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Simone Manuel overcomes overtraining syndrome after Olympic disappointment

TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 30: Simone Manuel of Team United States reacts competing in the Women’s 50m Freestyle heats on day seven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on July 30, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The first Black woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal in swimming, Simone Manuel stepped away from competition entirely in 2022.

The 26-year-old swimmer had been diagnosed with overtraining syndrome — also known as burnout — ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. She continued to compete, and though she failed to qualify in the 100-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic trials, she did qualify in the 50 free. Still, she knew some onlookers doubted her struggle.

“People didn’t believe that I actually was overtrained,” Manuel said in a new documentary produced by TOGETHXR. “People said that I was distracted by all my other sponsor obligations, and that’s why I didn’t perform well. That I became lazy and my success went to my head.

“It’s really hard to be vulnerable in that space because it’s so easy for people to say they don’t believe me. I don’t get the empathy or understanding that I deserve.”

She opened up about her diagnosis, and her decision to take a break from elite swimming, in the documentary. The release coincided with her return to competition at Knoxville Pro Swim, her first elite-level competition since the Tokyo Games. She placed third in the 50 free in her return.

Prior to her diagnosis, Manuel dealt with the pressures of Olympic preparation, the COVID-19 pandemic and the weight of expectation as a groundbreaking Black swimmer.

“My training was going pretty well until the pandemic hit,” Manuel said. “Pools got shut down fairly quickly just like everything else. What are we doing? What’s the solution? Are the Olympics happening? When is it going to happen?

“I think I had maybe two or three days off before we found that backyard pool, and I just continued to train.”

At the same time, she started to receive even more spotlight as a leading Black athlete.

“I was then being asked to speak on these panels: ‘How can we support our Black community?’ ‘How can we diversify the sport of swimming?’” she continued.

“Being an athlete who was trying to focus on the Olympics, it was my job to work and continue to train. But also then be asked to continue to put my emotions on the line for other people to somehow be entertained by it. It was just a really tough time for me. Because I was training so hard and never took a break, I think my body just ended up crashing.”

As someone who “has a high swimming IQ,” Manuel knew something was wrong with her swimming, she said. She first felt it in January 2021, and she brought her concern to her coach at the time. He was dismissive of her concerns, she said, telling her that she was training “really well.”

“My stroke wasn’t feeling the same. My rhythm was off,” she said. “And I remember having conversations with my coach and asking him, ‘Well, how do you think I’m training?’ ‘Oh, you’re training really well. This is the best training I’ve ever seen you have.’ And I’m like, ‘But my times are slower.’

“I wish I would have just told him, ‘No, I’m not going to come in.’”

By March 2021, she wasn’t able to compete in a full lineup of events. After a meet that month, a doctor diagnosed her with overtraining syndrome. Still, she kept training until her doctor mandated a break, or else she might not have been able to compete at the Olympic trials.

“It really was just about damage control,” she said. “I continued to train for a while per my coach’s instructions and my progress continued to decline.”

While Manuel wound up making the Olympic team, she described her experience in Tokyo as “not fun at all.” She says it was difficult watching people compete in the 100 free, the event in which she had won gold at the 2016 Olympics.

She placed 11th in the 50 free semifinals in Tokyo, falling short of a spot in the final race.

After her absence from the sport, she returns with a new outlook, though with her eyes still looking toward the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

“Going into the next chapter of swimming would be trying to block out all the noise,” Manuel said. “I just want to swim with no pressure or expectations from anybody, even myself. Which I don’t know what that looks like, but I think that’s what’s next for me and that’s definitely going to be the focus: falling back in love with this sport and just being happy doing it.

“And then get back to competing on the highest level and hopefully winning some more medals.”

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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