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

NCAA runner dragged to finish line by opponents (video)

Madeline Adams
NC State Athletics
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Boston College’s Madeline Adams dropped to the ground during the final meters of the ACC Cross-Country Championships on Friday.

What happened next was reminiscent of one of the most memorable Rio Olympic track and field moments.

Clemson’s Evie Tate stopped and helped Adams up at the Cary, N.C., 6k race. Then, Louisville’s Rachel Pease did the same. Tate and Pease each took one of Adams’ arms and dragged her to the finish.

Pease would finish 127th and Tate 128th out of 131 finishers. Adams was disqualified. Full results are here.

Tate was running around 70th or 80th place when she stopped, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, which means her aid ended up costing Clemson about 10 points in the team scores.

Clemson was sixth, 23 points behind fifth-place Syracuse, so Tate’s act of sportsmanship actually didn’t change the Tigers’ placing. NC State won, Louisville was fourth and Boston College 12th.

The scene  brought to mind the Rio Olympic women’s 5000m heats, when American Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin fell and then crossed the finish line together.

MORE: NCAA might reconsider Olympic bonuses after swimmer received $750,000

Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir back Gracie Gold for discussing weight in figure skating

SPOKANE, WA - APRIL 23:  Gracie Gold of Team North America competes in the Ladie's Free Program on day 2 of the 2016 KOSE Team Challenge Cup at Spokane Arena on April 23, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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NBC Sports figure skating analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir supported Gracie Gold‘s transparency in her comments about weight and figure skating.

“These are thoughts that every skater’s thinking about, but I think you don’t [see skaters] talk about it because in reality saying you need to lose weight when you’re already thin is a bit crazy,” Lipinski said. “In figure skating, gymnastics, ballet, there is always this pressure to be very thin, not only for aesthetics, but just for your actual sport and how you use your body. Weight definitely does play an issue. In skating, you’re three times your weight in the air, and you’re landing on one foot on a tiny blade.”

Lipinski and Weir said they struggled with weight issues while skating. They became too thin.

“Being a skater, I understand where Gracie was coming from,” Weir said. “To the masses, whenever you talk about diet and food and getting in shape physically, when you are an athlete on TV and you look like you are in shape compared to most of the country, it can be a little bit of a disconnect between the athletes appearing on TV and the audience.”

Weir lauded Gold for not only being open about not being at peak fitness — after taking much of the summer off — but also to compete at a top-level event like Skate America under those circumstances. (Gold said she considered skipping the Grand Prix season.)

“It’s all about telling the truth, saying, ‘I’m not in shape. I’m not there yet, but just wait, and I’ll give it to you,'” Weir said.

Weir said it could lead to more open discussions in the sport.

“You hope that, over time, you can start to look at the skaters that have been great champions and realize everyone has a different body type,” Lipinski said.

MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule