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Kassidy Cook Talks Olympics Postponement, Quarantine Training

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 13: Kassidy Cook of the United States competes in the Women’s 3M Springboard semi final on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Kassidy Cook is an American diver who placed 13th in the women’s 3 metre springboard at the 2016 Rio Olympics. A graduate of Stanford University, Cook competes in both the individual 3m springboard and the synchronized 3m springboard. As with countless athletes across the world, Cook’s training has been forced indoors due to the spread of the coronavirus. Below, she talked with Just Women’s Sports about how she’s handling quarantine, what the Olympics’ postponement means to her, why she walked away from the sport, and what brought her back. 

Where were you when sporting events started getting canceled due to COVID-19?

In February, I was in Madrid and then Rostock, Germany for a competition called the Grand Prinx. And then that’s when all this kind of started. We heard about all the cases in China and we noticed that a lot of the Chinese divers were absent from the competition because, at the time, they weren’t allowed to leave their country. Even then, I don’t think anyone knew the virus would turn into what it has become.

What were the following weeks like? 

I went home to Texas toward the end of February to train, and that’s when the pandemic situation started escalating. Sports left and right were getting canceled or postponed, and I started wondering what was going to happen to diving. At the time, we had the World Cup coming up, which was supposed to be the Olympic qualifying event, and then obviously the Olympics this summer. But as the days went by, more cases just kept popping up, and there was a lot of uncertainty. It was a strange time because Olympic hopefuls like me were still training and practicing, but it was hard not to think about the virus. It was definitely distracting and worrisome. Then our pool shut down, and there wasn’t a place for me to train, and they still hadn’t announced whether the World Cup or the Olympics were going to be cancelled or postponed. So I had nowhere to train and no idea if I was still going to go to my competition, and it still wasn’t clear what this virus was going to become.

What was your reaction when the Olympics were officially postponed? 

It was obviously the right move given the severity of the virus, but at first, I was definitely upset. I had quit my job and moved back home to Texas from San Francisco to train for the Olympics, so to hear that they weren’t going to happen this year was really hard. But a couple days after I gave it some real thought, I realized that the postponement actually was a good thing. The world is in such a hectic state right now. No athlete has anywhere to train. A lot of people are mentally and physically unhealthy. And you have to put it in perspective — the health of the citizens of the world, the citizens of our country, come above sport. And the silver lining is that I now have an additional year to train and get as good as I can for the Olympics.

Where is your head at now? 

Well, you have to make sacrifices for the Olympics regardless. So for me, making the sacrifice of another year is not a big deal, in the grand scheme of things. There is no question that I am going to keep training. People were feeling bad for me when they first heard about the postponement, telling me how it must suck to be an athlete right now. And I’m just like, it sucks for everyone, the whole entire world, athlete or not. Things are getting canceled, people are losing their jobs, family and friends are getting sick and dying. So I should be the last person to feel sorry for. I’m hanging in there and at the end of the day, it’s just a sport. The health of my family and community will always come above that.

How much of an impact will taking a few months off have on your future performances?

It’s tough for divers, because it’s not like we can just go for a run outside and call it a day. Diving requires very specific training, and it’s hard to stimulate the jumping movements at home. But regardless, you can still keep up with your physical fitness by doing bodyweight exercises and you can stay mentally focused by doing a lot of visualization. Diving is a big mental sport. People always say that if you could turn off your brain, you would be a better diver because your muscle memory would take over. So if you can practice visualizing what you would do off the board and model it on the ground, I think it can help with the mental aspect of the sport. At the same time, since a lot of diving is muscle memory, I’m not too worried about getting some time off.

What kind of workouts have you been able to do while under quarantine? 

My team has also been doing daily workouts on Zoom to stay on schedule. We meet at the same time every single day, and our coaches run us through the workout. It’s nice to be able to see everyone even if it’s not in person. It helps this hectic time feel a little more normal. In terms of workouts, it’s all bodyweight, plyometrics, core and stretching. These are things you can do anywhere. And it’s been fun to switch it up, plus it’s good to put your body in a state of confusion sometimes. It’ll get stronger in places where you didn’t know you were weak.

