Brody Malone leads U.S. Gymnastics Championships by record margin

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TAMPA — Brody Malone wasn’t satisfied after gapping the U.S. men’s gymnastics field by a record margin on the first night of the U.S. Championships.

Mad about his opening still rings routine, Malone still tallied 88.942 points on the first of two nights of competition on Thursday. He leads by 3.462 points — shattering the record lead for one day in U.S. men’s history — over Asher Hong going into Saturday, when national champions will be crowned.

Malone, a 22-year-old Stanford standout, should cruise to a repeat U.S. all-around title.

But he believes his overall performance Thursday would not be enough to break into the all-around medals at the world championships in two and a half months. His score was boosted by around two points due to bonuses awarded for attempting difficult skills. That bonus system is not in effect in international competition.

“That [88.942] is kind of what I need to be scoring without bonuses to be competitive internationally,” Malone said. “So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

GYMNASTICS NATIONALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Last year, Malone won his senior nationals debut, displacing six-time U.S. all-around champion Sam Mikulak.

Malone, a former rodeo competitor and frog gigger from a four-square-mile Georgia hometown, then placed 10th in the Tokyo Olympic all-around and missed a high bar medal by one spot.

The Americans finished fifth in the Olympic team event and went medal-less across all the men’s events at the Games for the first time since 2000.

Collectively, the U.S. men are now focused on performing more difficult routines to increase their start values. The reserved Malone is thrust into a leadership role with Mikulak retired.

“I kind of wanted to step up and lead USA Gymnastics,” he said. “Not just me. [Olympic teammates] Yul [Moldauer] and Shane [Wiskus] also. Lead us to start pushing difficulty and push for a medal next Olympics.”

The goal by the 2024 Paris Games, if not before, is to be competitive with world powers China, Japan and Russia (which is banned indefinitely from international competition due to the war in Ukraine).

The men are incentivized with bonus points at nationals to throw harder skills — sometimes more than a full point per routine. Since last season, Malone upgraded rings, parallel bars and pommel horse, plus put in new floor exercise passes. He wants to be one of the world’s top five gymnasts and a high bar medalist come 2024.

Saturday’s all-around winner clinches a spot on the five-man team for the world championships in Liverpool, Great Britain. That roster will be finalized after an October selection camp. The U.S. is a medal contender given Olympic champion Russia’s absence. The last U.S. men’s team medal at an Olympics or worlds came in 2014.

Hong, an 18-year-old in his senior nationals debut, boosted his chances Thursday with the top scores on floor and vault. Donnell Whittenburg, a 2016 Olympic alternate who turned 28 on Thursday, was third for his best single-day finish in a U.S. all-around since 2017.

Wiskus and Moldauer were fourth and fifth.

Nationals continue Friday with the first of two nights of women’s competition.

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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

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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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