Mikaela Shiffrin sixth in last race of season; eyes speed events in 2018

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Mikaela Shiffrin completed her best season yet with a sixth-place finish in the World Cup Finals giant slalom in Aspen, Colo., on Sunday. Then she looked ahead to expanding her Olympic program.

Shiffrin, the World Cup overall champion, ended up 2.14 seconds behind Italian Federica Brignone at the 37th and last race of the season. Shiffrin was in second place after the first run but struggled in the second run, going 15th-fastest.

“I’m not very satisfied,” Shiffrin said on NBCSN. “I didn’t take enough aggression when I really needed it. It’s a bit of a bummer, but it’s good motivation for next year.”

Italy swept the first three places. Brignone was followed by Sofia Goggia and Marta Bassino.

France’s Tessa Worley placed fifth, wrapping up the giant slalom season title by 85 points over Shiffrin. Shiffrin also took second to Worley in the giant slalom at the world championships in February.

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This season, Shiffrin was once again the world’s best slalom skier, improved to become the second-best giant slalom skier and won her only super combined start.

“I’ve been dreaming about the overall globe,” Shiffrin said. “I just wanted to be the best skier in the world. When you look at the definition of the best skier in the world, the overall globe pops up.”

At 22, she is the youngest World Cup overall champion since Janica Kostelic in 2003, and the fifth American to take home the sport’s biggest annual prize (Phil MahreTamara McKinneyBode MillerLindsey Vonn).

Her 11 World Cup wins are joint-second-most by an American man or woman in one season, trailing only Vonn, who took 12 in the 2011-12 season.

Three medals at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics are possible. One U.S. woman has captured three medals in one Winter Olympics — speed skater Sheila Young in 1976.

The 2017-18 World Cup season will likely start with the traditional opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, in late October.

Shiffrin’s goal next year is to improve in the speed events of super-G and downhill, racing at least one speed event in PyeongChang. She has made five career World Cup super-G starts and two downhills, with a best finish of fourth.

“I still don’t feel like the best skier in the world,” Shiffrin said. “I feel like the best slalom skier, one of the best GS skiers, and I have some work to do in speed. Maybe someday I’ll be the best skier in everything, and then I can really sit back and say, OK, now I’ve done it. But I don’t know if that day will ever come.”

A challenge will be stamina. Shiffrin started 25 of 37 World Cup races this season, skipping the majority of the speed races. Even with that schedule, she noted fatigue in Aspen this weekend.

“You just want to take a nap for three days straight,” Shiffrin said Sunday.

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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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