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Five Olympic returners going for gold at the Beijing Games

Ester Ledecká of Team Czech Republic races in the World Cup Women’s Super G in January. (Photo by Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

When the 2022 Beijing Games kick off with the opening ceremony on Friday, some of the Winter Olympics’ brightest stars will be making their return.

Here are five to look out for as the Games get underway this week:

1. Ester Ledecká

Ester Ledecká made history in 2018 when she became the first athlete to win two gold medals at the same Winter Olympics in two different types of equipment (skis and snowboard). The Czech snowboarder and skier won the super-G in alpine skiing and then took home gold in the parallel giant slalom. Just the second woman to win Olympic gold in two separate disciplines, she was also the first to do it at the same Olympics.

Ledecká has continued to alternate between the two sports and remains the most dominant snowboard racer in the world. Since 2018, she has entered 14 World Cup competitions in snowboarding, finishing in the top three 13 times. While she hasn’t had as much success in skiing, she still finished in the top 10 in the World Cup standings in both 2020 and 2021. Ledecká will look to defend her gold medal beginning with the parallel giant slalom on Tuesday, Feb. 8.

2. Chloe Kim

One of the breakout stars in PyeongChang, Chloe Kim is the reigning Olympic champion on halfpipe. She became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding gold when she captured the title at 17 years old in 2018. Her near-perfect score of 98.25 points on her final run was almost 10 points ahead of second-place finisher Liu Jiayu. As if that wasn’t enough, she also became the youngest woman to ever land two 1080-degree spins in a row at an Olympics.

She took nearly two years off from the sport following her 2018 Olympic gold-medal run to tend to an ankle injury. But since returning in 2021, she’s won every competition she has entered in, including the 2021 X Games and the 2021 World Championships. In mid-January, she won the halfpipe event at the Laax Open, making her the heavy favorite entering Beijing. She’ll look to defend her halfpipe medal beginning Wednesday, Feb. 9.

(Harry How/Getty Images)

3. USA women’s ice hockey

In 2018, the U.S. women’s hockey team won gold for the first time since the 1998 Olympics, taking down Canada 3-2 in a shootout in the championship game.

While the Lamoureux sisters have since retired, many of the stars from that team are making their return in 2022, including captain Kendall Coyne Schofield and gold-medal winning goaltender Maddie Rooney. Stars Hilary Knight and Amanda Kessel are also back for what could be their final Olympics.

The U.S. team will look to repeat its gold-medal run, and avenge its overtime loss to Canada at the 2021 World Championships, starting Thursday against Finland.

4. Mikaela Shiffrin

One of the top skiers in the world, Mikaela Shiffrin is gunning for the podium once again in Beijing. She won gold in slalom at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and followed it up with a gold in giant slalom four years later. With 47 victories in World Cup slalom, she’s the winningest skier in a single alpine discipline in history, male or female.

Heading into her third Olympics, Shiffrin will look to medal in every skiing event in Beijing. She had an up-and-down World Cup season, coming back from a back injury and being diagnosed with COVID-19 while battling rival Petra Vlhová. But on paper, she’s a multi-medal threat. If she wins more than one medal in Beijing, she’ll pass Julia Mancuso as the most decorated American female Alpine skier. If she wins three, she’ll tie Bode Miller for the most Olympic medals by an American skier with six.

Her first event, giant slalom, gets underway on Sunday.

5. Arianna Fontana

Italian short track speed skater Arianna Fontana is headed into her fifth Olympics in Beijing, looking to build on her gold-medal performance in the 500m short track in 2018. With 45 European Championships medals and eight Olympic Games medals, she’s the most decorated female short track speed skater in Olympic history.

In PyeongChang, Fontana also won silver in the team event and bronze in the 1000m event, giving her an Olympic medal at every contested distance. She’ll look to add to her medal count in Beijing and further cement her place in history, beginning with the 500m heats on Saturday.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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