Sha’Carri Richardson is set to join a stacked field at Saturday’s Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., in her first major race since last September.

She will be racing against Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Elaine Thompson-Herah and bronze medalist Shericka Jackson, both from Jamaica.

Richardson took the track world by storm last summer as she blazed to a win in the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials. While she was removed from the Olympic team after testing positive for marijuana, she received an outpouring of public support.

Before last weekend, though, she had not raced since last September. Richardson had withdrawn from three competitions so far this year without explanation.

Last Saturday, she ran the 100 at the Duval County Challenge for her first race of 2022. She finished in fourth with a time of 11.37, more than half a second off her personal best of 10.72, though she was running through the rain and against the wind.

Last August, she finished in last out of nine runners with a time of 11.14 at the Prefontaine Classic, which had been delayed several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You know what I’m capable of,” she said after that race. “Count me out if you want to. Talk all the s—you want. ‘Cause I’m here to stay. I’m not done.”

Sky Brown is most comfortable with the wind in her hair and a skateboard at her feet. In those moments, when Brown leaves ground level, she transcends what humans think they know about age and gravity.

“She is fearless in a way that is scary if you’re an outsider,” said Tony Hawk, who mentors Brown.

Brown, 13, became the youngest Great Britain athlete to win an Olympic medal when she took bronze in the women’s park skateboarding event at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but her thirst for challenging norms remains unquenched. Brown plans to compete not only in skateboarding at the 2024 Games in Paris, but also in surfing, her other passion.

“That sounds like a hard thing, but yeah, I’m going to try,” Brown said. “(That’s) my best dream right now.”

Brown spoke with a group of reporters last week after being nominated for the 2022 Laureus World Comeback Athlete of the Year award, along with gymnast Simone Biles, diver Tom Daley (Great Britain), cyclist Mark Cavendish (Great Britain), cyclist Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands) and motorcycle racer Marc Marquez (Spain).

Brown has a compelling case for the award. In June 2020, the then-11-year-old prodigy was hospitalized with a skull fracture, a broken wrist, a broken hand and a black eye suffered on a gnarly skateboarding fall from high in the air.

When she woke up in the hospital, Brown was not focused on her pain or her bruises, but her future: She wanted to get back to the skatepark.

“It was actually hard for my parents to let me get back on my board,” Brown said. “My dad saw it in real life, and my mom was sleeping in the car when it happened. (My brother) was watching from behind. It was a super hard time for my family, but for me, I was just so excited to get back.”

Brown does not have much practice in sitting still. Her mornings start on the water, where she surfs for two to five hours per day, depending on the quality of waves. Then, after going to school and finishing her homework, Brown, who is of British and Japanese ancestry and lives in Southern California, will hit a local skatepark with some friends.

She was fully healed by the Tokyo Games, and since coming home with the medal, she’s often swarmed by fans in public. For an athlete focused on empowering even younger girls, the attention is encouraging and validating.

“Her future,” said Hawk, “is very bright.”

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Brown’s post-Olympics life is that not much has changed. Her parents still implore her to clean her room and limit her screen time, and her mother hides vegetables in her dinner. She often giggles when she speaks and is extra polite to adults.

To the untrained eye, she might look like a typical 13-year-old girl, hanging with her friends at the beach or the skatepark. But then Sky Brown will lift off, with her feet firmly on a board, her hair blowing in the wind and her body painting a picture in the sky.

Josh Needelman is the High School Sports Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.

Nelly Korda has had an eventful 2021, becoming the first golfer to win a major and Olympic gold in the same year.

The American phenom stopped by the Just Women’s Sports podcast to talk with host Kelley O’Hara about her journey to the Olympics, something she once thought was impossible.

Korda remembers watching the Summer and Winter Olympics with her family growing up, but never imagining competing in the Games herself. “I never thought I would have the opportunity to get to go play because 2016 was the first year that golf was played in the Olympics,” Korda says. “I grew up focusing more on the majors.”

Then, one of Korda’s greatest professional dreams came true when she clinched the KMPG Women’s PGA Championship back in June. “I won my major and was like, ‘Wow, this is amazing. Like, I’ve worked my entire life for this,’” she recalls. “After the major, that event is when I qualified for the Olympics.”

The 23-year-old says she didn’t really know what to expect in Tokyo, since the Olympics were unchartered territory for her.

“You don’t really get to represent your country so much and I love doing it. It’s so much fun,” she says.

