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US Paralympian Brittani Coury dares viewers to stare as she goes for gold

(Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Brittani Coury is not a quitter, and with the snowboarder on the precipice of her second Winter Paralympics, her resilience has never been more evident.

It’s been a busy four years for Coury since she took home a banked slalom silver medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Games. The 35-year-old has not only been training for the Beijing Olympics, which begin Friday with the opening ceremonies, but she’s also been working on the frontlines during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as a registered nurse.

“I don’t give up and I don’t quit, and I am not one to turn down something that is super hard no matter what it is. If somebody says I can’t do something, I’m the type that tries to prove them wrong,” Coury tells Just Women’s Sports.

That mentality led the Team USA athlete to the COVID-19 tents during one of the most precarious times of the pandemic. She said she “felt it was her responsibility” to help those in need.

“It takes a village to send an athlete to the Games, and I’ve had so many amazing experiences. I’ve snowboarded five continents, and this was my opportunity to take care of that village,” Coury says. “This was my opportunity to give back and to show my community that I care about them and that I am willing to put myself on the frontlines even if they have no idea who I am because I am in full PPE.”

While working as a nurse, Coury called upon her own experience as a patient, when she recovered from an operation to amputate her lower leg at 25 years old.

“My journey through amputation and as a patient helped me have that empathy for my patients,” says Coury, revealing that she rarely left her patients’ side in an effort to lift their spirits. Lovingly referred to as “DJ Covid,” Coury was known to play Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin” along with other top-40 hits for her patients.

“Your patient can read you. If you’re freaking out, your patient is going to freak out because they can feel that tension,” she says.

While Coury gets a lot of joy from her work as a nurse, she is the first to admit that clocking 12-hour shifts is no easy feat. Her time on the hospital floor, she believes, helped prepare her for the Paralympic Games.

“As a nurse, there is a lot of pressure. Somebody’s life is literally in your hands, and the decisions that you make can change that patient’s conditions one way or another. It’s the same on a course — there is a lot of pressure,” Coury says. “There is a lot of cross-training for me because it’s both physically, mentally, emotionally hard and draining, either on the floor or on the snow. But I love both of them,.I love snowboarding, and I love being a nurse.”

Heading into her second Paralympics, Coury has harnessed everything the last four years has thrown her way and is ready to channel it on the slopes. Coury is expected to compete in both the banked slalom as the reigning silver medalist and the snowboardcross event.

While the snowboarder has her sights set on the podium, winning isn’t her only goal.

“I’ve trained as much as I can, I’ve done everything I can do to this point, I’ve put in the time and energy. And whatever happens on that day, I can look back and say that I have done everything up to this point to get me where I am, wherever I end up falling,” Coury says.

“For me, I have a mission statement of what I am wanting to accomplish. Medals are great, but if I can impact one person’s life in a positive way for me, all the blood, sweat, tears and everything was worth it.”

Coury is hopeful her partnership with Citi’s #StareAtGreatness campaign will help make her Paralympic ambitions of meaningfully impacting lives a reality. The company’s initiative features a roster of 15 winter Paralympians, including Coury, with the aim of changing perceptions of people with disabilities.

“That commercial is out there, and it’s bringing awareness of women and what we are capable of doing, and disability and breaking down stigma. So, if I go to the Games and I don’t end up on a podium, at the end of the day, I am so proud of my success and I am proud of the progression of the Paralympics and all the awareness that’s been brought,” Coury says.

For Coury, the #StareAtGreatness message doesn’t just pertain to Paralympic athletes; rather, it’s a valuable lesson for everyone.

“My disability I wear on the outside, people can see it, but everyone has amputations — internally, self-esteem, whatever their amputations are. Mine’s just visible.” she says. “We’re all people, we all have damage, we all have things that we’re dealing with, and if we’re able to share that and put a positive light and show people what we’re able to overcome, that’s why we are human. That’s why we have the ability to communicate, is to bring each other up.”

Inviting people to stare, Coury hopes, will also encourage people to revel in her athletic ability and inspire others to embrace their aspirations of greatness.

“What society says about you or what the world says about you or what the bullies say about you, it’s not true,” she says. “The only thing that’s true is what’s in your own mind and what you think is true. You create your own reality.”

Coury kicks off her Olympic journey with snowboardcross qualifying on March 5. The event finals are set for March 6 at 10:30 pm ET on NBC.

Clare Brennan is an associate editor at Just Women’s Sports.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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