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Skateboarder Minna Stess Talks Quarantine Training and Tokyo Olympics

Minna Stess on skateboard / JWS
Minna Stess on skateboard / JWS

Minna Stess is a member of USA Skateboarding and is on track to represent Team USA at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The 14-year-old prodigy talked to JWS about training in quarantine and what she’s looking forward to in 2021.

You started placing in skate competitions when you were eight years old. Now, a few years later at age 14, you’re the youngest skater on team USA. How did you develop so quickly, and how do you handle the pressure of skating with adults now?

I don’t know. When I was eight, I was just having a lot of fun. I was just skateboarding for the fun of it. I’m not really sure. I don’t remember much, to be honest. I remember having fun, but that’s all.

It’s kind of weird to think about it, but I don’t know. I’ve been friends with a lot of them and some of them are older too, so I’m just making friends with people that are a little bit older than me. It was not that weird, it’s not like I’m so young. I mean, it’s everyone just skating. So we all have something in common, especially to talk about. So it’s not really that weird.

That’s awesome. I can imagine you’re still in school, probably doing online stuff with the pandemic, but how do you balance that while competing at the highest level?

Where I live there’s an independent study school, which basically means I go in once a week to get my work. And then the next week I come back with that work and I do that all over again. So I can travel pretty easily, I don’t stay at school, I just go one day. Especially with online now, it’s just Zoom calls, while before it was just going on for like an hour. But yeah, it’s pretty easy travel and stuff.

Skateboarding is making its debut at this summer’s Olympics. What do you think that means for the growth of the sport?

I think it’s really cool. I mean, hopefully it stays in for a while. This is the first year they’re going to have it, but I think it’s really cool because I don’t think a lot of people see real skateboarding. They only see skateboarding as being for people who do drugs and stuff. I feel like there are those stereotypes, and I think it’s really cool to try to get rid of the stereotypes, and show what skating actually is. It’s just having fun and just competing.

You were on track to qualify for Tokyo 2020 before the games were all pushed back. What does that timeline look like now for 2021?

Right now, I think they’re talking about having a competition in March. But from what I’ve heard, a lot of it is based on vaccine progress from whatI know. That’s what they’re saying, but nothing’s really set. I would assume they’re trying to get contests but I don’t know. At this point I have no idea anymore.

I read that you have a skate park set up in your backyard, which is awesome. This must’ve been super helpful during the pandemic. 

Yeah, it’s very nice to have somewhere in my backyard where I can just go out there and skate. All my friends have been asking me like, “Oh, can I come over to your backyard and see you skateboard?” But all the stuff in my backyard is kind of small, so I can’t do everything. But I can at least do most of it.

And how about working with your coaches? Are you able to see them at all or do you do Zoom sessions? 

One of my coaches lives in Southern California. I saw him at the start of summer, but not really much anymore since the pandemic has been getting worse. But I do use some Zoom calls with the USA skateboarding personal trainer. And the training for that. And then in my town too, we have a trainer, his name’s Brandon, which I work with. But I had to stop for a little bit because I sprained my ankle so I couldn’t really do much.

How are you feeling now? Are you getting back from that injury?

Oh, yeah, I’m fine now. But it kind of stopped me for like a few weeks. I had a boot because it was a pretty bad sprain, it was doing something stupid too, so…

I feel like that’s the theme of 2020 though, you never know what’s going to happen. Do you feel a lot of pressure when competing at qualifier contests? 

Yeah, definitely, because I don’t really know how many contests we’ll do. Maybe one or two, which is not that much.

What is your mindset heading into those contests when they happen?

I don’t know. I just try to do the best I can. Right now, for me, it’s hard to have a mindset when I can’t really know when it’s going to happen, so it’s weird. But overall I am just going to have fun with it which is the most important thing anyways.

You obviously have a very bright future ahead of you at such a young age. What are your ultimate goals in the sport?

Right now, definitely just make the Olympics. And I don’t know. I keep saying this, but just the timing right now is just terrible. It feels like I’m stuck in like… I don’t know. It’s like I’m just stuck in a specific time. And everyone is, but I hate it so much. So right now I’m just thinking about getting out of this moment and competing at the Olympics.

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 Crypto.com Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a Change.org 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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