Golf’s unforgiving schedule played a role in Korda’s limited preparation for Tokyo, making the trip even more of a whirlwind. She remembers playing a major right before the Olympics and focusing solely on that tournament before gearing up for the Games.

“Finally, the week of Olympics it kind of set in,” Korda says. “I was flying over to Japan, I was unboxing all my USA gear. It was super cool.”

While Korda was able to tour the Olympic Village once, COVID-19 protocols curbed the full Olympic experience, including on the course.

“With it being such a big year for golf in Japan we were expecting a lot, a lot, a lot of fans, so that was kind of a bummer that we didn’t have the fans there,” Korda says. “But there’s so many people that volunteered, it was insane. I heard there were 3,000-4,000 people that volunteered.”

When it came time to receive her gold medal, Korda says the moment took her by surprise.

“Honestly, nothing like standing on a podium,” she says. “I didn’t really know what to think of it. I just watched it on TV and was kind of envious of the people that got to compete in the Olympics.

“There was just a huge surge of emotions going through me once I got to stand on the podium.”

Listen to Korda’s full conversation with Kelley O’Hara about the Tokyo Olympics on the Just Women’s Sports podcast.

Kenyan distance runner and Olympian Agnes Tirop was found dead in her home on Wednesday. A two-time world championship bronze medalist in the 10,000 meters and fourth-place finisher in the 5,000 meters at the Tokyo Olympics, she was 25 years old.

Tirop’s father reported her missing on Tuesday night. She was later found by police.

Her husband is missing, with Kenyan police treating him as a suspect.

“When [police] got in the house, they found Tirop on the bed and there was a pool of blood on the floor,” Tom Makori, head of police for the area, told reporters. “They saw she had been stabbed in the neck, which led us to believe it was a knife wound, and we believe that is what caused her death. Her husband is still at large, and preliminary investigations tell us her husband is a suspect because he cannot be found. Police are trying to find her husband so he can explain what happened to Tirop.”

According to the BBC, she also had a stab wound to her stomach.

Just last month, the Kenyan broke the world record in the 10K road race by more than 28 seconds in a time of 30:01. She later competed on Oct. 3, coming in second in a 10K in Switzerland.

“Athletics Kenya are distraught to learn about the untimely death of World 10,000m bronze medallist Agnes Tirop,” the country’s athletics body said in a statement. “We are still working to unearth more details surrounding her demise. Kenya has lost a jewel who was one of the fastest-rising athletics giants on the international stage, thanks to her eye-catching performances on the track.”

Athing Mu is being welcomed back home in style.

The city of Trenton, N.J. will hold a parade for the Olympic gold medalist and hometown hero on Sunday, Aug. 29, according to NJ Advance Media.

Set to begin at 2 p.m. ET, the parade will commence at Trenton Central High School, from which Mu graduated in 2020, and end at City Hall. The first American woman since 1968 to win a gold medal in the 800 meters, Mu also helped Team USA win gold in the 4×400-meter relay in Tokyo earlier this month.

Since then, the 19-year-old set an American record in the 800m at the Prefontaine Classic, coming in first with a time of 1:55.04.

The city plans to announce more details about the parade in the coming days.

Dawn Staley is opening up for the first time about her experience interviewing for the Portland Trail Blazers’ head coaching job.

The Team USA and South Carolina Gamecocks coach dished about the NBA interview process while talking with Napheesa Collier and A’ja Wilson on the latest episode of Tea with A & Phee.

Reports that Staley had spoken with the Trail Blazers first surfaced in June, shortly before Portland announced Chauncey Billups as the team’s next head coach.

“I had never had an ounce of me that wanted to coach in the WNBA or NBA, until somebody sought me out, like the Portland Trail Blazers,” Staley says on the JWS show.

“When you’re being sought out, you have to vet it a little bit to see if they’re really serious about it. I thought they treated me like a real candidate. Whether or not they seriously considered me, I felt like it wasn’t a fluke. So I agreed to do it.”

Staley says the interview took place over Zoom and that, rather than focusing on the X’s and O’s, the Blazers executives asked Staley how she would handle star players.

“I bet that is most of the job,” Collier tells Staley, who says she agrees.

When asked by Collier how she would handle a star player who’s sitting out of training camp, Staley says she would focus on building relationships with her players and their families ahead of time in order to avoid such conflicts.

Though Portland decided to go in another direction, Staley hopes her experience helps other women interviewing for similar positions in the future.

