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Skateboarder Mariah Duran on her Orreco Partnership and Olympics Prep

Woman skateboarding on a staircase railing/ JWS
Woman skateboarding on a staircase railing/ JWS

Mariah Duran is an American skateboarder who will be competing to represent the USA next summer when skateboarding makes its Olympic debut. A two-time X Games gold medalist, Duran spoke with Just Women’s Sports about her current partnership with sports technology company Orreco, which is helping athletes better understand the effects of their period on their athletic performance.

(To read an overview of the partnership, click here.) 

How did you first hear about the Wasserman and Orreco partnership, and what was your reaction? 

My agent actually hit me up about it and briefly told me what it was about, how they basically study the female body in athletes and want to educate their partners on how their systems work. I was really interested because it’s something that we don’t really dive into very often in the skating world or for female athletes in general. We’re always compared to guys, especially in skating. It was really cool to just be talking to somebody who’s comparing me to other females and going off of that evidence to try to help me have the best performance in my sport. That was really cool and eye opening for me. And it kind of just made me more aware of everything.

How knowledgeable were you already about the science regarding how the menstrual cycle affects athletic performance?

Honestly, I only knew about as much as I’d learned in school. After that, it was just me experimenting to see what works for my life and my training. I never really knew why it worked or why it didn’t work. More so, I didn’t really have a full understanding that we have completely different systems than men which affect our training and recovery. I was always under the impression that it was for one week of the month, and during that week, you’re just not going to be at your A game.

As an athlete, you have so many other barriers to get over, but as far as understanding the female body, what really stood out to me was that there’s two different systems, and one is not broken. We’re not weaker than a male. We’re just two different things. And I’ve used this analogy before, but it’s like we’re two different cars. One’s an automatic car and the other one’s a manual car. We have to shift into different gears to get where we’re going, but we’re still going to the same place.

That’s a great analogy, I never thought of it in that way either. Yulin [Mariah’s agent] had mentioned that you discovered a correlation between one of the biggest injuries you had in your career last year during a contest and just being unaware of your cycle and how that affects performance. Can you talk about that episode, and how things could have gone differently? 

Totally! So last year I had a stress fracture in my tailbone. It was in a contest and it was one of my worst injuries because it was kind of just a freak accident, but it was due to a lot of fatigue and just a hard week of contests. Those things just happen, but it was also something where, had I known how my body reacts throughout not only just one week of the month, but through the entire month, I probably could have been more prepared and more aware of my body, which could have prevented the injury.

Before I started working with Orreco, I skated with my brothers, and I just had this mentality to push until you can’t push anymore. Mentally, that’s the thing that has gotten me as far as I have. But now understanding the physical being of a woman, I think I can take some smaller steps that will help myself avoid fatigue.

And if you are menstruating then you know what to do for your body, you know what to feed your body so that it can keep going at the pace you want it to go. And I think that for me, it was kind of just a lack of education, but I also just never really knew that there was even something to be learned about this. It was kind of always something that I thought, Oh man, maybe it’s just me. I don’t see any of the other girls slamming hard, you know what I mean? And it’s not spoken about much, so it’s really cool to just learn and teach other people by passing on the word.

You’re actively taking the chance to educate some of your female friends and teammates on the subject, but what do you think needs to happen to bring this conversation into the mainstream?

I’ve always kind of believed in just leading by example, because it’s kind of hard to force education upon people who don’t really understand it or aren’t curious. But if I can somehow incorporate this in my skateboarding and people can see the benefits, they’ll be curious and they’ll ask questions about how I’ve gotten where I am.

Leading as a role model, and just bringing awareness—because it’s something that’s not really spoken about, especially as a female. I don’t really discuss how I feel except with my brothers, because they’re my brothers. I’ll tell them if I’m menstruating or whatever, but as far as everybody that I’m competing with or whatever, it’s a harder or more uncomfortable conversation for others to hear that or whatever. So I would like to bring a little bit more awareness, even if it’s small, and leading by example is one way to do that.

In addition to injury prevention like you mentioned, how else has Orreco changed or impacted your training specifically?

It honestly just made me more aware in my training of what I’m putting my body through. Because skateboarding is such a hard thing to regulate, I would say. It’s not like any other sport. In basketball, you could have training in the morning and practice in the afternoon. But with skateboarding, it’s very sporadic. There isn’t a set training schedule. You pull up to a skatepark and you yourself are accountable for how much you want to push yourself. For me, I’m my own coach and my own player. I have to hold myself accountable. And working with Orreco has helped me adapt to certain situations and understand that I’m not always going to be able to push myself the same way every single day of the month. I’ve definitely underestimated rest the past two years, and now I’m taking it into consideration.

Orreco reminds me to get more fuel during the day, and get an extra two hours of sleep during the week, and put my phone down two hours before bed and turn off the TV. And I can feel the difference in doing these little things. And understanding why it works, it’s easier to follow through. And for them to be down to be on this journey with me is awesome. It’s perfect because it doesn’t really interfere with anything. It’s more of just understanding this is my lifestyle and okay, this is how you should be fueling, resting. And it doesn’t interfere with the creativity of my craft. I still have freedom to try to train when I want, to go skate when I want, I just have to do certain extra steps to just help my body recover, be ready. So that’s really nice.

So separate from Orreco, I wanted to chat with you about what the rest of the year looks like. I know you’re working towards the 2021 Olympics, which is super exciting because this is the first year that skateboarding is in the games. How have you been preparing? 

