Sam Mikulak can be the busiest U.S. male gymnast at worlds in 39 years

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Sam Mikulak desperately wants his first individual world championships medal. He has five chances next week.

The two-time Olympian and five-time U.S. all-around champion qualified for a handful of finals at worlds in Doha on Friday, the most for a U.S. man since 1979. Thirty-nine years ago, Kurt Thomas earned two golds and three silvers in arguably the greatest single-meet performance by an American man.

“This has been a year and a half of work,” said Mikulak, who was limited last year with a torn Achilles. “This is the most comfortable that I have ever been on this grand of a stage.”

The U.S. qualified in fourth place into Monday’s team final, where China, Japan and Russia are the medal favorites.

Chances are better that Mikulak makes an individual podium, beginning with Wednesday’s all-around final. Mikulak had the third-highest score in qualifying, less than a point behind defending champ Xiao Ruoteng of China and Russian Nikita Nagornyy.

GYM WORLDS: Men’s Qualifying Results | TV/Stream Schedule

The field lacks two-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion Kohei Uchimura, who is not doing all events this year due to an ankle injury. It’s also without the men who last year finished second (China’s Lin Chaopan), fourth (Russian David Belyavskiy), fifth (Cuban Manrique Larduet) and sixth (Brit Nile Wilson).

Mikulak also made next weekend’s apparatus finals on high bar (in second place), pommel horse (fifth), parallel bars (sixth) and floor exercise (eighth and last spot).

The other American to make individual finals was 2017 U.S. all-around champion Yul Moldauer, who fought a bruised bicep to qualify 17th into the 24-man all-around and sixth on floor, where he earned bronze in his worlds debut last year.

All but one of Mikulak’s teammates from the last two Olympics have retired. The one who hasn’t — Rio pommel horse bronze medalist Alex Naddour — has been suspended since June for unspecified reasons.

Enter a new wave on the world team, including Rio Olympic alternate Akash Modi and fellow world championships rookies Alec Yoder and Colin Van Wicklen.

The U.S. men, under the direction of 2004 Olympic silver medalist Brett McClure are trying this Olympic cycle to reach a global podium for the first time since 2014 (a bronze, which happens to be Mikulak’s lone Olympic or world champs medal).

Though he doesn’t have the hardware, Mikulak is experienced among the world’s best.

He qualified second into the all-around final at his first world championships in 2013. He was in third place going into the last rotation of that final, but a high bar error dropped him to sixth place.

He has since finished fourth in Olympic and world high bar finals. He also qualified first into the Rio floor final but ended up eighth.

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

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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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