Overall, I’m trying to mirror my usual schedule as much as I can, just to keep my own sanity. I’m waking up at the same time as I would if I had practice, doing a workout in the morning when I would be having morning practice and then one in the afternoon. I want to do as much as I can during this time, because if others aren’t, it will give me a competitive edge. And on the other hand, I don’t want my competition to have an edge on me because I decided to slack off.

How does Olympic qualifying for diving work? You mentioned the World Cup — was there a specific result you needed to achieve there? 

For diving, they don’t grant every country a spot at the Olympics. You have to earn your spot by placing well in competitions. And the World Cup, which was supposed to be in April, was the last chance for countries to qualify for the Olympics. So my first job was to go to the World Cup to earn the United States a spot. Not my personal spot, but a spot for our country. It’s a lot of pressure, because if you do poorly, you’re letting your whole country down by not giving anyone a shot to make the Olympics. I was put in the same shoes in 2016, when there were no spots for the United States going into the World Cup, but thankfully I performed well enough at the event to earn my country a trip to Rio.

This year, if I had performed well enough at the World Cup to get the US a spot in Tokyo, then we would have had the US Olympic trials in June, and that’s where I would have competed to get my own personal spot. I compete in two events: synchro and individual, so at the trials I would have had to win the synchro event and then get first or second in the individual event to qualify for the Olympics.

How do you handle that pressure of having to compete for the whole team during the World Cup? 

I like having that pressure because I trust myself to deal with it. I’m a veteran, I’m experienced. And I hate to say it, but I don’t want to put my trust in somebody else getting the spot. I want to be the one up on the board.

Can you talk about the difference between the two events you compete in? 

So I compete individually in the three-meter springboard. That’s the event I did in the 2016 Olympics. But this time around, I am also doing that event in synchro. That’s when two divers are diving at the same time. It’s so much fun because it has aspects of a team sport within an individual sport. My partner, Sarah Bacon, and I have known each other since we were young and are really good friends. We’re having a lot of fun doing synchro, and our timing is super natural, which doesn’t happen for a lot to divers. We’ve only been paired together for a few months, whereas some partners have been together for years. But because we have similar styles of diving, similar body types, and similar strengths, the hard parts about synchro come easy to us, which just makes it even more fun.

Have you two won any competitions together?

In the time we’ve been partners, we’ve won all of the competitions that we’ve competed in, and we’ve been told by international judges we have a really good chance of medaling at the Olympics. So it’s been refreshing to have that confidence from the judges and also to just be having so much fun with it. I think it’s made me a better individual diver because I’m just having a lot of fun at practice. I don’t have to internalize all these pressures anymore, because there’s somebody I can share the experience with.

How did your experience at the 2016 games motivate you during this current cycle?

The 2016 Olympics were a great experience, even though I didn’t compete as well as I wanted to. At the time, I was only about 20 years old. I was super young, and I think I let the outside pressures get to me. I definitely didn’t have the confidence I have now. I wasn’t heading into the Olympics that year thinking I could medal, I was just ecstatic that I was even there. But this next time around, I think my focus and maturity will really come in handy and will hopefully give me an edge that I didn’t have in 2016. But I mean, in Rio I had the time of my life and I came in 13th in the world. That’s not so bad.

You took some time off after the 2016 Olympics. How come? 

So after I graduated from Stanford, I retired for a year. I had just been injured so many times and I wanted to be able to support myself with what I thought was a more legitimate job. I mean, you don’t make money from diving in the US, which is ultimately a driving force for a lot of athletes who retire after college because they need to make living. And for me personally, training would have meant moving back home, and to be completely honest, I was just embarrassed to do that.

But after working and living in San Francisco for a little bit, I started to really miss diving. I realized there would be other jobs waiting for me for the rest of my life, and that most of the negative energy I had about diving was all in my head. No one was actually going to care if I moved back home to train. And even if that was the case, I didn’t want to give up something I was passionate about just to please others.

Obviously your focus is day to day at the moment because of all the chaos. But looking past the 2021 Olympics, do you see yourself retiring again or continuing with the sport?

I think I’m going to keep competing for a while. I’m having a lot of fun with it, and as long as my body stays healthy and as long as I’m still enjoying what I’m doing, I would like to keep on going until at least the 2024 Olympics. But obviously, it’s day by day. Anything could happen. But now that I’ve started up again, I would love to keep it going.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

Smith and Swanson shine in action-packed NWSL weekend

sophia smith celebrates after a goal for the portland thorns
Sophia Smith's 27th-minute goal paved the way for Portland's first win of the season. (Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports)

USWNT regulars Sophia Smith and Mallory Swanson furthered their cases for Olympic inclusion with their respective club victories on Saturday and Sunday.

