Trusova, who landed five quads but won silver: ‘I hate this sport’

Alexandra Trusova is distraught at the conclusion of the women's figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics
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BEIJING (AP) — The gold medalist said she felt empty. The silver medalist pledged never to skate again. The favorite left in tears without saying a word.

After one of the most dramatic nights in their sport’s history, Russia’s trio of teenage figure skating stars each enter an uncertain future.

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Her Olympics and life turned upside down by a doping case, world record holder Kamila Valiyeva faces a possible ban and a coach whose first response to her disastrous skate Thursday was criticism.

“Why did you let it go? Why did you stop fighting?” cameras caught Eteri Tutberidze — the notoriously strict coach who will be investigated over Valiyeva’s failed drug test — telling the 15-year-old after she fell twice and dropped out of medal contention.

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International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said he was disturbed by the intense pressure on the young skaters, particularly Valiyeva, and criticized her coaches without naming Tutberidze.

“When I afterwards saw how she was received by her closest entourage, with such, what appeared to be a tremendous coldness, it was chilling to see this,” he said at a news conference Friday. “Rather than giving her comfort, rather than to try to help her, you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance.”

Some in skating have pushed to raise the minimum age for participation at the Olympics from 15 to 17 or 18.

As Valiyeva placed fourth and left in tears, she received a message of support from 2018 silver medalist Evgenia Medvedeva.

“I am so happy that this hell is over for you,” Medvedeva posted on Instagram. “I really value you and love you and I’m happy that you can relax now, sweetie. I congratulate you on the end of the Olympics and I hope that you can live calmly and breathe.”

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Unfortunately for Valiyeva, she can’t relax just yet. The failed drug test which turned her life upside down still hangs over her head.

While she was allowed to keep skating in Beijing by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to avoid “irreparable harm,” that ruling is valid only until a full investigation of her Dec. 25 test for the banned substance trimetazidine is resolved. The case could take months and still cost Valiyeva and her Russian teammates the gold medal they won in last week’s team event.

Runner-up Aleksandra Trusova was also in despair after her history-making five quadruple jumps proved not enough to beat teammate Anna Shcherbakova to the gold medal. “I hate this sport,” she shouted at the side of the rink. “I won’t go onto the ice again.”

Trusova said she was happy with the skate but not with the result, an apparent jab at the judging that gave Shcherbakova enough extra points for artistry to keep her ahead.

Trusova could be heard crying that she was the only one without a gold medal. The Russians won the team event using Valiyeva twice instead of allowing Shcherbakova or Trusova to skate one of the women’s programs. That win could be stripped because of Valiyeva’s doping case.

Trusova later said her comments about not skating again had been “emotional”, the result of missing her family and her dogs, but didn’t commit to compete at next month’s world championships.

Of the three teenagers, Trusova has had the most fractious relationship with Tutberidze. She switched coaches briefly, returning to the Tutberidze camp in May of last year. And her music selection seemed to send a message. She danced her long program to “Cruella” from the movie soundtrack.

Shcherbakova seemed unsure how to react the drama unfolding around her, and said she felt sorry for Valiyeva. “I still don’t comprehend what has happened. On the one hand I feel happy, on the other I feel this emptiness inside.”

Shcherbakova arrived in Beijing as the world champion from 2021, but Valiyeva’s record-breaking scores and Trusova’s all-or-nothing quads turned her into an underdog to her younger teammates. Being called an Olympic champion was “unreal,” Shcherbakova said. “I don’t feel like it’s me they’re talking about.”

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Russian skaters’ careers are typically so short that at the age of 17, Shcherbakova almost immediately faced questions over whether she would retire.

“I have the desire to skate, and I can’t even imagine being without figure skating,” she said. The 2026 Olympics are a long way off, and no Tutberidze-trained woman has ever stayed in elite skating long enough to become a two-time Olympian. The last woman to retain the gold was Katarina Witt of East Germany in 1988.

What happens next for Shcherbakova and her teammates-turned-rivals depends on many factors — the eventual doping verdict, any further punishment for Tutberidze and the rest of her entourage and the myriad of injuries which can plague young skaters performing quads.

As she tries to recover from a failure on the sport’s biggest stage, Valiyeva remains at the center of a confrontation between Russia and international institutions. About six hours before she took to the ice, Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov said he would not give up the team event gold medal “under any circumstances, regardless of the results of the disciplinary investigation into the athlete.”

Just one of many unresolved questions for the three young Russian skaters.

Crystal Dunn returns to USWNT roster five months after giving birth

Nigeria v USWNT
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Crystal Dunn was named to the USWNT roster for two upcoming friendlies against England and Spain, marking her first official selection since giving birth to son Marcel in May.

Dunn made her NWSL return with the Portland Thorns earlier this month and also trained with the U.S. team as a non-rostered player ahead of friendlies vs. Nigeria.

In addition to Dunn, the 24-player roster features a veteran core of Alyssa Naeher, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, and Megan Rapinoe.

Alex Morgan was not named to the USWNT roster due to a knee injury. While U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski did not provide details of the injury, he noted that “if this was a World Cup final, Alex was going to be on this trip and was going to play, no question.”

Other roster highlights include 17-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who becomes the first player born in 2004 to receive a USWNT call-up. Thomas, a high senior, plays club soccer for the U-17 Total Futbol Academy boys’ team.

“We are very excited for her, very excited about her potential and qualities and looking forward to seeing how she will turn out in our environment,” Andonovski said of Thompson. “This camp is not make it or break it. It’s a first experience for her, it’s just something that she shouldn’t even worry about.”

The USWNT also includes a handful of players who have made their USWNT breakthrough this season — thanks in part to both strong NWSL play and injuries to more veteran players. That list includes the likes of Naomi Girma (7 caps), Taylor Kornieck (5 caps), Hailie Mace (5 caps), Sam Coffey (1 cap), and Savannah DeMelo (0 caps).

Andonovski on Thursday called Coffey, a midfielder for the Portland Thorns, a candidate for NWSL MVP.


USWNT Roster for October 2022 Friendlies vs. England and Spain

Goalkeepers (3):

  • Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit)
  • Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)
  • Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders(7):

  • Alana Cook (OL Reign)
  • Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Sofia Huerta (OL Reign)
  • Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

Midfielders (8):

  • Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA)
  • Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)
  • Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
  • Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)
  • Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

Forwards (6):

  • Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
  • Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)
  • Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
  • Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”