Sidney Crosby

For Canada, repeating double hockey gold is the goal at Sochi Olympics

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CALGARY, Alberta — Camera crews, photographers, adoring fans waiting for autographs — no, this wasn’t a Hollywood movie premiere.

It was the scene at Calgary International Airport on Sunday morning, as members of the Canadian men’s hockey team arrived for an Olympic orientation camp. In this hockey-crazed nation, these are the celebrities.

Rick Nash, the New York Rangers’ $7.8 million forward, sat alone unnoticed that morning at his gate at Newark Liberty International Airport, but as soon as he stepped out of baggage claim in Calgary, light bulbs flashed and cameras swarmed.

Welcome to Canada.

The Canadian men’s and women’s teams descended upon the largest city in Alberta for meetings and training sessions this week, taking one step closer to becoming members of Canada’s Olympic team. Nearly four years removed from their gold-medal runs on home soil in Vancouver, both squads are under pressure to stand atop the podium again at the 2014 Winter Games.

The attention surrounding the men was intense. This marked the first and last time the group will meet before arriving in Sochi. In their meetings with the media in Calgary, players reflected on their experiences in Vancouver and looked ahead to upcoming challenges in February.

Head coach Mike Babcock, who also leads the Detroit Red Wings, recalled his speech in the locker room before the overtime period of the gold-medal game against the U.S.

“One of you is going to be a hero … forever,” he said.

Several players laughed when asked if they were surprised when Sidney Crosby became that hero with his shot past Ryan Miller after 7 minutes, 40 seconds of overtime at Canada Hockey Place.

“It couldn’t have been anyone else,” New York Islanders forward John Tavares said.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who enjoyed a relatively short summer break after winning his second Stanley Cup, said there was a certain amount of pleasure snatching gold away from his friend and teammate Patrick Kane.

The Canadians set the bar quite high for an encore performance in February. With such lofty standards, every detail about this team has been scrutinized, from who will be in net to the effect of the wider, international-sized rinks in Sochi.

At times, these concerns can seem trivial with such a talented roster and rich history. However, the men’s tournament is filled with such strong teams, like the U.S. or the host, that one small factor could prove to be the difference.

While the Canadian women won’t likely have to worry about multiple countries competing with them for gold, their supremacy still appears to be in danger, due to the rise of the U.S. team.

Canada won the last three Olympic gold medals, but its edge over the U.S. narrowed in recent years. And with the Americans’ wins at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships, the field may be as level as it’s been in this heated rivalry.

source:
Canada was disconsolate after the U.S. won 3-2 in the worlds final. (AP)

Head coach Dan Church, who is entering his first Olympics at the helm, went so far in Calgary as to call his team “the hunters” in Sochi. His players weren’t far behind, admitting that they think about their neighbors to the south during every training session.

The recent loss in Ottawa at worlds in April still stings. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Caroline Ouellette didn’t mince words.

“It sucked to lose,” she said.

A looming meeting with the U.S. in the Sochi final seems nearly inevitable at this point — the two teams have met in every Olympic final except for one and every World Championship final.

The U.S. boasts a more youthful roster with star forwards Hilary Knight, 24, and Amanda Kessel, 22. Canada counters with the leadership and experience of Hayley Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford, who have played in every Olympic hockey tournament dating to the women’s debut in 1998.

Though the questions surrounding the women may be fewer, the expectations in Sochi will be just as great. After all, this is hockey. And this is Canada.

Paralyzed man walks London Marathon in 36 hours in exoskeleton

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A paralyzed man walked the London Marathon route wearing an exoskeleton suit, finishing around 11 p.m. Monday, nearly 36 hours after he started, according to British media.

Simon Kindleysides was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in April 2013 and was paralyzed from the waist down, he said on the BBC before the race.

“I want to be a role model to my children so they can say their daddy’s been the first paralyzed man to walk the London Marathon ever,” said Kindleysides, a 34-year-old father of three, according to the report.

