‘I go skiing’: Ledecka chooses Alpine over snowboard worlds

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CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy — After months of agonizing over a decision she would have preferred not to have to make, skier-snowboarder Ester Ledecka has finally chosen to compete in the Alpine skiing world championships next month instead of the snowboard worlds.

The Czech athlete who won golds in skiing and snowboarding at the Pyeongchang Olympics last year had to make the choice since the parallel giant slalom at the freestyle ski and snowboard world championships in Utah is scheduled for Feb. 4 — the same day that downhill training opens at the skiing worlds in Are, Sweden, and a day before the super-G race there.

“I go skiing,” Ledecka said on Thursday following a World Cup downhill training session.

“I would like to go (to) both but I had to make a choice and I made it and I’m looking forward to it. … The way I have the schedule right now it makes more sense for me.

“The decision had to be made and this is the life.”

At the Pyeongchang Olympics, Ledecka followed her super-G victory in Alpine skiing by winning the parallel GS in snowboarding — becoming the first athlete to win two golds at the same Winter Games using two different types of equipment.

Ledecka won a snowboard race in Cortina a month ago on the course in Faloria. With downhill races scheduled on Friday and Saturday followed by a super-G on Sunday, she’ll now be competing on the other side of the valley on the Olympia delle Tofane course.

“It’s weird because I really think about the speed in different ways when I have a snowboard and when I have skis,” Ledecka said. “When I have a snowboard and I ride faster you feel it more, you feel more fast. … And here you should get really fast to feel like, ‘OK, now it’s running.’”

Ledecka fell in the second downhill training session but got back up uninjured and continued her run.

Having already won two world titles in snowboarding, Ledecka considered an attempt to duplicate that success at the Alpine worlds was attractive.

“I would like to try to have some nice results on skis as well, and to try Are because it’s a nice hill and I really liked it there,’” said Ledecka, who finished 11th in the downhill at World Cup finals in Are last March — after placing second in downhill training. “It’s a good decision.”

Ledecka said she will compete in the super-G, downhill “and maybe super-combined” in Are: “I already made three runs on slalom skis so I will be quite well prepared.”

After the Alpine worlds, Ledecka will return to the snowboard World Cup.

Ledecka appealed to the International Ski Federation (FIS) to change competition schedules to make it possible for her to compete in both worlds, and the governing body said it tried to help.

FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis told The Associated Press: “Whatever had been possible would have been done but unfortunately with the logistics involved in the whole setup it wasn’t possible. It wasn’t without significant efforts.”

The worlds in Utah involve four different ski areas.

“It’s a very, very complex setup there. There are 28 events on the program. It’s a huge event. With morning and evening events and logistics,” Lewis said. “Crossing over from one championship to another, it’s obviously unique and never happened before.”

Lewis added that the next snowboard worlds will be in China in March 2021, a month after the Alpine championships in Cortina.

“Then there will probably be a new problem that it will clash with the World Cup,” Lewis said.

Added Ledecka, “It will happen again. I’m afraid so. But I will fight.”

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

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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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