Barbora Spotakova, greatest female javelin thrower in history, retires

Barbora Spotakova

Barbora Spotakova, a two-time Olympic champion and world record holder in the javelin, retired at age 41, according to the Czech Republic track and field federation.

She made the announcement Friday at her favorite restaurant in the center of Prague, “where she always liked to go for a pint of Pilsner,” according to the federation.

Spotakova competed for the last time at Thursday’s Diamond League Final, placing fifth after feeling ankle pain in her warm-up, according to meet organizers.

“I am just a bit sad for my performance, but there are also worse things to happen,” she said, according to organizers. “It is just sport. It was not the worst and not the best performance. For me, it is just a big success to be here and compete. After [last month’s European Championships in] Munich, I felt so tired that I did not want to compete anymore.”

Spotakova, the gold medalist in 2008 and 2012, is one of two women to win multiple Olympic javelin titles, along with East German Ruth Fuchs in 1972 and 1976. Fuchs later admitted to using steroids during her career.

Spotakova, who had sons Janek in May 2013 and Darek in 2018, is the only woman with three total Olympic javelin medals (including her bronze in 2016). She placed 14th in her fifth and final Olympics in Tokyo.

She was an All-American in the javelin for the University of Minnesota in 2002. In 2004, it was fellow Czech Jan Zelezny, the men’s javelin world record holder, who recommended to a 23-year-old Spotakova to give up the heptathlon and focus solely on the javelin. Zelezny coached Spotakova for several years during her prime.

She broke the world record in 2008 with a 72.28-meter throw (more then 237 feet). Nobody other than Spotakova has been within two and a half feet of the record since.

With Spotakova’s retirement, Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the lone active 2008 Olympic female track and field champion still competing in her gold-medal event.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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

Teri McKeever

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi

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 Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!