“It was a really a great experience,” she says. “I took a lot of notes because if another female is ever in that position, I got the notes, and I’m going to give them everything that they asked me — how I answered it, what they said.”

Staley doesn’t say whether she would have taken the job if offered, but she says that she thanked the Blazers for the experience and for “treating me as if I was a serious candidate.”

This past weekend, Staley won her sixth gold medal with Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, after which she said she would be stepping down as the national team coach.

You can listen to A’ja Wilson and Napheesa Collier’s full interview with Dawn Staley here.

In a call with the media on Wednesday, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird revealed that total player compensation has more than doubled since 2019.

According to Baird, the average total compensation – including salaries, health care and other benefits – sits at around $52,502.

She also addressed officiating within the league, stating that the NWSL is looking into options that would improve the refereeing. This comes on the heels of criticism by both players and coaches over the league’s referees.

“We need officiating in our league that matches the talent of the players on the pitch,” she said. “I don’t think anyone is satisfied right now.”

More specifically, the league is looking into creating a technical director who would work with PRO. They’re also taking a “serious look” at investing in VAR.

Baird also expects free agency to come up at some point with the next collective bargaining agreement, noting that the league is at the point where it’s “inevitable.” However, there is still no clear cut timeline on the process.

In regards to the NWSL championship site, Baird revealed the league would once again be using a predetermined site.

“There are a number of interested teams putting together proposals,” she said, adding that the league hopes to announce something “in the coming weeks.”

Hailey Van Lith barely had time to relax this summer, let alone keep up with the flurry of developments surrounding name, image and likeness rights for college athletes.

After Louisville’s basketball season ended in a loss to Stanford in the Elite Eight of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, Van Lith spent most of her summer in Los Angeles training with skills coach Jordan Lawley. She worked on her game and on re-building her confidence after a freshman season she says was “up and down” for both the team and her mentally.

She wasn’t thinking much about NIL legislation and what it would mean for her until she got a text in late June. Van Lith learned that Kentucky governor Andy Beshear had just signed an executive order making Kentucky the seventh state to allow college athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness by July 1.

“I had always been dreaming of what I could do with it, but I don’t know if I ever really took it seriously, just never having seen anything like that done before,” Van Lith said during a sitdown interview in midtown Manhattan before the NBA Draft late last month.

Six days after Kentucky signed its bill into law, the NCAA adopted an interim policy granting NIL rights to all current and incoming student-athletes. From there, Van Lith’s eyes were opened to a whole assortment of possibilities.

“It’s just crazy,” she said. “We have so much potential to grow the game and allow ourselves to be successful, but the rules have kept us held back till now. So, I think we can really explode and take it over.”

Van Lith remembered an Opendorse report that came out during the NCAA Tournament in March estimating the annual earnings for the top athletes in the Elite Eight based on their social media followings, market size and school revenue. Eight of the top 10 athletes listed were women, and Van Lith was projected to make $965,000 annually, more than any other athlete by a wide margin.

The No. 7 recruit in the 2020 class, and the highest-ranked player to sign with the Cardinals since 2015, Van Lith had a following before she arrived at Louisville. She lived up to that promise during her freshman season, earning a spot on the All-ACC Freshman Team after averaging 11.2 points per game as a starting guard alongside senior Dana Evans. By the time of the Elite Eight in late March, Van Lith had 696,000 followers on social media.

The timing of the report’s release wasn’t lost on Van Lith. Just weeks earlier, the NCAA had come under fire after social media posts revealed disparities in facilities and resources between the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, forcing NCAA president Mark Emmert to apologize.

“I think the biggest part is everyone’s like, ‘Oh, people don’t want to watch women’s basketball,’ but the times they’ve actually put it on main TV channels where people can find it, it gets watched,” Van Lith said. “I think with NIL, allowing individuals to push that more than just schools and universities, there will be a lot more push behind getting those games broadcasted and brands getting more involved with individual players.”

Indeed television ratings for the women’s NCAA Tournament this year were up, and Van Lith’s own social media following has grown since then, as well.

She now has 713,0000 followers on Instagram and has multiple people helping her determine what and when to post, including her parents. She also signed with Octagon as one of the sports agency’s first NIL representation clients.

“Sometimes I’m like, wow, there’s way too many people that care about what I want to post,” Van Lith said. “I’m mindful about what I can and can’t do and like, ‘Will this help me target the right audience if I post this?’ There’s a lot more thought going into my social media now than there was before.”

