Mirai Nagasu reminded of painful memories in Boston return

Mirai Nagasu
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BOSTON — The memories Mirai Nagasu would like to forget fell on her like a curtain when she stepped on the ice at TD Garden on Monday.

“I had a moment of obvious insecurities,” she said after stepping off 35 minutes later, “because it is a hard place to skate for me.”

Nagasu will perform this week at the same arena where she placed a surprisingly strong third at the January 2014 U.S. Championships, but, 13 hours later, did not hear her name called for the three-woman Sochi Olympic team.

Ashley Wagner, who was fourth at the 2014 U.S. Championships, did make the Olympic team due to her strong national and international results in recent seasons, criteria laid out by U.S. Figure Skating well in advance of the competition.

“I did skate two strong programs [in 2014], but I did have some upsetting memories here,” Nagasu said. “I had a moment [at Monday’s practice] where I told [coach] Tom [Zakrajsek], ‘There’s a lot going on right now, but I need to focus.’ I need to get back to the present, which is 2016 Worlds. It’s not Nationals anymore.”

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One week ago, Nagasu didn’t know that she would be here.

She just missed this year’s Worlds team by finishing fourth at Nationals in January but learned Wednesday she would replace injured Sochi Olympian Polina Edmunds on the three-woman U.S. team.

“A whole different kind of pressure was put on me,” Nagasu said.

She’s been preparing for at least two weeks, though. Zakrajsek said U.S. Figure Skating alerted them before the World Junior Championships earlier this month that Nagasu may be asked to replace another skater in Boston.

“I’d like to bank on the fact that I’ve been training strong for the whole season,” Nagasu said.

She can also lean on her last competition, a silver-medal performance at the Four Continents Championships in February. She totaled a personal-best score, bettering U.S. champion Gracie Gold, with her highest result in a top-level international event since November 2011.

Nagasu was once the young phenom of U.S. Figure Skating, winning the 2008 Nationals at age 14 and placing fourth at the 2010 Olympics at 16.

One month after the Vancouver Games, Nagasu led the World Championships after the short program, over a field that included Olympic champion Yuna Kim and silver medalist Mao Asada.

But Nagasu came apart in the free skate, falling to seventh overall. When Nagasu skated off the ice then, her then-coach Frank Carroll told her, “You’re not dead.”

It took Nagasu six years to return to the World Championships.

“It’s a whole different arena,” Nagasu visualized Monday. “I want to make new memories.”

MORE: Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold weigh in on U.S. medal drought

Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

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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

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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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