Kindleysides predicted he would finish in 37 hours, completing the first half of the 26.2-mile race on Sunday, then sleeping a few hours and walking the final 13.1 miles on Monday. Kindleysides said after finishing that he spent 26.5 of those 36 hours walking the marathon.

“Painful, emotional to walk that far in 26.5 hours,” he said. “It feels amazing. So glad I’ve done it. I’m here proving a point, anything is possible.”

Kindleysides said he handcycled from London to Paris for charity two years ago.

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MORE: London Marathon results

Candace Parker finished with USA Basketball

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Candace Parker said she will not play for Team USA again, detailing her reaction to being left off the Rio Olympic team nearly two years ago.

“This is the first time I’ve spoke on this,” Parker said on a podcast published Sunday. “I’m not playing USA Basketball anymore.

“I’m one of those people. Once it’s done, it’s done.”

Parker was surprisingly left off the 12-woman Olympic roster for Rio after being a key player on the 2008 and 2012 gold-medal teams.

Asked if the omission was due to politics or an “intentional snub,” Parker detailed her commitment to USA Basketball playing through injuries from before her freshman year at the University of Tennessee through the 2012 Olympics. Plus, taking time away from her daughter to play on an October 2015 European tour one week after her Los Angeles Sparks were eliminated from the WNBA Playoffs.

“If it wasn’t going to be my play that made the final decision [on the Olympic roster]. If it wasn’t going to be my performance on the court, don’t have me do that,” she said of the European tour and Rio Olympic promotions. “It was more about loyalty. I’ve been loyal to you for this long. At least give me the heads-up that you might not make the team, and then I could choose. … I was hurt because I feel like I’ve played through so many injuries, given so many hours to USA Basketball, and then in one fell swoop they can just be like, it doesn’t matter about your play, you’re just not on the team.”

Parker’s place on the Rio team was in jeopardy after she missed both the 2014 World Championship (knee injury) and a February 2016 training camp (overseas club commitment), the last camp before the Olympic team would be named, combined with an influx of bigs since the London Games.

“We don’t get into specifics speaking about each player publicly,” USA Basketball director Carol Callan said after the 2016 team was announced. “Needless to say there are a lot of deliberations. We have a committee for a reason. … What it does speak to is that we have incredible depth on this team. … We’re looking at depth and talent at each position, and there are just a lot of numbers games that are played at that three-four position that is the strength of our team. We appreciate Candace. It’s not an easy call to make.”

Since Rio, U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma stepped down (as expected after two Games), and Dawn Staley succeeded him. Auriemma was not on the selection committee for the 2016 Olympic team. Parker said that even if the whole USA Basketball administration changed, she would not be interested in playing for the U.S. again.

“I think Dawn Staley is an amazing coach. She’s awesome. I wish I could have played for her,” Parker said. “It has nothing to do with her, but for me, mentally, I wouldn’t be able to represent USA Basketball anymore.

“I jokingly said [8-year-old daughter] Lailaa was going to get a passport and play for another team, but that’ll be her decision,” Parker said with a laugh. “I can’t put that on her.

“I was more upset about not being able to share the [Olympic] experience with my daughter. That would be the Olympics that she would have remembered.”

Parker was not among 29 players named to the initial U.S. national basketball team player pool for the 2020 Olympic cycle in December. Players can be added or dropped from the national team pool between now and 2020, so the door is not completely shut on anyone.

Callan declined to say whether Parker declined an invitation to the national team.

“We generally don’t talk about players that aren’t here because there’s a variety of reasons why they’re not. She’s one of them,” Callan said in December. “We choose not to try to speak for them. So, I would simply suggest that you ask her. Candace has been an important part of our program over the years. We talked previously about the decision when she didn’t make the Olympic roster. I just think she’s better suited to say that. I don’t want to speak for her.”

Parker said last May, two months after Staley’s hiring, that she didn’t know if she would play for the U.S. again and had not thought about it.

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