze with partner Yelena Ilinykh.

Bronze medalist Carolina Kostner, in her third Olympics, cautioned over-planning – or looking too far ahead.

“I think the best thing to do is to take it step by step,” said the 27-year-old Italian. “All you can do is try and improve on the little things season by season and that helps you make the big step.”

The bronze medalist in the men’s event, 20-year-old Denis Ten, was more sure of where he would be in four years’ time.

“I’m going to keep skating and expect that I’ll only get better and better. This isn’t my limit, I don’t think,” said Ten, who is also coached by Frank Carroll. “My dream is to go to Pyeongchang. It seems like four years are so far away but time will fly. At this moment I have nothing to say, but as the Olympics get closer, I’m sure I’ll have thoughts.”

“It starts now,” said Virtue, the Canadian ice dancer. “There’s always room for adaptation, but making a plan for Korea and then heading in that direction is the way to go.”

Her teammate, men’s silver medalist Patrick Chan, agreed.

“I wouldn’t suggest anyone looking four years ahead,” said the three-time world champion, who lost the gold to Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu. “How many times have people planned so far ahead and things didn’t turn out right? When you start thinking about the future you start doubting and wondering and stressing. You should approach it year by year.”

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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