In both her words and her actions, Van Lith points to two near-term consequences of the NIL rules: With money on the line, athletes will start behaving like businesses. And female athletes, in particular, will finally know their actual value.

Just as the Opendorse report was released amid the outcry over the NCAA’s handling of the women’s basketball tournament, NIL rules are changing at the same time that we’re beginning to understand the depth of the NCAA’s gender inequities.

The Kaplan report, published last week after an investigation by an outside law firm, found that the NCAA has systematically undervalued its female athletes, especially its high-profile basketball players. Now Van Lith and other stars have an opportunity through individual deals to create a more accurate picture of the value they bring.

But Van Lith isn’t just in it for the money.

She says she’s focused on working with brands that align with both her interests, such as streetwear and fashion, and with causes that are important to her. At the top of her list are companies that are committed to elevating women in sports.

“Whether that’s incorporating teammates into my deals or other women athletes that I think deserve a platform, I have an opportunity to give them that platform and just push for representation of more female athletes,” she said.

Van Lith also recognizes the racial disparities that exist in the marketing and media coverage of athletes and wants to help be a part of the solution. Paige Bueckers’ call to shine a light on Black women during her acceptance speech at the ESPYs in July resonated with Van Lith, who has played with Bueckers on the USA Basketball youth circuit.

“Now it’s my job to make sure other girls behind me get that same platform,” Van Lith said. “I’m obviously white and a lot of my teammates are Black, and just making sure that I push them because I know that they deserve it just as much as I do.”

Van Lith is just starting to learn how to navigate the NIL landscape and the responsibilities that come with being more than a student-athlete. It’s a lot for a 19-year-old to wrap her head around, but Van Lith hasn’t had much time to think about it in the past few weeks.

After watching her boyfriend, Jalen Suggs, get drafted fifth overall by the Orlando Magic in New York City, Van Lith flew to France to compete with Team USA in the 3×3 U23 Nations League tournament. Playing two to three games every day from Aug. 2-4, Van Lith and her U.S. teammates — including Louisville transfer Emily Engstler — finished second in the standings behind the host country. From there, she headed back to Louisville for basketball camps and will get just a short break before classes start on Aug. 22.

Then, it’s onto the college basketball season, which Van Lith is calling “national championship or bust” for Louisville. The Cardinals lost Dana Evans to graduation and the WNBA, but they have multiple transfers, No. 12 recruit Payton Verhulst and a more self-assured Van Lith leading them in the backcourt.

“Last year, I didn’t always trust myself. I would have confidence dips, and at the highest level, it’s hard to have confidence dips because the competition is so tough,” she said. “I grew up a lot. I know a lot more about making relationships with teammates and how to just connect with people and make them better. So I’m really excited about next year.”

In an NIL world, excitement abounds in more ways than one.

Following Team USA’s record seventh-straight Olympic gold medal, head coach Dawn Staley announced her retirement as from Team USA basketball coach.

She told the Star Tribune’s Jim Souhan after the fact that she would be recommending Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve as her successor.

Reeve has been an assistant for Team USA at the past two Olympics as well as for multiple world championships. For her part, she thinks Staley should continue in her current position.

“I appreciate Dawn’s confidence,” Reeve told the Star Tribune. “At the same time, I think Dawn should keep the team.”

Regardless of what happens, Reeve also believes that whoever replaces Staley should come from the WNBA. In the past, the head job has traditionally been held by college coaches.

“It’s all WNBA players [on the roster],” Reeve said. “I would like to see a WNBA coach lead the next team if Dawn is truly done. That’s probably the extent of what I’d say on it.”

If Staley is truly done, Team USA will be looking for a new coach with the 2022 FIBA World Cup in Australia on the horizon. It’s a lofty role with high expectations as the team looks to continue their success, having won 55 consecutive Olympic games and seven consecutive gold medals.

Olympic champion Lydia Jacoby returned home last week, welcomed by a parade in her hometown of Seward, Alaska.

Jacoby is the first Alaskan to make the U.S. Olympic swim team. As a result, she’s also their first Olympic gold medalist in swimming.

With just one 50-meter pool in the entire state, Jacoby had limited resources for training growing up.

“Obviously, I come from a small town,” she said, answering questions from a tour boat. “Wherever you’re from and whatever resources you have, with dedication and time you can make it happen.”