Heartbroken U.S. hockey not blaming refs after loss

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SOCHI, Russia – If anyone had a right to feel robbed, it was Julie Chu. By the referee. By the post. By the kind of dumb hockey luck that so often decides games. For American fans who thought they were upset by what happened in the women’s gold-medal game, consider Chu’s journey to that point.

Three times the 31-year-old had been to the Olympics before these Games, and three times she’d failed to win gold, coming away with two silvers and a bronze instead. Thursday evening at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, with her United States team leading 2-0, with the clock winding down, with Canada appearing out of answers, surely her fourth, and likely final, try would be the one.

VIDEO: Watch the shot that hit the post

It wasn’t. Canada scored twice before the end of regulation, then won its fourth straight gold medal on a controversial power play in overtime.

“I think it’s hard for all of us,” said Chu. “Our mentality, and my mentality, has been about the last four years. This team, and this process that we’ve been through. We wanted to win a gold medal today.”

How did it come so close to happening, only for everything to go so wrong in the end?

“We battled hard,” she said. “We put a lot of pressure on them. We had some good chances. Even a little puck off the post.”

VIDEO: How did the game get to OT?

Chu was, of course, referring to the post teammate Kelli Stack hit late in the game with the Canadian net empty. At the time, the U.S. was up 2-1. Just a few inches to the right and she would’ve had her gold medal.

As for the officiating? Like, say, the questionable crosschecking call on Hilary Knight in overtime that led to the game-winner?

“I think it was pretty even both ways,” Chu said. “Whatever calls were called or weren’t called, it went both ways. There’s not much we can say.”

Instead, she preferred to talk about her teammates, and how proud she was of them.

As did captain Meghan Duggan.

VIDEO: Meghan Duggan explains where it went wrong for U.S.

“I’m proud to be American today,” said Duggan. “I’m proud of the girls, and the game that we put forth. We’ll appreciate these silver medals and head back home and join our families.”

What did she think of the officiating?

“You can’t control it,” she said. “It’s one of those things that you have absolutely no control over. You can talk to the refs, why they made certain calls, why things happened.

“But at the end of the day, you’ve just got to play. We took a lot of penalties, they got a lot of penalties called on them. I’m never going to blame a game on officiating. It comes down to putting the puck in the net, and they got one more than us tonight.”

If only Twitter were so gracious.

Meanwhile, America’s heartbreak was Canada’s joy.

“I think I’m in shock, really, that it worked out in our favor,” said Hayley Wickenheiser, now a four-time gold medalist. “We battled so hard, and we never gave up, and we just put everything on the line to get the job done.  We had a lot of composure and experience to pull through in the end when we needed to, and to stay in the moment.”

Despite being the three-time defending gold medalists, Canada did not come into the Olympics looking like it. The team’s coach, Dan Church, had curiously resigned in December, replaced by Kevin Dineen, recently fired by the Florida Panthers and with no experience in the women’s game. Then, in January, Dineen made the eyebrow-raising decision to give the captaincy to Caroline Ouellette, taking it away from Wickenheiser, who was not pleased.

Of her four gold medals, Wickenheiser called this one the hardest to win.

“If people knew what this team had gone through, they would probably make a movie,” she said. “It’s been an unbelievable year.”

Capped off by an unbelievable game.

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Credit: AP

Qatar’s Barshim sets season’s best high jump record in Birmingham

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Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim, who astonished the track and field world with his non-traditional hurdling technique on his way to becoming the reigning world champion in high jump this August, one-upped himself in Birmingham when he soared over the bar set to 2.40 meters. That’s just a smidge over 7 feet, 10 inches!

The men’s outdoor high jump world record is currently 2.45m, set by Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor in 1993.

At the 2017 Worlds, the 6-foot-2 Barshim cleared the bar at about 6 feet, 4 inches with his now famous feet-first maneuver.

At Birmingham’s Diamond League event his technique may have been conventional, but his final leap was no less breathtaking.

After trading jumps with Syria’s Majed Aldin Ghazal up to 2.35m, Ghazal decided to bow out, but the Qatari continued on. With the meet already won, Barshim raised the bar to 2.40m.

“I knew I had that jump in me but I needed that pressure on my shoulders,” Barshim said. “I love it here. I had the [meet] record here from 2014 and I also won in Birmingham last year so it is a lucky place for me.”

The 2.40m final jump for Barshim registered as a meet and season record. After climbing down off the landing pad, Barshim’s fellow jumping competitors mobbed him in celebration.

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MORE: Great Britain’s Mo Farah races and wins final track race in home country

Great Britain’s Mo Farah races and wins final track race in home country

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Great Britain’s 4-time Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah raced his final race on a U.K. track surface in Birmingham, winning the 3000m, as he crossed the line in 7 minutes 38.64 seconds in the final Diamond League event of the day.

Spain’s Adel Mechaal nipped at Farah’s heels heading into the final 200m, but the Brit’s kick, and the ovation from the home crowd, propelled Farah to victory.

“[The fans] have been amazing. This is what it is all about. This is what we dream of,” Farah said after the race.

At 34, Farah’s plans are to leave the 400m loop behind to pursue road racing in 2018.

“I now have to see what I will do on the road. I don’t think I’ll have the same pressure so I’ll go and enjoy it,” Farah said. “Running was a hobby when I was younger but it has become a job and I love it. It can be hard when you get the pressure but the roads will be something completely different.”

Immediately preceding Farah’s win in Birmingham, Allyson Felix of the U.S. finished second in the women’s 400m final behind Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain.

“It has been a long few weeks so I was feeling tired out there so I just wanted to come out here and try to get it done but I came up just short,” Felix said. “Everyone is tired from London but I came and gave it my best effort.

“I am not sure about any future races this season, I am going to see how I recover from this.”

Earlier this month, Felix finished behind Naser when she took bronze in the 400m at the 2017 IAAF World Championships, where Phyllis Francis of the U.S. won gold, running a personal best 49.92 seconds. Francis finished fourth in Birmingham behind another U.S. middle distance athlete, Courtney Okolo who got the bronze.

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MORE: U.S., Great Britain to hold track and field dual meet