Javier Fernandez wins upset World Championship; top American fourth

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Javier Fernandez became the first Spaniard to win a World Figure Skating Championship, knocking off Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu in Shanghai on Saturday.

Fernandez, who grew up training on a Madrid ice rink that is now a restaurant, overcame a 2.46-point deficit from the short program to beat Hanyu by 2.82 after the free skate. Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten earned bronze (full results here).

“I still don’t believe it,” Fernandez said (video here of his interview). “To beat Yuzu, the Olympic champion, one time, is unbelievable. I don’t know if it’s going to ever happen again.”

U.S. champion Jason Brown was the top American in fourth, 19.43 points behind Ten, after taking ninth at the Sochi Olympics. That’s the best finish by a U.S. man since Evan Lysacek won gold in 2009.

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Fernandez, 23, landed two quadruple jumps and fell on another in his free skate. Hanyu, too, fell on a quad attempt and landed no four-revolution jumps. He failed in a bid to become the first Japanese to repeat as World champion.

“Honestly speaking, I feel really, really frustrated,” Hanyu said, according to the Japan Times. “But right until the very, very end, I am happy I could give it my all on this rink — especially on this rink [where Hanyu suffered a scary warm-up collision in November].”

Fernandez came through to make history for his nation, which has won two Winter Olympic medals, both in Alpine skiing, the last in 1992.

At the Sochi Olympics, Fernandez fell from third place after the short program to fourth overall and said he felt sad he couldn’t bring a medal home for his country.

One month later, Fernandez won his second straight World Championships bronze medal and took silver at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona in December. Hanyu, who shares a coach in two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, won both of those competitions.

On Saturday, Hanyu could be seen clapping for Fernandez when the Spaniard’s winning score came up. Fernandez covered the sides of his head in his hands in shock.

“We’re teammates; in the competition we’re still rivals,” Fernandez said. “Yuzu just told me that he was happy for me. He even dropped a couple of tears.”

RELATED: U.S. women rebound in free skate, but medal drought continues

The U.S. men finished fourth (Brown), eighth (Adam Rippon) and 11th (Joshua Farris). The top two U.S. men’s finishes needed to add up to 13 or fewer to keep three spots for the 2016 Worlds. Brown and Rippon’s finishes added up to 12.

Brown, 20 and the youngest U.S. champion since 2004, in his Worlds debut finished the highest of any man not doing quads.

“It’s crazy to be fourth in the world,” Brown said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I couldn’t ask for anything more right now. I skated the best that I could in those moments, and it’s nice to walk away as fourth in the world.”

Rippon, in his third Worlds appearance and first since 2012, improved from 11th after the free skate but had no quad or triple-triple jump combination Saturday.

“I felt free out there,” Rippon said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “Maybe a little bit too free, making that mistake on the quad. I never gave up throughout the program. Coming away, I’m happy to be in the top 10.”

Farris, in his Worlds debut, moved up two spots to finish 11th. He fell on a quad attempt, two days after falling on a triple Axel in his short program.

Farris said he prepared for the free skate by crying a little bit with a coach after his 13th-place short program.

“I didn’t want to replicate what I’ve done in past competitions after a bad short program,” Farris said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “It was far from perfect, but it was a step.”

The U.S. can enter three men at the 2016 World Championships in Boston. Brown, Rippon and Farris could be challenged for those spots by 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron and four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott, should Abbott continue competing.

Men’s Results
Gold: Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 273.90
Silver: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 271.08
Bronze: Denis Ten (KAZ) — 267.72
4. Jason Brown (USA) — 248.29
8. Adam Rippon (USA) — 229.71
11. Joshua Farris (USA) — 223.04

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva ponders quad after dominant Worlds

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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