U.S. lugers follow bobsled, skeleton athletes in sitting out World Cups

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U.S. lugers will not compete in the first four World Cups of the upcoming season, sitting out stops in Europe in November and December for athlete and staff safety.

“We are a group that’s geared and motivated by racing, so to take this action is disappointing,” USA Luge CEO and executive director Jim Leahy said in a press release, adding that consultation with health experts and a team physician led to the decision. “We believe that staying in the U.S. until the end of the calendar year is our safest course of action.”

The current plan is for U.S. lugers to travel to Europe in the final week of December, though a season debut has not been set.

After the first four World Cups in Austria and Germany, the season resumes in Königssee the first weekend of January for the final five World Cups.

In late January, Königssee hosts the world championships, moved from Whistler, B.C., due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel issues. There are also no World Cup stops in North America this season.

International lugers are expected to spend much of February in China, certifying the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic track.

Last week, USA Bobsled and Skeleton announced it would not send athletes to its first four World Cups in Europe in November and December. Like with bobsled and skeleton, USA Luge plans to hold selection races domestically before going to Europe.

U.S. lugers Summer BritcherChris MazdzerEmily Sweeney and Tucker West have all won individual World Cup events. Mazdzer, the surprise 2018 Olympic silver medalist, also competes in doubles with Olympian Jayson Terdiman.

“This is certainly not the schedule that we envisioned, but it’s one that has been thrust upon us,” U.S. head coach Robert Fegg said. “In the short term, we are anxious to return to sliding and getting as many runs in as possible prior to heading overseas.”

MORE: Last bobsledder from 2010 Olympic champion team retires

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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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