Maya DiRado swimming for last shot at 1st Olympics

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Maya DiRado is peaking at just the right time to make her first – and last – Olympic swimming team.

The late bloomer is swimming some of the fastest times of her career heading into her third U.S. trials, and yet at 23, she’s poised to call it quits no matter what happens starting Sunday in Omaha.

DiRado’s goal is to finish off her career in Rio de Janeiro. But if she doesn’t qualify, she’ll be equally content hanging up her suit and cap to start the business analyst job waiting for her this fall in Atlanta.

“It’s so much easier to be excited about all of this and give it everything I have when I know that this is my last go-through,” she said Saturday. “I think it’s a sign that my preparation this year has been really good and that I’m ready to move on to something new.”

Before she does, DiRado kicks off the trials in the 400-meter individual medley on Sunday. Her competition includes Katie Ledecky, who emerged as a star four years ago at trials, when DiRado finished fourth in the event. She also finished fourth in the 200 IM that year. Only the top two make the Olympic team.

“You can’t get into too much how everybody else swims that race,” she said. “I just have to make sure all my strokes are firing and put together the best 400 that I can have.”

DiRado’s other events at trials are the 200 IM, 200 backstroke and possibly 200 freestyle.

Having started swimming at age 6, DiRado made national teams and incrementally improved, but it wasn’t until the last two years that she stamped herself as a medal contender. She won a silver in the 400 IM at last year’s world championships in Russia, and gold and silver in the IM events at the Pan Pacific championships in 2014.

“It’s always been a little bit better, a little bit better,” she said. “There have been some years where it hasn’t gotten better but it’s just like steps forward. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to keep improving; I know that doesn’t happen for everybody.”

Unlike so many swimmers, the trials aren’t the be-all and end-all for DiRado. She’s already lined up the next phase of her life with her husband and new job. The couple plans to travel to London and Paris at the end of August, allowing DiRado to ponder future meals in Paris, including how many croissants she can devour without consequence.

“Obviously, I’m super focused on the meet right now, and I’m really excited to swim,” she said, “but it’s just so nice to have that break and knowing that life goes on after this eight days, and hopefully the next month or so.”

DiRado graduated from Stanford with a degree in management science and engineering, and she admits that spending the last two years as a professional swimmer hasn’t exactly taxed her brain. The daily routine of practice, napping and watching TV bored her.

“After a couple months of that you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can feel my brain atrophying,’ and it was really hard,” she said. “At one point, I was like, ‘Well, if I keep swimming, was Stanford the most stressed my brain was ever going to get?’ And that totally freaked me out.”

To combat the lack of intellectual stimulation, DiRado read a lot and did coding exercises provided by husband Rob Andrews, a software engineer she met when both were swimming in college. She also did online training to prepare for her future job with McKinsey & Company, a high-powered management consulting firm that once employed Chelsea Clinton.

“My fellow class of BAs that are coming in are really supportive and wished me good luck,” she said.

DiRado plans to leave the San Francisco Bay area, where she’s spent her entire life, and move to Atlanta with her husband after their European vacation.

“That’s part of the reason I’ve been able to stay relatively calm and sane this year is just knowing that I have Rob,” she said. “I have that support and that love, and it’s going to be fine.”

MORE: For Michael Phelps at Olympic Trials, nothing is a lock

Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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