Rio swimming medalist Leah Smith misses Olympic team for Tokyo

Swimming - Olympics: Day 2
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Swimmer Leah Smith was a favorite to return to the Olympic stage for much of the past five years, but the 26-year-old was unable to pull out the swims she needed this week in Omaha. Smith missed the 800m freestyle final in Friday’s heats, her final opportunity to make the team.

Smith won the 400m freestyle bronze at her debut in Rio, which was won by countrywoman Katie Ledecky, and then continued to lead the way domestically and internationally in distance freestyle races with Ledecky.

While Ledecky has already made the Tokyo team in three individual events and is on track to qualify in the 800m free as well, Smith came up short in all four of her events.

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

In the 400m IM, her first final of the week on Sunday, Smith placed fourth and missed the likely two Olympic spots up for grabs by a narrow 0.59 seconds.

Since Rio, Smith had taken silver at the 2017 Worlds and bronze at the 2019 Worlds in the 400m free. She was No. 2 to Ledecky in the U.S. every year from 2014-19 and entered Trials seeded as such. But in Monday’s final, Smith was third behind Ledecky and Paige Madden and missed the team by 1.41 seconds in a race lasting over 4 minutes.

Fastest in the 200m free preliminary round, Smith was then eighth fastest in both the semifinal and Wednesday’s final. Being top six would have given her a chance at being named to the 4x200m free relay team, with which she won Olympic gold in 2016 and the 2015 and 2017 World titles.

She was seeded eighth in the 1500m free but did not compete. The newest event to the Olympic program, the 1500m was held in the same sessions as the 200m at Trials.

Smith’s last chance at Tokyo began Friday in the 800m heats, where the top eight would advance to Saturday’s final. She claimed bronze at this distance in the 2017 Worlds and was fifth in 2019, and was again seeded second behind Ledecky, but finished 10th in the Trials heats, 4.37 seconds short of the final.

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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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