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:

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

Defensemen
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

Forwards
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

Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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Maggie Nichols wins NCAA all-around title with perfect 10

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Even after a perfect 10 in the last rotation, Maggie Nichols didn’t know that she had won the NCAA all-around title. Her coach at Oklahoma, K.J. Kindler, had to tell her.

The reaction?

“Excitement,” Nichols said Friday night on ESPNU. “I just wanted to go out there and feel out the equipment, staying calm and doing my routines that I have been doing in training.”

Nichols, a 2015 World team champion who retired from elite gymnastics after missing the 2016 Olympic team (set back by a torn meniscus that year), became the first Sooner to win the NCAA all-around in 30 years.

The sophomore tallied 39.8125 points and topped Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner of Utah by .0875 for the title in St. Louis. It came one year after Nichols was 29th in the all-around with a balance beam fall.

Oklahoma and Utah will be joined in Saturday night’s Super Six team finals by UCLA, LSU, Florida and Nebraska. The Sooners eye their third straight national title.

Nichols capped her night with one of two perfect scores between the two semifinal sessions, matching 2012 Olympic alternate Elizabeth Price‘s 10 on uneven bars. It gave Nichols a second career gym slam, a perfect score on every apparatus for the season.

On Jan. 9, Nichols came forward as “Athlete A,” who first reported to USA Gymnastics that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar in summer 2015.

“She has had a really unique year probably like no one else, and her strength showed through,” Kindler said Friday, according to the University of Oklahoma. “It was tough, and to come out on this side this year is really special.”

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