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Zach Parise named as men’s hockey captain for Team USA

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The Minnesota Wild’s Zach Parise was named the U.S. men’s hockey team captain for the Sochi Olympics on Friday afternoon. He is the youngest U.S. men’s hockey captain since National Hockey League players began competing in the Olympics starting with the Nagano Games in 1998.

“I was pretty thrilled the other day to get that call from [head coach Dan] Bylsma,” Parise said on Friday. “I am lucky enough to join a pretty elite list of players that have been captains for the United States…There’s plenty of guys that wear letters with their own teams. I don’t think our team is going to be lacking in leadership at all.”

Dustin Brown, captain for the Los Angeles Kings, and Ryan Suter, who, like Parise, is an alternate captain for the Wild, will serve as the U.S. team’s alternates in Sochi.

The Americans are looking to go one step higher on the podium after winning the silver four years ago in Vancouver, which saw the team captained by the recently retired Jamie Langenbrunner.

Parise, who was a teammate with Langenbrunner on the New Jersey Devils at the time, served as an alternate captain in Vancouver and scored the tying goal that sent the gold medal game against Canada to overtime.

Langenbrunner himself took over the captain’s role from Chris Chelios after he led Team USA in the previous three Winter Olympics (Nagano 1998, Salt Lake City 2002, Torino 2006).

Several of Team USA’s gold medal rivals have already made their choices for men’s hockey captains. Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby will lead the reigning champions from Canada, while Detroit Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will captain the host Russians and Swedes, respectively.

American barista lacing up for Swiss women’s hockey team

Kayla Harrison begins MMA career

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12:  (BROADCAST - OUT) Judoka Kayla Harrison of the United States poses for a photo with her gold medal on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Two-time Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison has joined mixed martial arts promotion World Series of Fighting as a commentator, brand ambassador and potentially a fighter, but she isn’t 100 percent committed to competing and won’t set a first bout for at least one year.

“All signs point to a yes, but everything has to work out,” Harrison said. “I haven’t booked a fight.”

Harrison, 26 and all but retired from judo, has been asked time and again for years about her interest in pursuing MMA. That’s in part because of former training partner Ronda Rousey‘s overwhelming success after she switched from Olympic judo.

Harrison will serve as a commentator and brand ambassador before potentially getting into MMA competition. Her commentating debut will be at WSOF 34 in New York on Dec. 31 on NBC.

Harrison has taken boxing and jiu-jitsu lessons as far back as 2013, which should boost her MMA potential.

To compete in MMA, Harrison will require a weight cut from her Olympic judo class of 172 pounds.

Rousey competes at 135 pounds, the heaviest women’s weight class in UFC. WSOF, which has no women’s weight classes, plans to develop a women’s program as Harrison readies for a potential debut.

Harrison expects that if she fights, it will be at 145 pounds.

Harrison laughed about people tweeting at her to fight Brazilian Cristiane Justino, a former 145-pound title holder who is set to face Rousey, should Rousey win her comeback fight.

“I’ve never fought MMA before, so my first fight is not going to be for a belt,” Harrison cautioned. “I’m going to MMA 0-0, not as a two-time Olympic champion. People need to remember that.”

Harrison said she last conversed with Rousey one or two months ago. Rousey, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, congratulated Harrison on her second gold medal and told Harrison she was available if she needed anything.

Harrison said she might reach out to her former training partner early next year, after Rousey’s comeback fight, to pick her brain about MMA.

“And be like, hey, what do you got for me? Tell me everything,” Harrison joked.

MORE: Ronda Rousey sets comeback fight

U.S. men’s gymnastics program undergoes changes

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 25: Members of the U.S. Men's National Gymnastics Team gather before day two of the 2016 Men's Gymnastics Olympic Trials at Chafitz Arena on June 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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U.S. men’s national team coordinator Kevin Mazeika‘s contract will not be renewed at the end of the year as USA Gymnastics makes changes after missing the men’s team podium at a second straight Olympics.

Mazeika was the U.S. men’s head coach at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, where the U.S. men earned team medals at a non-home Games for the first time. He then served as national team coordinator from 2009 through this year.

The U.S. men finished fifth at the last two Olympics.

USA Gymnastics will replace the national team coordinator role with a high-performance director “focused on sustained international success.”

“The coaches, committee members and staff did a thorough review of the existing structure and results, and then took a hard look at what is needed to prepare our athletes for success heading toward Tokyo and beyond,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a press release.

MORE: U.S. women’s national team coordinator named