Swimmer Jake Mitchell likely headed to Olympics after racing alone

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OMAHA, Neb. — Jake Mitchell returned to the pool all by himself.

He got a do-over, a chance to redeem himself.

Boy, did he ever.

Mitchell produced a much-improved performance in a time trial after all the scheduled races were done Tuesday, likely earning a trip to his first Olympics.

He had flopped in the 400m freestyle on the first night of the U.S. swimming trials, going too slow to meet the Olympic qualifying standard.

“It’s insane,” Mitchell said. “I’ve wanted to be an Olympian since I was a kid. This is definitely a dream come true.”

It was surely a different feeling that he had Sunday.

While Mitchell finished second behind Kieran Smith in the final of the 400 free — which normally would be good enough for a spot on the Olympic team — his sluggish time (3:48.17) was more than 3 seconds behind the winner and not fast enough to meet the Tokyo cut.

“Obviously, I was pretty disappointed,” Mitchell said. “All summer long, I’ve been training to go 3:44, 3:45, somewhere around there. Going 3:48 was not as good as I hoped.”

Everyone who finished behind Smith had until June 27 to produce a time that was good enough to make the Olympic standard of 3:46.78 — a unique predicament for the powerful U.S. team, which usually has no trouble meeting the cutoff in any event.

Mitchell got the first crack at it, swimming solo in the main pool in a time trial approved by world governing body FINA after many fans had already left the arena.

SWIM TRIALS: Results | TV Schedule | Women’s Event Previews | Men’s Event Previews

But a few hung around — and they were all cheering loudly for Mitchell.

“I was super nervous in the staging area. Shaking almost,” he said. “As soon as I walked out, I looked around. I made a point to look at everyone in the stands, to hear everyone cheering for me. That was an amazing feeling.”

Mitchell went out much stronger this time and held on finish in 3:45.86 — more than 2 seconds faster than his previous race.

He pounded the water and thumped his chest when he saw the time. Back in the practice pool, a huge roar went up from fellow swimmers who were still warming down after a busy night that included four finals.

“I’m really grateful to get a second chance, to get a time trial,” Mitchell said. “I just spent the last couple of days training to execute as best I could.”

He was inspired by the performance of Carmel Swim Club teammate Drew Kibler, who earlier Tuesday finished third in the 200 free final to secure a relay spot at the Olympics.

“We’re such good friends,” Mitchell said. “To see him make it, I knew I had to make it as well. I knew I could.”

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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

Diana Taurasi
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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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