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Catarina Macario, Chloe Kim and more: 20 female athletes to know in 2022

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As 2021 comes to an end, it’s time to look forward to the year ahead in sports.

With the Winter Olympics in February, March Madness on the calendar and a landmark NWSL season to come, women’s sports fans are in store for an exciting year.

Here are the 20 athletes to know or get reacquainted with in 2022: 

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1. Rhyne Howard

Rhyne Howard has been a basketball player to watch since she was named Tennessee’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2018, ahead of her breakout rookie season at the University of Kentucky. Now a junior, Howard is solidifying herself as a top contender for the No. 1 WNBA draft pick, averaging 20 points on the season. With a March Madness run and a professional debut on the horizon, 2022 may be Howard’s year to break onto the mainstage.

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2. Catarina Macario

Catarina Macario is quickly becoming a household name, racking up 12 caps with the United States Women’s National Team and lighting up the pitch with her French club Olympique Lyonnais. As the USWNT gear up for the 2023 World Cup, Macario is a favorite to lead the squad’s next generation of young talent.

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3. Carissa Moore

Carissa Moore burst onto the scene in 2021, capturing gold in surfing at the Tokyo Olympics. The 29-year-old has been dominating the sport for quite some time now, but with a new, integrated World Surf League schedule in 2022, Moore has an opportunity to ascend to new heights.

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4. Coco Gauff

Coco Gauff had a stellar 2021 WTA season, especially considering the tennis prodigy is still just 17 years old. Finishing the year ranked 22nd and making a quarterfinal run at the French Open, Gauff has set herself up for a breakthrough 2022.

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5. Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin has already ascended to the top of her sport, earning three medals, including two gold, in alpine skiing. Now, the American is looking to make history at the Beijing Olympics, hoping to race in all five ski racing events. She enters the Games with a series of World Cup wins, and is actively shattering skiing records on her way to China.

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6. Jin Young Ko

Jin Young Ko had a storybook 2021, winning the LPGA finale in November and clinching the Player of the Year award. Can the 26-year-old follow up her banner year in 2022, and what will that mean for her burgeoning rivalry with Nelly Korda?

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7. Nelly Korda

Nelly Korda made history in 2021, becoming the first golfer to win an Olympic gold medal and a major championship in the same year. The 23-year-old American traded places as the world No. 1 with Ko for most of last year, and if the rivalry persists into 2022, golf fans are in for a treat.

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8. Aliyah Boston

Aliyah Boston is lighting up the floor for the South Carolina women’s basketball team, averaging 16.8 points and nine rebounds per game on the season. After coming up short last year, the Gamecocks and Boston are heavy favorites to win the title in 2022.

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9. Jaelin Howell

Jaelin Howell ended her career with Florida State on a high, leading her team to the 2021 College Cup title. The 22-year-old has already made 19 appearances with the USWNT and is a heavy favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NWSL Draft, should she decide to stay in America rather than decamp to Europe. Making her professional debut, Howell is poised to have a breakout year as a future star of the USWNT.

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10. Emma Raducanu

Emma Raducanu emerged from obscurity to take the tennis world by storm, winning the US Open at just 18 years old. After becoming the first qualifier to capture the Grand Slam, all eyes are now on Raducanu to follow up her breakout year with another.

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11. Chloe Kim

Chloe Kim captured national attention when she won gold in the snowboard halfpipe at just 17 years old during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Now 21 years old, Kim is hoping to defend her Olympic championship in Beijing. The California native has a chance to cement her legacy as a snowboarding legend with the 2022 Olympics in February.

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12. Betnijah Laney

Most WNBA fans know Betnijah Laney by now, with the 28-year-old entering the league in 2015. The 2021 season, however, was Laney’s most comprehensive yet, as she averaged 16.8 points, 5.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. With the New York Liberty coming into their own, Laney could be poised to mount an MVP campaign in 2022.

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13. Kelsey Turnbow

Kelsey Turnbow is going pro after an impressive career at Santa Clara, which included a National Championship last season and College Cup semifinal run this year. Selected 18th overall by the Chicago Red Stars in the 2021 Draft, Turnbow will make her NWSL debut with San Diego Wave after being traded to the expansion club in November.

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14. Abby Roque

Abby Roque is set to make her Olympic debut with Team USA in Beijing after an impressive collegiate hockey career at the University of Wisconsin. The 24-year-old will look to lead the U.S to their second-consecutive gold medal come February.

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15. Jamie Chadwick

Jamie Chadwick has already solidified herself as a racing superstar, winning back-to-back W series championships. As a development driver on the Williams Formula One team, the 23-year-old is poised to break racing barriers in 2022.

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16. Jessie Diggins

Jessie Diggins made history in 2018 when she and teammate Kikkan Randall clinched the United States’ first-ever cross-country gold medal at the Pyeongchang Games. Racing in all six cross-country events, Diggins will look to add to her medal haul in Beijing, cementing her place in the sport’s history.

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17. Sofia Huerta

Sofia Huerta has been a star in the NWSL since she was drafted to the Chicago Red Stars in 2015, but 2021 seemed like something of a renaissance for the 28-year-old. Moving to the outside back position, Huerta anchored a successful OL Reign team, notching six assists during the season. Huerta ended the year by fielding a compelling performance during the USWNT’s Australia friendlies, setting herself up for a potential landmark 2022.

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18. Paula Badosa

Paula Badosa cracked the top ten world tennis rankings during the 2021 season, ending the year at No. 8, a career-high. The 24-year-old also had her best Grand Slam result to date this season, making a quarterfinal run at Roland Garros. Will 2022 bring Badosa her first Grand Slam victory?

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19. Alysa Liu

Alysa Liu will make her Olympic debut in February, less than a year after her inaugural senior international appearance. At 16 years old, Liu represents the next generation of American figure skating and will compete for a place on the podium in Beijing.

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20. Jamie Anderson

Jamie Anderson is another athlete to watch at the Winter Olympics, with the 31-year-old poised to make history. After winning back-to-back slopestyle gold medals, and a silver medal in big air in 2018, Anderson could become the first snowboarder, male or female, to earn five total Olympic medals at the Beijing Games.

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrives in DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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