Zach Parise

U.S. Olympic men’s hockey roster includes 13 from Vancouver Games

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The two biggest American stars from the 2010 Olympic gold-medal game are back for Sochi.

Goalie Ryan Miller and forward Zach Parise were among 13 returning Olympians on the 25-man U.S. roster announced after the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. In Sochi, the U.S. will look to improve on a surprise silver-medal performance from Vancouver.

Miller backstopped the U.S.’ improbable run to the Vancouver gold-medal game, where Parise scored a game-tying goal with 25 seconds left before Sidney Crosby won it for Canada in overtime.

“It’s very special to represent your country at that magnitude, where everyone’s focused watching it,” Miller said before the announcement, according to The Associated Press. “For me, it’s another chance to play in the tournament where there’s a chance to win something. You focus, take it seriously.”

Olympic hockey rosters: U.S. | Canada | Russia | Sweden | Finland | Czech Republic | Slovakia | Switzerland | Latvia | Norway | Austria | Slovenia

Miller or fellow 2010 Olympian Jonathan Quick is expected to start in goal for the U.S., beginning with a group-play game against Slovakia on Feb. 13 at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN. Quick hasn’t played since Nov. 12 due to a groin injury.

Jimmy Howard is the third goalie, beating out Ben BishopCory Schneider and Tim Thomas for the last spot.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Howard said on NBC. “Words can’t really put it in perspective.”

Parise is one of nine returning 2010 Olympic forwards, including Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel. Another 2010 Olympic forward, Bobby Ryan, was perhaps the most surprising omission. Five forwards are first-time Olympians.

ProHockeyTalk: Biggest snubs

The eight-man blue-line crew includes 2010 Olympians Ryan Suter and Brooks Orpik. Missing was Jack Johnson, best remembered from Vancouver for attending the Opening Ceremony between NHL games.

A first-time Olympic defenseman is perhaps the best story, if he can play.

Paul Martin was on the 2006 Olympic taxi squad with Miller and Matt Cullen as potential injury replacements but didn’t play in Torino. Martin then made the 2010 Olympic team outright but gave way to an injury replacement due to his broken left arm.

But Martin has a fractured tibia and, as of Wednesday, was still unable to skate.

As experienced as it is, the U.S. will not include any players with multiple Olympics under their belts for the first time since NHLers were allowed into the Winter Games in 1998.

But it will be vastly more seasoned than the 2010 team, which included three players with prior Olympic experience.

Here’s the full roster:

Goalies
Ryan Miller — 2010 Olympian
Jonathan Quick — 2010 Olympian
Jimmy Howard

Defensemen
Brooks Orpik — 2010 Olympian
Ryan Suter — 2010 Olympian
John Carlson
Justin Faulk
Cam Fowler
Paul Martin
Ryan McDonagh
Kevin Shattenkirk

Forwards
David Backes — 2010 Olympian
Dustin Brown — 2010 Olympian
Ryan Callahan — 2010 Olympian
Patrick Kane — 2010 Olympian
Ryan Kesler — 2010 Olympian
Phil Kessel — 2010 Olympian
Zach Parise — 2010 Olympian
Joe Pavelski — 2010 Olympian
Paul Stastny — 2010 Olympian
T.J. Oshie
Max Pacioretty
Derek Stepan
James van Riemsdyk
Blake Wheeler

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

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross beat top-ranked Brazilians for first time

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross
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Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross beat Brazil’s best beach volleyball team for the first time and extended the longest winning streak of their partnership in winning the Moscow Grand Slam on Sunday.

“That just shows our growth,” Ross said. “We’re still on the up and up.”

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion, and Ross, an Olympic silver medalist, beat Olympic qualifying top seed Larissa and Talita 22-20, 21-17 in the final for their third straight international title.

Walsh Jennings and Ross have now won 22 straight FIVB World Tour matches, the best run of their three-year parternship. Walsh Jennings last reached a streak this long from 2007 to 2010, when she won 78 straight international matches with Misty May-Treanor and Nicole Branagh, according to BVBInfo.com

The Americans had lost all three of their previous matches (one a one-set exhibition) versus Larissa and Talita:

Feb. 27, 2015 — 26-24 in Rio de Janeiro
Aug. 23, 2015 — 21-18, 21-16 in Long Beach, Calif.
March 20, 2016 — 22-20, 21-19 in Vitoria, Brazil

“You know what makes me happy? This is done. Now we’ve done it, we’ve beaten them and put it to rest,” Walsh Jennings said, according to USA Volleyball.

Larissa and Talita, seeking to become Brazil’s first Olympic women’s beach volleyball champions in 20 years, have won 12 of their 20 international tournaments since pairing in July 2014.

The FIVB World Tour continues in Hamburg, Germany, next week, the final event in Olympic qualifying. Walsh Jennings and Ross are expected to play there.

