Hayley Wickenheiser, Charline Labonte, Lauriane Rougeau, Rebecca Johnston

Dan Church resigns as Canada women’s hockey coach

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Canada’s women’s hockey team is on a three-game winning streak against the U.S., will play the Americans on Thursday night and are preparing for the Olympics in two months.

Now, the three-time reigning Olympic champions must replace their head coach.

Dan Church abruptly resigned for personal reasons Thursday, according to Hockey Canada. Assistants Danielle Goyette and Lisa Haley will be interim co-coaches. Church later said he resigned because he felt others lacked confidence in him.

“If there isn’t confidence in what I’m doing, I need to step aside and let the team move on,” Church said, according to The Canadian Press. “I’m heartbroken, to be honest, about the whole situation.”

Church said Hockey Canada did not try to persuade him to stay on.

“Just discussions I’d had over the last few days made that apparent, in some meetings I’d had with leadership,” Church, 40, told The Canadian Press. “I think it was just difference of opinion on the direction we were headed. In the end, I just decided if I’m getting in the way of where the team needs to go, I need to step aside and let them continue on in the process.”

Canada is playing the U.S. in Calgary, Alberta, later Thursday night.

“I would like to thank Hockey Canada for the opportunity to reach my goal of coaching and winning gold at the international level,” Church said, according to a press release. “I wish the players and staff all the best going forward. I have understood from the beginning of this process that winning gold in Sochi was this team’s only focus. I believe that stepping aside for personal reasons at this time will help the team achieve its goal.”

Church guided Canada to the 2012 World Championship and silver at this year’s World Championship in Ottawa.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Press reported Goyette and Haley ran practice as Church tended to “a personal matter,” according to Hockey Canada.

“We understand that this was a very difficult decision for Dan,” Hockey Canada women’s national teams general manager Melody Davidson said. “We are certainly very appreciative that he came to this conclusion with the best interests of the team in mind.”

Canada beats U.S. women’s hockey again at Four Nations Cup

Triplets set for Olympic history in Rio (video)

Luik sisters
NBC News
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Estonian sisters Leila, Liina and Lily Luik are set to become what is believed to be the first set of triplets to compete in an Olympics, according to Games historians.

The Luiks, identical triplets born Oct. 14, 1985, remain the only Estonian women to meet the Olympic qualifying time for the marathon. And since a nation can send three qualified athletes to the Olympic marathon, all three are in line to go to Rio.

The Estonia athletics federation’s qualifying cutoff is Wednesday. It doesn’t believe any other Estonians will register an Olympic qualifying time by then.

With most marathons taking place on weekends, it appears the Luiks are safe, even though none has run faster than 2:37, and the Olympic medal winners will likely be running in the low-to-mid 2:20s.

MORE: Ethiopian legend not on Olympic marathon team

Paralympic champ Markus Rehm still hopes for Olympic spot

Markus Rehm
Getty Images
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COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Paralympic long jump champion Markus Rehm is still hoping to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro despite a scientific study’s inconclusive findings on whether his carbon-fiber prosthesis gives him an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes.

Wolfgang Potthast of the German Sport University in Cologne said Monday that it was “difficult if not impossible” to determine whether the 27-year-old Rehm gets an advantage or not.

The study conducted by the German Sport University along with the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tokyo found that athletes with a running-specific prosthesis have an impaired ability in the run up but a better technique for the long jump, leaving open the question of whether a prosthesis helps or hinders the athlete.

“The study could not identify any advantage through the prosthesis, and I think that for me is a good result,” said Rehm, who is hoping to compete both at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August and at the following Paralympics.

“I want to bring the Paralympic and Olympic sport closer together. To give both sides the chance to profit from this.”

Rehm is aiming to be the second athlete with a carbon-fiber prosthesis to compete at the Olympics and Paralympics after South African runner Oscar Pistorius in 2012.

To become eligible under a new rule introduced last year by the IAAF, Rehm has to prove that his prosthesis gives him no advantage over athletes with a similar disability or non-amputee long jumpers.

“I’ve taken the first step with the study, so now I await a step in return from the world body,” said Rehm, who lost his lower right leg in a wakeboarding accident when he was 14.

Rehm won the gold medal at 2012 London Paralympics and holds the world record in his competition class at 8.40 meters. Rehm also won the German national title in 2014 over non-amputee athletes, drawing a mixed reaction.

He was then prevented from competing for the German team at the European Championships, with track and field officials saying the prosthesis could give him an unfair catapult effect.

“Since the German championship in 2014 it has been an ordeal. It’s difficult for me to hear these charges [of having an advantage]. I don’t want to have any advantage. On the other hand, you feel you have to apologize to other athletes,” Rehm said. “There were times when I asked myself if it was worth it.”

Under current rules, Rehm is not eligible for the German team.

“There is no finding that has found an advantage,” Friedhelm Julius Beucher, president of the German National Paralympic Committee, said reacting to the study. “It’s not a question of fairness but a case of discrimination.”

MORE: 100 Olympic storylines as Rio Games approach