New-look Anna Shcherbakova leads Grand Prix France; Starr Andrews withdraws

Anna Shcherbakova
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World champion Anna Shcherbakova is one program away from setting up a likely showdown with training partner Kamila Valiyeva at December’s Grand Prix Final, a battle between medal contenders two months before the Olympics.

Shcherbakova unveiled a new short program at Internationaux de France in Grenoble on Friday. She tallied 77.94 points, edging countrywoman Aliona Kostornaya by 1.5 points.

Shcherbakova, the three-time reigning Russian national champion, scored 6.21 points more than she did with her previous short program at a Grand Prix in Italy two weeks ago, when she struggled with her jumping combination.

“My coaches decided to change the program,” the 17-year-old said, according to the International Skating Union. “Today I was nervous [performing it for the first time].”

Grand Prix France: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Valiyeva, a 15-year-old not competing in Grenoble, has the world’s top short program score of 84.19.

Both she and Shcherbakova won their first Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. Shcherbakova can clinch a spot in the six-skater Grand Prix Final with a podium finish after Saturday’s free skate, while Valiyeva can clinch in her second event at Rostelecom Cup next week.

Americans Karen Chen and Mariah Bell were fifth and 10th. Another American, Starr Andrews, withdrew after the short program due to unspecified medical reasons, according to the International Skating Union.

Andrews stopped her short program after singling her last jump. She skated toward an official with her hands on her knees, made a brief motion to her chest while talking to the official and then skated over to exit the rink, holding a woman’s hand as she left the ice and went out of camera view.

Andrews later shared on Instagram that she was “doing ok.”

Later Friday. world silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama of Japan easily won the men’s short by 10.88 points with 100.64, landing two quadruple jumps. Kagiyama, 18, became the third man to break 100 points in a short this season after Nathan Chen and Shoma Uno.

American Jason Brown was third without a quad on Friday, keeping him in the running to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. Brown was second in his previous Grand Prix.

Four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France topped the rhythm dance with 89.08 points, improving on their world-leading score this season. They distanced world bronze medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada by 7.73.

Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy, the world bronze medalists, led the pairs’ short with 77.17 points. U.S. champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier were fourth.

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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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