U.S. figure skaters mixed on adding lyrics for next season

Jason Brown
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Figure skaters have the option of performing to vocal music with lyrics next season, but top U.S. skaters aren’t committing to change just yet.

Olympians Jason BrownGracie Gold and Polina Edmunds said they would stick to music without lyrics for next season.

“I have no idea how people are going to utilize it and what they’re going to do,” Brown said, taking a wait-and-see approach.

Brown’s coach, Kori Ade, told The New York Times in February that she thought the idea would come off “really corny” and was afraid people would attempt it poorly, making the sport “look even stupider.”

The reigning U.S. champion Gold said she wants to see how judges react to the skaters who do skate to vocal music before she gives it a shot.

“We’ll let people experiment before me,” Gold said, “but maybe in a couple years.”

Edmunds said she had not thought about the new International Skating Union rule, which goes into effect for men, women and pairs. It had already been allowed in ice dance.

“But I think I’m going to keep it the classic way,” Edmunds said. “I think it’ll be interesting to see what everyone does with it.”

Two-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner, with more senior experience than Brown, Gold and Edmunds, said she hasn’t decided if she will embrace the change yet.

“I think that it really is going to require a fine balance,” she said. “It needs to be done tastefully. I’m just so traditional when it comes to figure skating. Yeah, it’ll be awesome to have that extra choice. We’ll see. I think it would be really cool to bring some classic rock in with the lyrics. That would be really awesome. It would bring in a new crowd to figure skating.”

One skater bursting with excitement is Josh Farris, the 2013 world junior champion who finished fourth at the U.S. Championships in January. Farris is considering John Mayer or Jason Mraz songs.

“I really want to [skate to lyrics],” he said. “I’ve been talking with my coaches about it. I think it’s a great idea. I want to do something that’s light hearted.”

But Farris also cautioned.

“I think I need to get opinions of the officials,” he said.

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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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