Petra Vlhova wins in Zagreb; Mikaela Shiffrin just misses 100th podium

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Mikaela Shiffrin finished fourth, missing her 100th career World Cup podium by five hundredths of a second, in a slalom won by Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova on Sunday in Zagreb.

Shiffrin was fourth fastest in the opening run and could not overtake any of the top three under the lights in the Croatian capital. She finished .27 behind Vlhova.

“Fourth and three tenths out is OK,” Shiffrin said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “I had a better second run with fewer mistakes — maybe a little less risk, but some better position on my skis. I can take that and go with it.”

Vlhova, who overtook Shiffrin as the top slalom skier over the last year, made a significant mistake late in her second run but still prevailed by .05 over Austrian Katharina Liensberger.

“I didn’t expect that I’d win,” Vlhova said on ORF.

Swiss Michelle Gisin was third. Full results are here.

Shiffrin’s last win in her trademark discipline of slalom was Dec. 29, 2019.

Since then, Vlhova has won six of the seven World Cup slaloms. Shiffrin missed one of those slaloms while going 300 days between races following the Feb. 2 death of her father.

In four slaloms this season, Shiffrin has finished second, third, fourth and fifth.

“I feel like I haven’t really skied my top level of slalom since the beginning of last season,” Shiffrin, who won a giant slalom last month, said before the Zagreb race. “Things are sort of starting to feel more familiar, and I feel like my skiing is starting to come back.

“In the beginning of the season, my goal was to figure out if I actually wanted to do this season and If I could ski fast. … Still being here right now and enjoy skiing somewhat is well beyond what my goal was. So now it’s like, OK, goals maybe have to do with some results, and if I can get a podium in slalom, then can I win? What is it going to take to get back to that place?”

The next Alpine skiing World Cup race is a men’s slalom on Wednesday in Zagreb (live on Olympic Channel and Peacock Premium).

The women have a downhill and super-G on Saturday and Sunday in St. Anton, Austria.

Shiffrin, who has focused on slalom and GS so far this season, will next race in a slalom in Flachau on Jan. 12. She might return to speed races in time to defend her world title in the super-G in February.

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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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