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Michelle Wie West Has Always Done It Her Way

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Michelle Wie West knew at a very young age that she was going to be a professional athlete. It was never a question of whether she would go pro, it was only a matter of finding the right sport.

In a recent conversation with Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sports podcast, Wie West laughs when recalling her early process of elimination. She quickly crossed off soccer, basketball, and gymnastics. She loved hitting in tennis but didn’t have the foot speed. She loved batting in baseball but couldn’t catch. Golf ended up a perfect fit, a sport where she could doggedly pursue excellence in what she loved most in all the sports she tried: connecting stick to ball as powerfully and precisely as possible.

Many saw young Michelle Wie as a child prodigy whose parents pushed her into the sporting limelight as early and often as possible, but in reality Wie West has always been an independent thinker. Her own internal barometer of happiness has been her guiding force throughout her career, leaving her largely unfazed by critics and naysayers.

One source of her early confidence was just her sheer physical presence. At age 10 she was 5’7”, 165 lbs. and could hit the ball 275 yards.

“I was an absolute unit,” she laughingly tells O’Hara. “I loved being outside. I was a total tomboy.”

She had no qualms about being the only girl on the basketball court or the only girl on her youth baseball team, even making the all-star team in the latter. By 14 years of age, her unprecedented trajectory in golf was already well underway. She had won enough youth and adult amateur events, and was enough of a media draw, for Sony to offer her a sponsor’s invite to their 2004 PGA tournament in Hawaii.

Wie West tells O’Hara the decision to accept the invite was easy: “My mindset was ok, I played on the boys’ team in baseball. I made the all-star team. All my friends are boys. I was like a super tomboy. So I didn’t feel like that was a really bizarre thing to do.”

In that first PGA event at 14 years old, she missed the cut by one stroke, beating 47 adult men, including seven major winners. She went on to accept several PGA sponsor invites throughout her career, undeterred by critics who wrote them off as undeserved publicity stunts.

Wie West’s entire path to becoming a pro golfer was unconventional. The typical route is to play on your high school team and in junior golf events and then get recruited to a college team and transition to pro tour events. For a youngster with Wie West’s skills, a full college scholarship was all but guaranteed.

But Wie West always made up her own mind about what was best for her, and she decided she could turn pro without sacrificing her educational goals. She was regularly placing high enough to qualify for prize money, but as an amateur she wasn’t allowed to accept the rewards. That didn’t make sense to her, so she decided she would do both: become a professional golfer and still go to her dream school, Stanford University.

“I knew I wanted to go to Stanford. That was not something I was going to give up,” she tells O’Hara, at the time thinking, “I can turn pro and I have good enough grades and maybe a cool enough story that I can get into Stanford.”

So, as a sweet sixteenth birthday gift to herself, she signed contracts with Nike and Sony and officially turned pro. Two years later she was admitted to Stanford University. While many speculated that attending such a rigorous academic school would negatively impact her golf career, Wie West wasn’t concerned.

“I thought that even if it took me away from golf a little bit, it was worth it,” she tells O’Hara. Looking back, she still believes going to Stanford was one of the smartest decisions she’s ever made.

Wie West’s confidence to do things her own way has also been evident on the putting green. After a mid-career slump dropped her to 119th on the LPGA tour in putting average, she came up with a very unconventional new technique. The idea first came to her when she was paired with a much shorter player who was nailing all her putts.

“I’m using my Stanford brain here and I think the scientific reason why she is putting better than me is because her eyes are closer to the golf ball,” she recalls thinking to O’Hara, “If I get closer to the ball… I will start putting better.”

In order to accomplish this, the 6-foot-tall Wie West began leaning over almost 90 degrees in a new, aptly named “tabletop” putting stance.

She even laughed along with those commenting on the peculiar image of her tall frame bent at such an awkward angle. Scientific validity aside, the change was successful for Wie West.

“From that moment on I started feeling really comfortable and that was something that I was searching for,” she explains to O’Hara. She went on to win two LPGA events the following year, including her first Major win at the 2014 U.S. Open.

For someone who was in the national (and international) spotlight at such a young age, the fact that she’s never been all that influenced by public perception is rare and impressive. In making big decisions, Wie West has always maximized for personal happiness by confidently trusting an inner voice that has guided her on a path that’s uniquely her own.

Listen to Michelle Wie West’s full conversation with Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sports podcast here.

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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