India badminton star is world’s top paid female athlete outside tennis

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Pusarla Venkata Sindhu of India— known as PV — turned a silver medal two years ago in badminton at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics into millions of dollars in endorsements.

She’s the favorite to win gold at the Asian Games, though even that result may not yield the same windfall.

The magazine Forbes lists her as the seventh highest-earning female athlete in the world with an income of about $8.5 million — more than 90 percent from endorsements. And almost all from her success in Brazil.

She’s second at home in sports earnings only to India cricket captain Virat Kohli.

Tennis star Serena Williams headed the Forbes list of top earners in women’s sports, but Sindhu is ranked higher than the No. 1-ranked player on the WTA Tour, Simona Halep of Romania.

“To be in the list is a great feeling because everybody compares you with other players — the big shots,” she said Saturday after beating Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia 21-12, 21-15 to reach the quarterfinals.

“Many are coming to me saying now you are a millionaire,” she said, breaking into a nervous laugh. She joked that she now ranks with “the legends.”

India has a dearth of female sports stars, so Sindhu’s success has triggered lots of interest from sponsors.

Another factor driving her marketability is India’s previous lack of success in the Olympics.

India has won only one Olympic gold medal in an individual sport. That was with shooter Abhinav Bindra in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The other eight gold medals all came in field hockey, a team event.

India won only two medals in Rio — Sindhu’s silver and Sakshi Malik’s bronze in women’s freestyle wrestling.

Saina Nehwal, a former No. 1-ranked badminton player, cheered Sindhu’s ascent.

“I’m happy with what I’m earning, and she is happy with what she’s earning,” Nehwal said.

Sindhu knows she’s growing the game at home.

“Badminton as a sport has been increasing a lot,” Sindhu said. “Everybody wants to play badminton right now in India.”

There are a million reasons.

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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 with redactions.

“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
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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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