Vladislav Tretiak

Russian Hockey president Vladislav Tretiak to scout NHL players for Olympic team

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November will be a key month for Russian NHL players hoping to make the Sochi Olympic team.

Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak, the goaltender on the 1980 Soviet Union Olympic team, and Olympic coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov will scout North American professional players in person.

“I will definitely go to North America in November in order to cover as many players as possible, not only goaltenders,” Tretiak said, according to R-Sport. “Bilyaletdinov will also go, but I want to meet with the guys personally, talk to them, evaluate their level of readiness ahead of the Olympics.”

Russia has not won an Olympic hockey medal since a bronze at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, and it has never won Olympic gold. The Soviet Union won all but two Olympic hockey tournaments from 1956 through 1988, and the Unified Team won gold in 1992.

The men’s hockey gold might be the most coveted medal for the host nation come February, just as in the Vancouver Games. The home-ice advantage will certainly help Russia. Neither Canada nor the U.S. won medals at the last two Olympics held outside North America (1998 and 2006).

Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin is expected to lead the 25-man Russian Olympic team. He was the first Russian torchbearer during the torch relay that began Sunday (video here). Russia is stacked with star forwards, including Evgeni MalkinIlya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk.

A big question for Russia is in goal. NHL starters Sergei BobrovskyEvgeni Nabokov and Semyon Varlamov were invited to their pre-Olympic camp. The enigmatic Ilya Bryzgalov, currently without a team but reportedly close to signing with Las Vegas of the ECHL, was not invited to that camp, but he is still eligible to be chosen.

Bryzgalov and Nabokov split time in goal at the 2010 Olympics, where Russia was eliminated by Canada in the quarterfinals.

“I think that Ilya is a good goaltender and if he plays fantastically, than why not?” Tretiak told R-Sport. “But it is the coaches’ business to decide who will go.”

Retired Olympic star calls Russia ‘indisputable’ favorite for hockey gold

U.S., Great Britain to hold track and field dual meet

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The U.S. and Great Britain go head-to-head in a track and field meet on July 21 at the London Olympic Stadium.

“The Meet” will include nine running, jumping, hurdles and relay events and last two hours. Specific events and athletes will be announced early next year.

The U.S. topped the overall medal standings at every Olympics and world outdoor championships since 2004.

Great Britain is one of three countries to earn at least five medals at every Olympics and worlds since 2007, joining the U.S. and Kenya.

British athletes made six podiums at the just-completed worlds at the London Olympic Stadium, including in all four relays. The other two medals came from Mo Farah, who is moving to road racing and marathons after this season.

“The Meet” is similar to swimming’s “Duel in the Pool,” a biennial head-to-head competition between the U.S. and rival Australia from 2003 through 2007 and between the U.S. and Europe between 2009 and 2015.

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Maria Sharapova gets U.S. Open wild card

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NEW YORK (AP) — Maria Sharapova was granted a wild-card invitation for the U.S. Open’s main draw on Tuesday and will take part in a Grand Slam event for the first time in more than 1 ½ years.

Sharapova is among eight women given entry into the 128-player field by the U.S. Tennis Association — and by far the most noteworthy.

The former No. 1-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, has not entered a major tournament since the Australian Open in January 2016, when she tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium.

That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April. She returned to the tour, but her ranking — currently 148th — was too low to allow entry into major tournaments, and the French Open denied her a wild card. Sharapova planned to try to qualify for Wimbledon, but the 30-year-old Russian wound up skipping the grass-court portion of the season because of an injured left thigh.

Sharapova has been participating in tournaments via wild-card invitations, beginning in April on red clay at Stuttgart, Germany. She’s only played nine matches this season.

Sharapova was 19 when she won her U.S. Open trophy. Two years before, at 17, Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. She has since completed a career Grand Slam and become one of the most recognizable — and marketable — athletes in the world.

The U.S. Open starts in Flushing Meadows on Aug. 28.

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