Mikaela Shiffrin met her biggest goal this season. It wasn’t about the Olympics.

Mikaela Shiffrin
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For all the lead-up talk about Mikaela Shiffrin‘s medal possibilities at the Olympics, she said at the end of her season that her primary objective was about all of the races before and after the Games.

“I had quite a few goals, but my biggest goal was the overall globe,” she said after winning a fourth World Cup overall title last week, tying Lindsey Vonn for second-most in women’s history. “Then the next biggest goal, or goals, would have been some performance at the Olympics. Obviously that was something I really kind of messed up.”

Shiffrin, whose best finish in five individual Olympic races was ninth, returned to Europe after the Games with a miniscule 17-point lead over Slovakian Petra Vlhova in the overall standings.

The overall title goes to the skier who accumulates the most points based on results over every race during the October-to-March World Cup season, which does not include the Olympics. This season, it was 37 races.

It is the biggest annual prize in ski racing. The winner is generally regarded as the world’s best all-around skier.

As opposed to the Olympics, which crown a gold medalist who performs the best under one day’s conditions, including variable weather, surface and course setup. The World Cup often carries more weight in Europe, where ski racing is followed more closely on a seasonal basis.

Before this season began, Shiffrin said the overall wasn’t her “highest focus” and that she wanted to see where she stood in the middle of the campaign to assess her chances.

“My really top focus, that’s the thing that’s driving all of my decisions, is if I’m able to ski slalom and [giant slalom] on my top level of skiing,” she said in October of her two primary disciplines. “If I feel that it’s not there, then I will take away some speed races or this or that, or even say maybe the overall globe is not something that I want to do, because the first thing I want to do is ski well when I’m racing.”

After the Olympics, Shiffrin took a risk in skipping the first World Cup races, a pair of downhills in Switzerland the weekend after the Closing Ceremony. It wasn’t a surprise. Not just to recover after the Games, but also because Shiffrin has never raced a downhill-only World Cup stop. Downhill is her least successful of the four primary Alpine skiing disciplines.

Vlhova, who in the 2020-21 season won the overall while entering every race (a rarity), drew level with Shiffrin in this season’s overall standings going into the final eight races.

Shiffrin outperformed her longtime slalom rival over the last three weeks, mathematically clinching the overall title in unexpected fashion — placing first and second in the World Cup Finals downhill and super-G. Of Shiffrin’s 74 World Cup race victories, seven are in those two speed events.

It marked Shiffrin’s first overall title since she three-peated in 2019, when she won a record 17 races over the season. The following year, her father died unexpectedly. Then COVID hit. Then she dealt with a back injury that posed a threat to her career as she knew it. Then in December, she tested positive for COVID with mild symptoms and quarantined for a week. Then came the Olympic disappointment.

“Maybe more special, but also just in general more emotional,” she said of this year’s 20-pound crystal globe, compared to the others. “There’s also a certain level of kind of sadness that comes with it, too.”

Time after time, Shiffrin returned from her absences and disappointments and stepped back onto the top of a World Cup podium. She is now eight wins shy of Vonn’s women’s record for victories, and 12 wins away from the overall record held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

“I feel a mix of motivation and also just general fatigue. This has not been a very energizing season,” she said. “I need to kind of reset a little bit. Then start to build back from the ground up because it was something I probably needed in the middle of the season but never actually got the chance.

“I have kind of a mixture of motivation and lack of motivation. I think that’s also how I felt every season.”

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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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