Vicky Persinger, Chris Plys win Olympic Trials for mixed doubles curling

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Vicky Persinger and Chris Plys won the U.S. Olympic Mixed Doubles Curling Trials on Sunday night, moving one step closer to spots on the 2022 U.S. Olympic team.

The win in Eveleth, Minnesota, means Persinger and Plys will represent the U.S. at World Curling’s Olympic Qualification Event from Dec. 5-9 in Leeuwarden, Netherlands.

The top two teams from the 14 countries entered in Leeuwarden will earn spots at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

Beijing would mark the first Olympics for Persinger, 29, and the first in 12 years for Plys, 34.

He was the fifth/alternate on John Shuster‘s rink that was 10th at the Vancouver 2010 Games.

This is Persinger and Plys’ fourth season together in mixed doubles, which made its Olympic debut at PyeongChang 2018.

They were second in the nation in 2019 and won the 2021 U.S. title in May.

They plowed through many of the other top teams in the round robin format in Eveleth this week, including 2018 Olympians Becca and Matt Hamilton (7-6), Curling World Cup medalists Sarah Anderson and Korey Dropkin (9-4) and 2018 Olympic Trials runners-up in the women’s and men’s tournaments Jamie Sinclair and Rich Ruohonen.

Persinger/Plys and Anderson/Dropkin both finished with a 6-3 record, though Persinger/Plys had the advantage with its opening win over the 2012 Youth Olympians.

The Hamilton siblings finished fifth with a 5-4 record.

In Saturday’s page playoff, Persinger and Plys once again topped Anderson and Dropkin, this time 8-4. Sinclair and Ruohonen won the other playoff 6-5 over 2016 world bronze medalists Tabitha Peterson and Joe Polo.

Sinclair and Ruohonen earned their spot in the final with a 9-7 semifinal victory over Anderson and Dropkin Sunday morning.

Persinger and Plys were up 4-2 halfway through the final until Sinclair/Ruohonen came through with a needed three points in the fifth end. With two more for Persinger/Plys in the sixth and another for Sinclair/Ruohonen in the seventh, the match was tied.

In the final rock of the final end, Persinger and Plys brought in one last point for the win.

Before heading to the Netherlands, both athletes will compete in the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials Nov. 12-21 in Omaha in an attempt to make the four-person men’s/women’s teams as well.

Plys is back with Team Shuster as the third, while Persinger is second on 2018 Olympic alternate Cory Christenson‘s rink.

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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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