Honestly, having the Olympics postponed was a blessing in disguise for me personally. The past few years have been an insane amount of traveling, insane amount of contests and also just other projects aside from getting ready for the Olympics. I never really had the time to take the time to understand where I’m at in my level of skateboarding and also what I need to do to help my body prepare for the Olympics. It’s weird to say, but having this whole pause made me just realize that I literally have gotten into skateboarding before the Olympics was even an option. So it’s kind of nice to know that the Olympics isn’t everything to me, but it is definitely that matters. And I want to prepare for that moment, but I also want to enjoy the journey. It’s weird to say, but just being present is the most important thing you could do for yourself. Each day counts.

It’s kind of one of those things where it’s like, I don’t want to put so much pressure on trying to predict how the future is going to be, because I really don’t know. And this year was an example of that. It felt like the world shut down overnight. I just have to control what I can control. Lately I’ve just been creating training routines with some of my trainers, through Zoom of course. It’s definitely nice because it’s just very simple and very effective for me.

So I’ve just had a lot of time to just work on myself physically and just kind of just be present. I don’t know what the future holds. I definitely know that I’m working towards the Olympics, but I also know that I’m just working every day. So I think that that’s like the main thing that I’ve just been telling myself is to stay present.

Alyssa Naeher’s goalkeeper jersey sells out in less than three hours

uwnt goalie alyssa naeher wears jersey on the field with club team chicago red stars
USWNT star keeper Alyssa Naeher's new replica NWSL jersey was an instant success. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in the NWSL's 12-year history, fans can now buy their own goalkeeper jerseys. And while replica goalkeeper jerseys representing all 14 NWSL teams hit the market on Wednesday, some didn't stick around for long. 

Fans across women's soccer have long vocalized their discontent over the position's lack of availability on social media, often comparing the shortcoming to the widespread availability of men’s goalkeeper jerseys. And as the NWSL has grown, so has demand — and not just from those in the stands. 

"To have goalkeeper kits available for fans in the women’s game as they have been for so long in the men’s game is not only a long-awaited move in the right direction, it’s just good business," said Washington Spirit goalie Aubrey Kingsbury in an team press release. "I can’t wait to see fans representing me, Barnie [Barnhart], and Lyza in the stands at Audi!"

Business does, in fact, appear to be booming. Alyssa Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars kit sold out less than three hours after the league's announcement. Jerseys for other keepers like DiDi Haračić, Abby Smith, Michelle Betos, Katelyn Rowland, and Bella Bixby aren’t currently available via the Official NWSL Shop, though blank goalkeeper jerseys can be customized through some individual team sites. Jerseys start at $110 each.

"This should be the benchmark," said Spirit Chief Operations Officer Theresa McDonnell. "The expectation is that all players’ jerseys are available to fans. Keepers are inspiring leaders and mentors with their own unique fan base who want to represent them... I can’t wait to see them all over the city."

Simone Biles talks Tokyo Olympics fallout in new interview

gymnast simone biles on a balance beam
Biles' candid interview shed light on the gymnast's internal struggle. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Decorated gymnast Simone Biles took to the popular Call Her Daddy podcast this week to open up about her experience at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, revealing she thought she was going to be "banned from America" for her performance.

After Biles botched her vault routine due to a bout of the "twisties," she withdrew from the team final as well as the all-around final in order to focus on her mental health. She later reentered the competition to win bronze in the individual balance beam final.

In her interview with podcast host Alex Cooper, Biles admitted to feeling like she let the entire country down by failing her vault attempt.

"As soon as I landed I was like 'Oh, America hates me. The world is going to hate me. I can only see what they’re saying on Twitter right now,'" she recalled thinking. "I was like, ‘Holy s---, what are they gonna say about me?'"

"I thought I was going to be banned from America," she continued. "That’s what they tell you: Don’t come back if not gold. Gold or bust. Don’t come back."

Widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles has hinted at a desire to join her third Olympic team in Paris, though her participation won't be confirmed until after the gymnastics trials in late June. She holds over 30 medals from the Olympic Games and World Artistic Gymnastics Championships combined, and if qualified, would be a sure favorite heading into this summer’s games.

Caitlin Clark reportedly nearing $20 million+ Nike deal

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever poses for a portrait at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during her introductory press conference
WNBA-bound Caitlin Clark is said to be closing in on a monumental NIke deal. (Photo by Matt Kryger/NBAE via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark is reportedly close to cementing a hefty endorsement deal with Nike.

The Athletic was the first to break the news Wednesday evening, commenting that the deal would be worth "eight figures" and include her own signature shoe. On Thursday afternoon, the publication tweeted that the deal would top $20 million, according to lead NBA Insider Shams Charania. Both Under Armour and Adidas are said to have also made sizable offers to the college phenom and expected future WNBA star.

The new agreement comes after Clark's previous Nike partnership ended with the conclusion of the college basketball season. She was one of five NCAA athletes to sign an NIL deal with the brand back in October, 2022. 

Considering Clark's overwhelming popularity and Nike's deep pockets, the signing's purported value doesn't exactly come as a shock. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu’s deal with the brand is reportedly worth $24 million, while NBA rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama’s deal is rumored to weigh in at $100 million. And in 2003, LeBron James famously earned $90 million off his own Nike deal. 

Clark’s star power continues to skyrocket, with the NCAA championship averaging 18.9 million viewers and the 2024 WNBA Draft more than doubling its previous viewership record. Following the draft, Fanatics stated that Clark's Indiana Fever jersey — which sold out within an hour — was the top seller for any draft night pick in the company’s history, with droves of unlucky fans now being forced to wait until August to get their hands on some official No. 22 gear.

In Wednesday's Indiana Fever introductory press conference, the unfailingly cool, calm, and collected Clark said that turning pro hasn’t made a huge impact on how she’s conducting her deals.

"If I’m being completely honest, I feel like it doesn’t change a ton from how I lived my life over the course of the last year," she said. "Sponsorships stay the same. The people around me, agents and whatnot, have been able to help me and guide me through the course of the last year. I don’t know if I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for a lot of them."

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

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