After a roller coaster of a week that saw former Thorns head coach Mike Norris reassigned and a flurry of last-minute roster reshufflings as Friday's trade window closure loomed, the NWSL sprung to life over the weekend with standout performances from ninth-place Portland and third-place Chicago, among others.

After her blocked attempt at goal set up a volleying sixth-minute opener from veteran Christine Sinclair — now the only player in history to record a goal in all 11 NWSL seasons — Smith swiftly netted her own in the 27th minute off a breakaway run that eluded Houston's backline. The goal represented Smith's third of the season as well as her 35th for the Thorns, ultimately leading to the home side's first win of the season in a 4-1 routing of the Dash.

But that wasn't Smith's only stat of the evening. The star forward also lapped former Chicago Red Star Sam Kerr to become the youngest player to reach 50 NWSL goal contributions across all games, chalking up 40 goals and 10 assists at the age of 23 years and 254 days.

"Obviously it feels good to get a win," said Smith in a post-match press conference. "But this is the standard the Thorns have always had. So a win is great, but a win is the expectation — we're hungrier than ever after the way we started."

170 miles up the road, Lumen Field similarly showcased some promising Olympic prospect footwork on Sunday. In Chicago's 2-1 victory over the lagging 13th-place Seattle Reign, striker Mallory Swanson racked up an impressive counterattack assist on fellow forward Ally Schlegel's fourth-minute goal. Swanson went on to find the back of the net herself before halftime, lacing an explosive ball into the top corner in the 31st minute, her second of the season after returning from a lengthy sidelining injury.

Speaking of injuries, fellow USWNT favorites Alex Morgan and Tierna Davidson were not as fortunate as their national squad teammates this weekend. Each exited their club matches early, Morgan with an ankle knock in San Diego's loss to Orlando and Davidson with an apparent hamstring incident early on in Washington's win over Gotham.

LSU takes first-ever NCAA gymnastics title

Kiya Johnson of the LSU Tigers reacts after winning the national championship during the Division I Women's Gymnastics Championships
Gymnast Kiya Johnson celebrates LSU's win at the NCAA Division I Women's Gymnastics Championships. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

LSU came out on top at the 2024 NCAA women's gymnastics championship in Fort Worth on Saturday, besting Cal, Utah, and Florida to capture their first-ever title.

The Tigers' win was far from a landslide. LSU took the first rotation handily thanks to 2024 All-Around winner Haleigh Bryant's team-leading 9.9375 backed by four additional 9.9+ scores from her teammates. But Utah then responded with three strong beam performances of their own, causing the Red Rocks to slide confidently into second place by the end of the second rotation.

By the halfway point, all four teams fell within .288 points of one another before Utah overtook the pack with a dominant floor showing after three rotations. LSU then went on to ace the beam event with Konnor McClain's meet-leading 9.9625 score, coming away with the highest collective score ever awarded to the event in NCAA championship history. The achievement propelled the Tigers to victory, ensuring them the title after the final rotation.

"This team is full of individuals that have incredible character and integrity and love for each other and all the things you hear from coaches when they sit at a podium like this in a moment of victory, but I promise you it's a real thing," said LSU coach Jay Clark in a post-meet press conference. "I'm just so happy for them."

Contributing to Saturday's atmosphere of excitement was the absence of last year's champion and this year's heavily favored Oklahoma Sooners. Hot off earning the highest team score in NCAA history just last month, the top-ranked Norman squad suffered a shocking loss in the semifinals, where five major mistakes contributed to a third-place finish and a season-low team score of 196.6625.

With Oklahoma out, it was truly anyone's game.

"Every team was out there fighting for their lives — all four teams, it could have gone any of four ways out there," Clark told reporters. "As much as I feel for what happened to Oklahoma in the semifinals, I think it made for a championship that became so packed with emotion because every team out there believed they could do it. It was just tremendous."

LSU is now the eighth program in the sport's history to earn an NCAA women's gymnastic championship.
They share the honor with Georgia, Utah, UCLA, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, and Michigan.

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."

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