Jocelyne Lamoureux, Kelli Stack

U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team roster marked by youth

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For the first time, the U.S. Olympic women’s hockey roster will have no ties to its 1998 team that won gold in the sport’s Olympic debut. 

Forward Julie Chu is the only player named to the 21-player squad Wednesday who competed at either the 2002 or the 2006 Olympics. Chu, 31, is also the only player on the team born before 1985.

In addition to Chu, the team is led by forwards Meghan Duggan (the team captain) and Amanda Kessel, the reigning NCAA Player of the Year who scored the gold medal-winning goal in overtime against Canada at the World Championships in April.

Kessel, the sister of NHL All-Star Phil Kessel, hasn’t played a single minute of the U.S.’ seven games against Canada this fall and winter due to a lower-body injury. The U.S. took the series 4-3, winning the final four games after the shock resignation of Canadian coach Dan Church on Dec. 12. The longtime rivals brawled in two of those games.

“It’s an incredible rivalry,” Duggan said on NBC. “Everyone in here just loves the sport of hockey.”

The same three goalies from the 2010 Olympics return, led by Jessie Vetter, who started the gold-medal game at the 2010 Olympics and the 2013 World Championships.

The final two cuts were 2010 Olympic defenseman Lisa Chesson and forward Anne Pankowski. Defenseman Jincy Dunne, 16, was cut in December, ending her bid to be the youngest U.S. Olympic women’s hockey player ever.

The U.S. is coached by Harvard’s Katey Stone. Stone is set to be the first female coach of the U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team.

The average age of the U.S. team is a little over 23 years old, which is almost three years younger than Canada’s average age for its team named Dec. 23. The U.S., reigning world champion, and Canada, three-time reigning Olympic champion, are expected to play in the gold-medal game Feb. 20.

The U.S. opens its Olympic schedule against Finland on Feb. 8, the day after the Opening Ceremony. Finland, backed by goalie Noora Raty, beat the U.S. at the Four Nations Cup on Nov. 8.

The U.S. will play Canada in a group-play game Feb. 12.

The top four ranked teams in the world were put in the same preliminary group — Canada, the U.S., Finland and Switzerland — with all four guaranteed to advance to the playoff round. The top two teams in that group get byes into opposite semifinals.

Angela Ruggiero and Jenny Potter were the last links to 1998 who played in the 2010 Olympics. They have since retired.

“We’ve got some veteran experience, and then we have a lot of youth coming in,” Duggan said on NBC. “They bring a lot of speed. They bring a lot of excitement and intensity. We’ve got the right group.”

Here’s the full U.S. roster:

Goalies
Jessie Vetter — 2010 Olympian (started medal-round games at 2010 Olympics)
Molly Schaus — 2010 Olympian
Brianne McLaughlin — 2010 Olympian

Defensemen
Kacey Bellamy — 2010 Olympian
Gigi Marvin — 2010 Olympian
Megan Bozek
Michelle Picard
Josephine Pucci
Anne Schleper
Lee Stecklein

Forwards
Julie Chu — 2002, 2006, 2010 Olympian
Meghan Duggan — 2010 Olympian
Hilary Knight — 2010 Olympian
Jocelyne Lamoureux — 2010 Olympian
Monique Lamoureux — 2010 Olympian
Kelli Stack — 2010 Olympian
Alex Carpenter
Kendall Coyne
Brianna Decker
Lyndsey Fry
Amanda Kessel

Lolo Jones on USA-1 for Winterberg Bobsled World Cup

U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Nathan Chen performs during the men's free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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KANSAS CITY — U.S. figure skating has a shot at medals in three of four disciplines at the world championships in Helsinki in two months, which hasn’t happened in 11 years.

Before this year, the U.S. men and U.S. women hadn’t boasted simultaneous medal contenders in a decade. Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek spent the 2010 Olympic cycle in the world elite, while the U.S. women faded. After they stopped competing, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold moved into the women’s medal field while the U.S. searched for a new leading man.

He’s arrived. Nathan Chen confirmed he is one of the world’s best male skaters by landing a record seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Sprint Center this past week.

The 17-year-old already made the podium in an event that featured the world’s best, earning silver at the Grand Prix Final in December. Chen struggled with his short-program jumps at the Grand Prix Final and attempted one fewer quad overall yet still outscored everybody but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Of all of the U.S. medal hopes at worlds, Chen may face the stiffest trio of challengers. Not only is there Hanyu, but also two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, plus Japan’s Shoma Uno, all of whom rank higher than Chen in best total scores in international competition this season.

MORE: Chen believes Olympic gold is possible after U.S. title

Wagner, who shares a coach with Chen, did not have her best nationals. She finished second to surprise winner Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), who has yet to factor internationally.

But Wagner said before and after the U.S. Championships that her focus was to peak for the world championships. The goal for nationals was to make the world team, which required not winning but finishing in the top three. Mission accomplished.

The concern with Wagner is that she hasn’t produced a world medal-caliber result yet this season. Her best score from the fall ranks her sixth among women going to worlds. But Wagner has shown in the last few seasons that she can pull it together for major events. There’s her 2016 World Championships silver medal, plus her three straight Grand Prix Final medals from 2012-14.

At worlds, Wagner will have to deal with a Russian trio capable of sweeping the podium, three strong Japanese skaters, plus the revelation of this season, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

VIDEO: Wagner passed Puffs in emotional press conference moment

The U.S.’ strongest discipline continues to be ice dance. Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished second and third at the 2016 World Championships. They went one-two at the U.S. Championships this past week.

But two ice dance medals don’t appear to be in the cards in Helsinki. That’s because Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, came back this season after a two-year break.

Virtue and Moir broke international scoring records in the fall, sweeping their four starts. The two-time reigning world champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, also beat the U.S. couples at the Grand Prix Final.

The Shibutani siblings and Chock and Bates have never finished ahead of Virtue and Moir in competition. Neither has bettered the French since the December 2014 Grand Prix Final, either.

But all it takes is one dance medal, plus Chen and Wagner at their best in Helsinki, and the U.S. could go into the Olympic year in its best place since 2006.

MORE: Gracie Gold comments on split from coach Frank Carroll

Laurie Hernandez discusses life after Rio, new book on TODAY (video)

Laurie Hernandez
TODAY
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Laurie Hernandez‘s book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,” is out Tuesday, and the Olympic champion gymnast stopped by TODAY on Monday to discuss its contents and life post-Rio.

An excerpt on Hernandez’s experience in Rio and the story of her floor-exercise wink to judges, is here.

On TODAY, Hernandez discussed another interesting anecdote from the book about tissues.

“Before Olympic Trials, we went out to eat, and I had a little breakdown because practice was really rough, and my routines weren’t coming the way I wanted them to,” she said. “This poor waitress kept bringing me over piles of tissues. … We were leaving, and my sister [Jelysa] told my dad, I’m going to save these tissues. I’m going to give them to her when she makes the team. I’m thinking to myself, you guys are crazy, this is not going to happen.”

Hernandez went on to finish second to Simone Biles at the Olympic Trials and make the five-woman Olympic team as the first U.S. female Olympian born in the 2000s.

The family celebrated the achievement, where Jelysa handed the tissues to Hernandez in a bag.

“Even when you fell, you couldn’t believe in yourself, we were there for you,” Jelysa told her.

“So it was a really defining moment,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is away from gymnastics while promoting her book and touring with “Dancing with the Stars,” but she is expected to return to the sport at some point.

MORE: Hernandez explains 2017 goals: First date, driver’s license, Law & Order