Zdeno Chara

Slovakia Olympic hockey team beset by key injuries

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For most of the 1990s, major hockey championships were decided among six nations — the U.S., Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.

Slovakia bridged the gap with the turn of the century, making the quarterfinals of the 2006 Olympics and, in 2010, upsetting Sweden to reach the semifinals, where it put a scare into Canada.

It will be an outside medal threat in Sochi, leaning on goaltender Jaroslav Halak and defenseman Zdeno Chara while injuries may keep two NHL All-Stars at home.

Potent forward Marian Gaborik has a broken collarbone, and experienced defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky has been out since Oct. 19 with a concussion.

Both were named to the team but can be replaced by Feb. 12.

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

A key member of the 2010 Olympic Team was NHL All-Star Pavol Demitra, who died a year later in the KHL Lokomotiv plane crash.

Here’s the full Slovakia roster:

Peter Budaj — Montreal Canadiens
Jaroslav Halak — St. Louis Blues
Jan Laco

Zdeno Chara — Boston Bruins
Martin Marincin — Edmonton Oilers
Andrej Meszaros — Philadelphia Flyers
Andrej Sekera — Carolina Hurricanes
Lubomir Visnovsky — New York Islanders
Ivan Baranka
Dominik Granak
Michal Sersen

Marian Gaborik — Columbus Blue Jackets
Michal Handzus — Chicago Blackhawks
Marian Hossa — Chicago Blackhawks
Tomas Jurco — Detroit Red Wings
Tomas Kopecky — Florida Panthers
Richard Panik — Tampa Bay Lightning
Tomas Tatar — Detroit Red Wings
Milan Bartovic — former NHL player
Marcel Hossa — former NHL player
Tomas Marcinko
Michel Miklik
Peter Olvecky
Tomas Surovy
Tomas Zaborsky

Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan remembers slain Colorado officer, a childhood friend

Nancy Kerrigan
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Former figure skating champion Nancy Kerrigan remembers the Colorado police officer who was killed in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic as loyal, caring and a true friend.

She told media outlets that Garrett Swasey was “one of my best friends” as they grew up together practicing figure skating in Melrose, Massachusetts. Before he became a police officer, Swasey was a junior national couples ice dancing champion.

An emotional Kerrigan says she wasn’t surprised he took a career path where he helped others first. She says he always had fun and did everything with a smile.

Swasey’s father has told the Boston Globe that his son moved to Colorado in the 1980s to pursue competitive figure skating and became an officer six years ago.

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Kobe Bryant announces retirement but remains in contention for Rio team

Kobe Bryant
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Veteran basketball player and 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Kobe Bryant has announced he will retire from professional basketball after the end of this season. However, ESPN reported that the chairman of USA Basketball, Jerry Colangelo, said that Bryant “remains in contention for Team USA spot for Rio 2016.”

In the form of a poem titled “Dear Basketball” on the Player’s Tribune, Bryant wrote:

This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

Bryant played on the U.S. national team from 2007 to 2012. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics he scored 20 points in the gold medal game to win gold over Spain. He helped the U.S. men to gold again in 2012, then said that it would be his last Olympics.

But he’s changed his tune in recent months. Bryant told the Associated Press in November that he’d like a shot at another Olympics.

“I would like to play,” Bryant said. “I think it’d be awesome. A beautiful experience.”

If he were selected and won again, Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony would become the first U.S. male basketball players to win three gold Olympic medals.

In the AP interview Bryant spoke glowingly of his Olympic teammates. “It would mean the world to me to be around those guys,” he said. “I think to be able to have a chance to continue the relationship that I already have with most of those guys, talking and just kind of being around each other and understanding that this is it, it’s just us being together, that would be fun.”

He also said he believes he’d be an asset to the team, stating, “I feel like I can add value from a leadership perspective and a defensive perspective. I can still move extremely well defensively.”

Bryant’s age will likely be a concern, as his 38th birthday is just two days after the gold-medal game on August 21st, 2016.

Colangelo said that they will be looking at “all of our players” this season, and Bryant’s retirement announcement “doesn’t have any bearing” on whether he’d be selected for the 2016 Olympic team.

The 12 player team will be selected in June 2016.

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