Ted Ligety struggles in first race of season (video)

Ted Ligety
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Ted Ligety‘s quest for a fourth straight season-opening win in Soelden, Austria, went awry in his second giant slalom run. Instead, Marcel Hirscher, his biggest rival and the world’s best overall skier, won on home snow Sunday.

Ligety, the Olympic, World and World Cup giant slalom champion, fell from second place behind Hirscher after the first run to 10th after the second, his worst result in eight Soelden appearances.

“I’m happy with where my skiing is,” Ligety said. “I’m not panicking or anything. It would have been really easy to get second place today. I could’ve won.”

Hirscher won by 1.58 seconds over German Fritz Dopfer. France’s Alexis Pinturault was third. Ligety was 3.02 seconds back.

“I’m super happy and wish you all a great party today,” Hirscher, the first Austrian man to win Soelden since 2005, told an adoring crowd on a national holiday.

Ligety aimed to become the first man to win Soelden four times. He and Austrian Hermann Maier are the only men to win three times. But Ligety lost substantial time on a mistake during his second run.

“A big bobble at the bottom,” U.S. coach Sasha Rearick said. “Sounds like he hit a pretty big rock and knocked off some edge. Once you do that, you can’t get speed on the ski. That’s critical for Ted’s style of skiing.”

Ligety now faces a deficit in the World Cup giant slalom standings, looking up at Hirscher. Last season, Ligety and Hirscher tied for first place in the World Cup giant slalom standings, with Ligety winning the crystal globe due to a tiebreaker.

Ligety’s hope at least the last two years has been to close the gap on Hirscher in the World Cup overall standings. Instead, Hirscher may be closing the gap on Ligety in the giant slalom. Hirscher is the world’s best slalom skier and three-time reigning World Cup overall champion.

Six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller skipped the season opener due to back problems. Another American, Tim Jitloff, was 26th on Sunday.

The Alpine skiing World Cup continues with women’s and men’s slaloms in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 15 and 16.

Video: Shiffrin wins first World Cup GS in tie

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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