Rival says 2014 Olympics will be ‘the only time’ he’ll cheer for Roberto Luongo

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Milan Lucic’s Boston Bruins engaged in a bitter 2011 Stanley Final with Roberto Luongo’s Vancouver Canucks, but the bruising forward will put that aside and root for the veteran ice hockey goalie to help Canada win back-to-back gold medals.

As Lucic told, pride in his country trumps that still-memorable seven-game championship series.

In fact, in admitting so, it seemed like the 25-year-old winger also acknowledged some begrudging respect for Luongo, stating that he believes “too many people point the finger” at the 34-year-old netminder.

“He’s managed to keep his game at a high level, and he’s on the Olympic team,” Lucic said. “He’s still one of the best goaltenders in the league. It shows a lot about his character. I wish him all the best in Sochi. I’m Canadian, right? It’s the only time I’ll cheer for him.”

Despite tending net in the very city where he won Olympic gold, Luongo is often a lightning rod for criticism as Vancouver aches for a Stanley Cup. Nonetheless, he remains one of the most consistent goalies in the NHL, something that Lucic recognizes.

For NHL players heading to Sochi, it might feel strange to pump your fists when a divisional foe scores a historic goal and to slink down at least a little bit when a teammate and friend wins, but that’s also part of what makes the NHL’s participation in the Olympics so special.

And, yes, a little weird.

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Mikaela Shiffrin wins Aspen World Cup slalom

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With a slalom win today in Aspen, Colo., Mikaela Shiffrin broke some of the barriers she had been chasing.

“I don’t know if the stars will ever align like that again,” Shiffrin said in a media conference after being told she won with the biggest margin of victory in the history of women’s slalom since 1968: 3.07 seconds. “I don’t think [my competitors] are going to let me get away with three seconds ever again.”

En route to her fourth consecutive slalom World Cup title – which would tie the record for the most with Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider from 1992-95 – she became the first female skier to win four World Cup slalom races in a row since Austria’s Marlies Schild did it in the 2011-12 season.

In addition, Shiffrin became the first female skier from the U.S. to win a slalom World Cup race in Aspen. And she’s now tied with France’s Perrine Pelen for sixth overall with total slalom World Cup victories.

“I was pissed after I made that ridiculous mistake yesterday,” Shiffrin said to media, referencing yesterday’s giant slalom crash. Both her and Lindsey Vonn crashed and did not finish in Aspen’s giant slalom. “I tried to use that anger today.”

Shiffrin called the mistake a “brainfart” and Vonn dismissed it because “giant slalom isn’t [her] strongest event.”

But, Shiffrin added that she already has her mind set on tomorrow, where she races slalom again, on NBC at 3 p.m. ET. The complete of the Olympic sports schedule is here.

“I just as quickly have to go back and settle in,” she said. “Tomorrow is a new race. I have to find a different motivation and try to take the same mentality and keep fighting.”

Slovakia’s Veronika Velez Zuzulova was second behind Shiffrin, followed by Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter.

By finishing behind Shiffrin in Aspen, Zuzulova extends her slalom World Cup podium finish streak to four.

Hansdotter has the second-most second place World Cup slalom finishes at 13 total, including today’s race. Only Pernilla Wiberg, of Sweden, has more with a total of 14.

MORE: Shiffrin, Vonn discuss friendship and rivalry

Fencing great Valentina Vezzali fails to qualify for Rio 2016

Mario Monti, Valentina Vezzali
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TURIN, Italy (AP) – Six-time Olympic champion fencer Valentina Vezzali has failed to qualify for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Games.

The 41-year-old Vezzali was eliminated in the second round of the foil event at the Trofeo Inalpi meet Saturday, while Italian teammate Arianna Errigo reached the semifinals and gained the necessary points to qualify.

Vezzali won at least one gold at the last five Olympics in either individual or team foil. She has a total of nine Olympic medals and 25 at world championships.

Her second son was born in 2013, the year in which she also became a member of Italy’s parliament.

Vezzali told the Gazzetta dello Sport this week that “I had another son and it was really difficult to come back. … I don’t think I have anything else to prove.”

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