U.S. Olympic Curling Trials finals matchups set

Tabitha Peterson
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The U.S. Olympic Curling Trials men’s and women’s finals series pit matching storylines: established Olympians against younger teams starting Friday in Omaha.

John Shuster, who led the U.S. to its first Olympic curling title in 2018, skips a veteran quartet against a team mostly of twentysomethings led by Korey Dropkin, with three of the four men seeking their first Olympic berths.

In the women’s final, the bulk of the 2018 Olympic team, skipped by Tabitha Peterson, topped round-robin standings. Peterson, who in May won the U.S.’ first women’s world championship medal in 15 years (a bronze), faces a team of twentysomethings skipped by Cory Christensen.

The best-of-three finals series run Friday, Saturday and (if necessary) Sunday, live on NBCSN, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. A broadcast schedule is here.

Shuster and Peterson, the pre-event favorites, have dominated, going a combined 17-1 and clinching finals berths Wednesday. Dropkin and Christensen, each with three losses, secured the last finals spots on Thursday.

Shuster, 39, is joined by his 2018 Olympic gold-medal teammates Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner. The team’s newest member, Chris Plys, replaced Tyler George after George retired from competition following the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Shuster is bidding to become the first person to compete in five Olympic curling tournaments as a medal sport, according to Olympedia.org. Plys’ qualification would be notable, too. His lone Olympic appearance came back in 2010, when he went to Vancouver as an alternate and replaced a struggling Shuster at skip mid-tournament.

In 2018, Peterson was part of a U.S. Olympic women’s team skipped by Nina Roth that finished eighth in PyeongChang. Peterson then took over as skip while Roth was on maternity leave. Roth returned, but Peterson remained skip, winning the 2020 national title and then leading the drought-ending medal team at worlds.

PyeongChang Olympian Becca Hamilton (Matt’s younger sister) and Tara Peterson (Tabitha’s younger sister) round out the team.

Dropkin and Christensen, both 26, would be the youngest U.S. skips to qualify for the Olympics since 2006.

Dropkin may be an underdog, but his team has momentum after handing Shuster his only defeat in Omaha on Wednesday night. It marked Dropkin’s second win in seven games against Shuster (not counting mixed doubles), according to Curlingzone.com.

Christensen has been to an Olympics, joining Peterson’s team as its alternate in 2018 after finishing third out of three teams at Olympic Trials. Christensen is 0-3 against Peterson as skips (mixed doubles excluded), according to Curlingzone, including two defeats in round-robin play in Omaha by a combined 18-9.

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

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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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