WATCH LIVE: Men’s 50 free, women’s 200 back among Thursday’s qualifying heats

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Preliminary heats in four swimming competitions will be held Thursday afternoon, beginning with the ultimate sprint that is the 50 meter free. The men hit the pool in this event Thursday, with Americans Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin among those looking to qualify for the semifinal round. Also in the competition is France’s Florent Manaudou, the reigning Olympic champion in the 50 meter free.

The 11 men’s 50 free heats will be followed by four heats in the women’s 800 free, an event won by American Katie Ledecky in London four years ago. Ledecky’s back to defend her gold medal, with silver medalist Mireia Belmonte Garcia also swimming in the qualifying heats. Leah Smith, who swam on the United States’ 4×200 free relay gold medal team with Ledecky, is also competing in the 800 free and Great Britain’s Jazz Carlin is also expected to contend for a medal.

WATCH LIVE: Men’s 50 free, women’s 800 free, men’s 100 butterfly, women’s 200 back preliminary heats — 12 p.m. Eastern

Michael Phelps will be swimming in the 100 butterfly, an event he’s won in each of the last three Olympic Games. South Africa’s Chad le Clos will also be swimming in the 100 butterfly, and it will be interesting to see what his mindset is after drifting out of medal contention in the 200 butterfly after spending so much time focusing on Phelps. The final qualifying heats will be in the women’s 200 back, with Americans Missy Franklin and Maya DiRado among the medal contenders in the field.

Franklin won gold in this event four years ago, and Australians Emily Seebohm and Belinda Hocking and Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu are among the other competitors expected to contend.

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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