Brazil coasts past China to win women’s soccer opener

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

While much has been made about the pressure on the Brazilian men to win the country’s first gold medal in soccer, the women are also searching for their breakthrough in that regard. Wednesday afternoon Brazil opened its account in Rio with an impressive 3-0 win over China at the Olympic Stadium, with Monica’s goal in the 36th minute standing as the match winner.

Monica’s header from just inside of the penalty spot found its way through three Chinese defenders, with keeper Zhao Lina being caught well off her line. After being caught on their heels to start the match China rebounded well late in the first half, mounting a challenge on the Brazilian goal and that carried over into the early stages of the second half. However they were unable to get one past Brazil keeper Barbara, and in the 59th minute the hosts extended their lead to 2-0.

Getting onto a ball lofted over China’s back line, Marta found Andressa Alves with a cross that the latter put into the goal on her first touch. Andressa Alves has been quite productive for Brazil over the last year, with her goal Wednesday being the ninth she’s scored at the international level since the beginning of 2015.

Brazil tacked on an third goal just before second half stoppage time, as Cristiane headed in a free kick to provide the final margin. Already the holder of the record for most goals scored in Olympic competition by a female, Cristiane is now tied with Denmark’s Sophus Nielsen (1908, 1912 Summer Olympics) for the most goals scored by an Olympic soccer player male or female.

Brazil (1-0-0; 3 points) takes on Sweden, which beat South Africa 1-0 in the first game of the day, 9:00 p.m. Saturday night in their second group match. China (0-0-1; 0 points) will look to rebound from their loss with a win over South Africa Saturday, with that match scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

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

Teri McKeever

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

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 Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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