Joshua Cheptegei, Letesenbet Gidey break distance-running world records

Joshua Cheptegei, Letesenbet Gidey
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Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei and Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey broke decade-old world records in distance track races, using new light-pacing technology at a special event in Valencia, Spain, on Wednesday.

Full race replays are here.

Cheptegei, the 10,000m world champion, broke his second Kenenisa Bekele world record this season, clocking 26 minutes, 11.00 seconds in the 10,000m. Bekele’s previous world record from 2005 was 26:17.53.

Cheptegei began with three pacers and ran the final 12 laps alone.

“I fulfilled my dream,” said Cheptegei, who was raised at mile-plus-high altitude and credited genes from his father, who grew up on a farm and sprinted after cattle thieves.

Back on Aug. 14, Cheptegei lowered Bekele’s 5000m world record by two seconds to 12:35.36 in Monaco.

Gidey, the world 10,000m silver medalist, took 4.5 seconds off countrywoman Tirunesh Dibaba‘s 12-year-old 5000m world record. She crossed in 14:06.62 after shedding two pacers and covering the last five laps by herself.

“This is a long-time dream,” said the 22-year-old Gidey, who was briefly expelled from school for refusing to run in physical education classes.

Cheptegei and Gidey benefited from lights set up around the track showing them a world-record pace, just as Cheptegei used in Monaco.

Bekele, arguably the greatest runner ever, began 2020 as the fastest in history at 5000m and 10,000m and second-fastest at the marathon.

Now he holds neither world record, a week after withdrawing with a calf injury before the London Marathon, where he was due to challenge 26.2-mile world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge.

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

Teri McKeever

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

Diana Taurasi

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 Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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