No Rio double for Allyson Felix after fourth-place finish in 200m final

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Allyson Felix had the star power to change the Olympic schedule.

Now, it’s her schedule that needs adjusting.

Felix’s run at the 200-400 Olympic double, made possible after Olympics officials honored her request for a chance to run both races, came to an earlier-than-expected end Sunday. She finished fourth in the 200-meter final, one spot out of the Rio mix, in a .01-second loss to a sprawling Jenna Prandini at U.S. Track and Field Trials.

“Honestly, disappointed,” said Felix, who will not get a chance to defend her Olympic title in her signature event. “The whole year, that has been what I was working for. When I look back and see everything that happened, I still think it’s quite amazing I was able to make the team.”

She did make the 400-meter lineup, and that is, indeed, quite an accomplishment considering the injury she suffered this spring. After landing awkwardly on an exercise ball while doing core work, she rolled her right ankle.

The injury was so severe she avoided running around the track in the correct, counterclockwise direction until just before trials, for fear she’d put too much outside pressure on her injured ankle.

In track lingo, a sprinter doesn’t necessarily have to be “fast” to succeed in the 400 — a full lap around the track in which technique is more important than pure speed. But in the 200, it takes a more aggressive lean into the curve at the opening of the race — just the sort of practice Felix didn’t get enough of during her slow comeback.

“I could only do what I could with the ankle,” she said.

And so, she started slow, never made up ground against winner Tori Bowie or second-place Deajah Stevens and could not hold off Prandini, the former University of Oregon star who had to wait about 30 seconds to see the result for third place go up on the board. Afterward, she was scraped-up but smiling.

“I don’t know what happened,” Prandini said. “But it got the job done.”

One of Felix’s biggest fans made news earlier in the day: 16-year-old Sydney McLaughlin became the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic track team since 1980 when she finished third in the 400-meter hurdles.

Not bad for the junior out of Union Catholic High School in New Jersey, who turned on the Beijing Olympics eight years ago, saw Felix winning the 4×400 relay and thought, “I’d like to be like her, someday.”

Asked what she loved most about Felix, McLaughlin said: “She wasn’t afraid to lose.”

“Sometimes, I get so caught up in the fact that I hadn’t lost a hurdles race, and I come here, and these girls are faster than me,” said McLaughlin, who admitted to being so nervous earlier in the week she considered pulling out of the meet. “It’s realizing that sometimes you have to lose to get better.”

It happened to Felix plenty over the years, none more heartbreakingly than in Athens and Beijing, where she settled for back-to-back silvers in an event she had dominated.

But she won gold in 2012.

And with track and field desperate for some star power in a sport now headlined by Usain Bolt and a worldwide doping crisis, a scheduling change that would double the track time for one of America’s most popular runners was a no-brainer.

But U.S. trials don’t guarantee anything, and on Sunday, a few more potential medal contenders — including 400-meter hurdlers Johnny Dutch and Bershawn Jackson — also saw some dreams end early.

Felix is still going to Rio de Janeiro. But with more free time on her hands than originally planned.

“I’m pretty sure everyone expected to see her on the (200) team,” Bowie said. “I’m pretty sure it won’t be the same without her.”

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

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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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