Walsh Jennings and Ross and Larissa and Talita are already qualified for the Rio Games.

MORE: Logan Tom continues volleyball career in Indonesia

Star goalie Ashleigh Johnson set to make U.S. Olympic water polo history

Ashleigh Johnson
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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. — Donna Johnson just wanted her five children to be safe around the pool at her Miami home. That was it, really, the first step in Ashleigh Johnson‘s path from prodigy to USA water polo.

Swim lessons turned into meets when their instructor told Donna Johnson her children were so good she had nothing left to teach them. When Ashleigh and her siblings continued to show athletic potential as they got older, Donna Johnson, a single mother and nurse from Jamaica, delivered a simple message to them.

“For everything that they do, it’s not about pressure, it’s about maximizing your potential,” she said.

Now her oldest daughter is about to make history this summer. Ashleigh, a goaltender blessed with jaw-dropping athleticism, is a lock for Rio de Janeiro, putting her on track to become the first black woman to play water polo for the U.S. Olympic team.

While this is just the fifth Games for the women’s tournament, Johnson’s ascension to elite goaltender is a welcome development for a sport looking for more diversity and growth outside of water polo-crazy Southern California.

Each of Johnson’s teammates is from the Golden State, and the same three Pac-12 schools — UCLA, Southern California and Stanford — dominate the roster. Seventy-five percent of USA Water Polo’s roughly 42,000 members live in California.

After starring at Ransom Everglades High School in Florida, Johnson opted for Princeton instead of USC.

“I think Ashleigh Johnson’s the future of our sport in the U.S.,” USA Water Polo CEO Christopher Ramsey said. “She’s an out-of-California athlete who grew up in Florida. She went to Princeton, high academic achiever from a different background than a lot of traditional water polo families are from.”

Just a short while ago, Johnson, 21, wasn’t interested in that future, at least with the national team. The thought of moving away from her tight-knit family and joining a new team in California wasn’t appealing to her, but several conversations with coach Adam Krikorian helped change her mind.

“I didn’t really know that the Olympics was a possibility for me,” Johnson said. “I thought it was just like coming and training like I had been doing for years, but just living out here, and he made me realize that the Olympics was a great opportunity and a possibility for me.”

Krikorian first heard of Johnson about 10 years ago when he was the head coach at UCLA. Nicolle Payne, one of his assistants with the Bruins and a former national team goaltender, was working a camp in Miami when she sent an email to Krikorian about America’s next great goaltender.

“She said, ‘Adam, keep this name in your mind,’ and she told me her name — Ashleigh Johnson,” Krikorian said. “‘She is the most amazing goalie I have ever seen.”‘

It’s easy to see what got Payne’s attention.

The 6-foot-1 Johnson has long arms, perfect for firing outlet passes for U.S. counterattacks and guarding the top parts of the goal, and she cuts through the water with impressive ease. Sick of swimming in high school, she was offered an out by her mother and coach if she won the 50-meter freestyle at states as a sophomore. So she won and walked away.

She collected 54 saves while helping the United States qualify for the Olympics at a tournament in the Netherlands in March, including 10 stops in an 11-6 victory over Italy in the final, capping an 8-0 performance for the Americans. But that gifted sprinter is still inside her.

At a recent practice, assistant coach Chris Oeding gave the team a chance to cut short the swimming portion of training if the players could assemble a sub-1:40 200-yard freestyle relay team. Krikorian and assistant coach Dan Klatt offered a nodding Johnson as a candidate, but four different players were chosen.

They made the time, but Johnson stole the show by swimming the second leg alongside the relay, leaving Krikorian and Klatt shaking their heads as she churned through the pool like a motorboat.

“She’s a freak,” Princeton coach Luis Nicolao said. “She’s just athletic. I often joke she could probably start for our basketball team, track team, swim team, she just has that natural ability to succeed at anything she does.”

Johnson and her sister, Chelsea, play for Nicolao with the Tigers. They have two older brothers, Blake and William, and one younger brother, Julius.

Their parents got divorced when Ashleigh was little, and Donna Johnson raised the kids mostly on her own. It’s a challenging juggling act not lost on her children.

“I mean she’s such a hard-working, loving and determined woman,” Ashleigh said, “and she’s taught me that hard work ethic and just to try my best at everything and love what I do.”

Chelsea Johnson, who joked that she followed her sister to Princeton because she didn’t want to play against her, said she sees similarities between Ashleigh and their mother.

“I think the biggest thing from her, she and Ashleigh, is that she’s always smiling, no matter what,” she said. “Like her and Ashleigh, not matter what they’re doing, no matter how hard the thing is, they’re always smiling and trying to make everyone around them feel better about whatever’s happening.”

VIDEO: Ashleigh Johnson stands out on U.S. water polo team