Thomas Vanek

Austria names first Olympic hockey roster since 2002

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Austria is one of the great Winter Olympic nations, historically competitive in many sports and the all-time medal leader in Alpine skiing.

Its hockey tradition is not quite up to the golden standard. Austria announced its Olympic hockey roster Tuesday with three NHL forwards and almost no shot at a medal.

Still, making it to Sochi is an accomplishment for a nation that had not qualified since 2002 and has never come close to an Olympic hockey medal. It surprisingly qualified over regular Olympic attendee Germany.

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

The team is led by New York Islanders forward Thomas Vanek and former NHL defenseman Thomas Pock, who played on the 2002 Olympic Team at age 20.

Here’s the full Austria roster:

Goalies
Bernhard Starkbaum
Rene Swette
Fabian Weinhandl

Defensemen
Thomas Pock — former NHL player
Mario Altmann
Florian Iberer
Andre Lakos
Robert Lukas
Matthias Trattnig
Stefan Ulmer
Gerhard Unterluggauer

Forwards
Michael Grabner — New York Islanders
Michael Raffl — Philadelphia Flyers
Thomas Vanek — New York Islanders
Raphael Herburger
Thomas Hundertpfund
Matthias Iberer
Thomas Koch
Andreas Kristler
Manuel Latusa
Brian Lebler
Daniel Oberkofler
Thomas Raffl
Oliver Setzinger
Daniel Weiser

Hockey player breaks record for span between Winter Olympics

Martin Kaymer motivated by Olympics in PGA Championship run

SPRINGFIELD, NJ - JULY 28: Martin Kaymer of Germany plays his shot from the seventh tee  during the first round of the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club on July 28, 2016 in Springfield, New Jersey.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
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SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) — The chance to compete at the Olympics can’t come soon enough for Martin Kaymer.

While the top four players in the world and 21 men overall will not be part of the Rio Games, the 31-year-old German has been thinking about it all summer.

Calling out Michael Phelps as one of the best Olympians he wants to see and meet, Kaymer sounds as though he’s looking forward to going to Rio as much as his ongoing run at the PGA Championship.

Rio isn’t so much as distraction, rather a motivation.

“It is so, so, inspiring, and I really look forward to go, experience that, and I don’t know how I will feel,” Kaymer said. “I’m sure it’s going to take a couple weeks after that to reflect on all your experiences.”

Going to Rio has inspired Kaymer’s latest hot streak. He shot a 4-under 66 in the opening round on Thursday and followed with a 69 in the second round to reach 5 under.

The two-time major champion, birdied three of his last four holes Friday.

“I think I placed myself in a very good spot,” Kaymer said. “Who knows where the leader is going to be by the end of the day. I shot a good score yesterday, a very good round today. So it’s a good position to be in in a major championship.”

After his opening round on Thursday, Kaymer said he is looking forward to seeing the best athletes in their sports at the Olympics — and not only the Germans.

“I watched Lionel Messi a couple times when Barcelona played against Bayern Munich and I went to the stadium, just to see the class, the natural talent of an athlete, is amazing,” Kaymer said. “You know, you can work as hard as you want but you are never going to get there.”

Kaymer said especially Phelps has an invitation to come watch him play at Rio.

“He can walk inside the ropes, I’m sure,” he said. “That is just so great to watch them and just – sometimes it’s funny how good the athletes are. Because you compare yourself, how bad you are, because obviously you tried the sport, and I look forward to that.”

Kaymer went into this week at No. 51 in the world ranking, having not won since 2014.

Interestingly enough, it’s in the even-numbered years when Kaymer has played some of his best golf and 2016 is starting to look up after two promising rounds at Baltusrol.

“I’m more the kind of player who has some really nice highs in my career, and then I have some time to enjoy it again,” Kaymer said. “Then all of a sudden, you know, you create a little bit more inspiration from something, and then you play better again.”

In his first appearance of 2008, Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and then added a win in his homeland at the BMW International Open.

In 2010, Kaymer won his first major – the PGA Championship – after he won a three-hole playoff over Bubba Watson.

One of Europe’s heroes in 2012, Kaymer made a 6-foot putt on the last hole at the Ryder Cup to defeat Steve Stricker and secure the last point needed to achieve a stunning comeback and retain the Ryder Cup.

In 2014, Kaymer dominated at Pinehurst No. 2 for an eight-shot victory in the U.S. Open, one month after winning The Players Championship against the strongest and deepest field in golf. Kaymer joined Tiger Woods as the only players to win a U.S. Open, PGA Championship, Players Championship and WGC event before their 30th birthday.

“I think in general, you grow, not only as a golf player but as a person, as well, and through that success, through the two major wins that I had, I think you grow a lot more,” Kaymer said. “You take things a little bit more – you value them a little bit more, and therefore, somehow it calms me down.”

After struggling in the first part of the 2016 season, Kaymer is headed into the weekend rounds at the PGA Championship back on the upswing.

MORE: Bubba Watson, U.S. golfers get pep talk from Olympic legend Dan Jansen

Venezuela sets Olympic basketball roster with zero NBA players

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 29: John Cox #6 of Venezuela puts up a shot over teammmate Gregory Echenique #0 and DeMarcus Cousins #12 of the United States during a pre-Olympic exhibition game at United Center on July 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The United States defeated Venezuela 80-45. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Venezuela has set its men’s basketball roster for the Rio Olympics, and it will not include any NBA players.

Greivis Vasquez of the Brooklyn Nets was hoping to make his Olympic debut, but was ruled out by his NBA team on Friday.

“After a great deal of consultation with the Nets and team doctors, I have been advised that unfortunately it will be necessary for me to withdrawal from Olympic competition. … the medical staff feels that it is essential that I devote this time to work towards getting healthy for the upcoming NBA season,” Vasquez said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Vasquez underwent bone spur surgery in January. He had been training with the Venezuela national team and traveled to its exhibition games, but appeared briefly in only one game.

Venezuela set its roster Friday night after an 80-45 defeat to the highly-favored U.S. team. It is the 11th of 12 teams to announce its 12-man squad, leaving only Nigeria to determine its roster before Monday’s deadline.

The 12-player Venezuela roster for Rio:
Nestor Colmenares
John Cox
David Cubillan
Gregory Echenique
Windi Graterol
Heissler Guillent
Dwight Lewis
Miguel Marriaga
Anthony Perez
Miguel Ruiz
Gregory Vargas
Jose Vargas

Venezuela’s men’s team qualified for its first Olympics since 1992 by winning the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship, upsetting Canada in the semifinals and Argentina in the final.

Venezuela opens the Rio Games against Serbia on Aug. 6, then takes on the U.S. two days later.

MORE: Spain Olympic basketball roster includes 7 NBA players