‘Nervous’ Gracie Gold stumbles in short program, but rebuilds herself to get this far

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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Two-time national champion and 2014 Olympian Gracie Gold skated at her first national championships in three years in Greensboro on Thursday.

Her short program set to Annie Lennox’s “I Put a Spell on You” garnered 54.51 points and left her in 13th place. Gold doubled her planned triple-triple, executing a two-footed triple Lutz, double toe combination and popping a planned triple loop.

The women’s free skate is Friday, with 2018 national champion Bradie Tennell leading the field at 78.96 points.

After the short program, Gold told media, “I guess you could say that one might be nervous for this event.”

She put her progress at a nine out of 10 compared to where she had come from earlier this season. She rated her short program a three of 10.

She plans to “go to sleep, practice, nap, practice again” before Friday’s free skate.

“For me, short and long are two separate entities. We’ve seen that. Someone can botch a short and nail a long. Someone can have a Worlds – one might say a world’s best short program – and botch the long” she said, hinting at her 2016 Worlds-leading short program, followed by a disappointing free skate that left her fourth overall.

But she wanted to make one thing clear, speaking to NBC Olympics Research prior to competing:

“This isn’t a recreational comeback,” she stated.

“I mean first off, just being [at nationals] is already a pretty big W for me, because the 2018-19 season is pretty much non-existent for me… I want it to be clear that I’ve been training hard… I wanna look like I belong there, like I didn’t qualify because of my name, I qualified because I earned it. I earned a place at nationals to be a competitive athlete.”

One could say Gold took the long way around to qualify for nationals this year. Skaters with international assignments automatically get a berth to the U.S.’ top event. Gold, though, had to place high enough at Regionals and the subsequent Sectionals to qualify for nationals. She was third at regionals and third at sectionals to stamp her ticket to Greensboro.

Following her most recent national championships (sixth in 2017), Gold had a well-publicized split from her coach and sought treatment for depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. She coached briefly in Arizona before settling in Philadelphia. Her only competition in the 2018-19 season was a November Grand Prix event, where she pulled out after the short program. She called that experience “an alternate reality,” adding she’s “not even the same person.”

After her “exquisite flameout” – Gold admitted to borrowing the phrase from a wordsmith friend – she said rebuilding her life following treatment had its own silver lining.

“The positive is I got to rebuild everything from scratch,” she said. “While some things were fine and didn’t need to be rebuilt, when I put myself back together, I got to be whoever I wanted.”

She draws much of who she is today from the strength of her mother, Denise.

“Sometimes our relationship has been tumultuous because we’re the same person in so many ways; we’re almost too similar sometimes,” Gold said of her mother’s fortitude, which she absorbed. “I do go to sleep at night knowing, that above all else I am my mother’s daughter, and we will keep marching forward.”

Denise watched Gold’s short program from the audience. She said she felt “high anxiety, tremendous pride, and respect,” watching the performance. “Crowd’s support made me tearful,” she added in a text message.

Gold’s twin sister Carly, also a former national-level figure skater, tweeted her pride as well after the performance.

Philip Hersh and Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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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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