U.S. past ‘miracle’ stage in Olympic hockey (except vs. Canada)

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source: AP
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SOCHI, Russia – This seems to be the Olympics when everyone around United States hockey officially got sick of the Miracle on Ice. Well, it was inevitable. With the Olympics being in Russia, with famed Russian goaltender Vladislav Tretiak (who was pulled in the Miracle) lighting the torch, with my generation reaching the age of cloying nostalgia and with the U.S. men’s team looking for its first Olympics hockey gold since that 1980 team, everything pointed to overkill.*

*Which I happily participated in.

Thing is, hockey in America is nothing like it was in 1980. This was the point the U.S. hockey team kept hammering. Everything has changed. Now, professional hockey players are at the Olympic. Now, the U.S. team has some of the best players in the world. Now, the U.S. team has speed and size and depth that is the envy of almost every hockey-playing country in the world. When the U.S. team played Russia this time around, it was the Americans who were favored, and the Americans who played the villains when they got a favorable call and won in a gritty shootout.

So, yes, everybody was ready to move on from the constant reminders about a bunch of college hockey players who won a gold medal 34 years ago.

Trouble is, to get people to stop talking about the Miracle on Ice, you have to stop losing one-goal games to Canada when it matters most.

VIDEO: Highlights from Canada’s 1-0 win

The U.S. did lose another one-goal game to Canada in an Olympic semifinal Friday … this after the U.S. women one day earlier lost a crushing one-goal game to Canada in the gold medal game … this after the U.S. men lost a crushing one-goal game to Canada in the gold medal game in Vancouver, one of the most famous hockey games ever played.

To be fair, the United States’ 1-0 loss to Canada was different from the others. It felt cleaner and did not leave much room for regret. That’s because the Canadians pretty thoroughly outplayed the Americans. Was it not for some head-stand saves from Jonathan Quick – “our best player tonight,”  U.S. coach Dan Bylsma said – the score easily could have been 3-0 or 4-0.

Meanwhile the “0” on the American end of the score was more or less locked in. It is hard to imagine a team playing more suffocating defense than Canada played Friday. The U.S. power play was rendered all but useless. And other than a couple of moderate chances early and Paul Stansny’s point-blank shots in front in the second period, the U.S. rarely even threatened to score.

VIDEO: U.S. can’t find an empty net in final minute

The game was played at a high level—the speed on the ice was mesmerizing — and it was entertaining in its own way. But it really was quite a let-down from the famous gold medal game of four years ago. Well, for one thing that was a gold-medal match, while this was a semifinal just to see who would play Sweden for gold. That was a quirk in the seeding, and it definitely altered some of the emotion.*

Photo credit: AP

*Though back home, the “Loser Keeps Bieber” campaign – featured on a Chicago billboard and trending on Twitter – certainly created some fire.

Then there was the quiet. Here you had the two best hockey teams on earth – two of the most talented hockey teams ever put together – and it was so eerily quiet in the Bolshoy Ice Palace. Every now and again, a hearty soul would try to start up a U-S-A chant or beg the Canadians to finish one of their numerous goal-scoring chances and then it would dissolve into stillness.

Much of the time, the arena was quiet enough to read bedtime stories aloud.

So strange … but then maybe not. No event at these Olympics brought so much pain to the host country as hockey. The Russian hockey team lost to the U.S. in the aforementioned shootout that was, for many Americans, the emotional peak of these Olympics and was for Russian fans the very symbol of fraud. A goal-ahead goal by the Russians was nullified because the cage of the net was slightly off its mooring. Russians who even conceded the point that the net WAS off still believed that U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick had been the one to knock it off. Angry fans demonstrated in Moscow. Television networks replayed the disallowed goal again and again.

Then, more disconcerting, the Russian team disappeared in a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Finland that featured no controversy and also no life from a gifted collection of Russian players who never quite came together.

So, it is logical that there simply wasn’t much enthusiasm left for the sport. Tack on the Russians’ famous reticence – something that various non-Russian figure skaters noticed during their soundless programs – and what you had was a striking lack of energy and volume. We grow so used to the biggest sporting events being loud and the tension being almost tangible.

But Friday, early in the second period, Canada’s Jay Bouwmeester – a tough defenseman not necessarily known for his playmaking abilities – slapped a pass that Jamie Benn deflected over Quick to give Canada that 1-0 lead. And then the rest of the game just kind of melted away almost unnoticed. Those sounds you associate with a close and important hockey game – the roars for developing chances, the groans when shots slip wide, the gasps when the winning team narrowly escapes – were largely nonexistent. It was a bit like being in a Vegas casino with no clocks. Time just gushes away.

VIDEO: Jamie Benn’s shot the only goal

In any case, the U.S. never came especially close to tying the game, and Canada came very close to extending the lead and it was clear, on this day anyway, that there’s still a gap between Canadian and American hockey. Maybe this is as it should be considering how intently Canadian life revolves around the sport (some 80 percent of Canada watched at least part of the 2010 gold medal game).

But it is a blow for a United States still trying to move past the Miracle on Ice. Bylsma made the point after the game that U.S. hockey is at a place now where it hardly needs a miracle to win a gold medal. He’s right, of course. All the U.S. really needs is a couple more goals against Canada. Thing is, that’s the proving to be about as elusive as miracles.

Jan Frodeno eyes unprecedented Olympic-Ironman double (video)

Jan Frodeno
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On Saturday, Jan Frodeno will attempt to become the first triathlete to win an Olympic title and an Ironman World Championship.

The German 2008 Olympic champion finished third in his debut at Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, one year ago. So he’s already in a class of his own, the only triathlete to win Olympic gold and finish on the podium in Kailua-Kona.

On Saturday, Frodeno will go up against defending champion and countryman Sebastian Kienle and the 2013 winner, Frederik Van Lierde of Belgium.

Frodeno is arguably the favorite, given he trounced Kienle by nearly 12 minutes and Van Lierde by nearly 18 minutes in triple-digit heat at the Ironman European Championships on July 5 in Frankfurt, Germany.

The Ironman triathlon includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon. It took Frodeno 8 hours, 20 minutes, 32 seconds to complete in 2014. Apolo Ohno, the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian of all time, also completed the 2014 Ironman World Championships in an impressive time.

The Olympic triathlon includes a 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run. It took Frodeno 1 hour, 48 minutes, 53 seconds to complete in 2008.

On the women’s side, Australian Mirinda Carfrae is going for her third straight title in Kailua-Kona. Carfrae’s marathon time in 2013 (2:50:38) was the third fastest of the day, among women and men. Her marathon time in 2014 (2:50:26) was the fifth fastest of the day, among women and men.

VIDEO: Watch Apolo Ohno’s Ironman feature

Victor Oladipo may play for Nigeria at Rio Olympics

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Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo, who scrimmaged in a Team USA jersey in August, may want to play for Nigeria at the Rio Olympics, should he not be chosen for the U.S. team next summer, according to

The Maryland-born Oladipo’s parents are Nigerian.

“Playing in the Olympics is definitely a dream, but I’ll worry about it when the time comes,” Oladipo said, according to the website. “Whatever [Olympic] opportunity appears on the table, it will be about making the right decision that’s best for me.”

Oladipo, 23, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Indiana and scored 17.9 points per game last season.

In August, he was one of 34 players named on a USA Basketball roster for a camp deemed mandatory for Olympic participation.

But he hasn’t played in major international competition for the U.S., so he is eligible to switch to Nigeria, according to USA Basketball.

The final U.S. Olympic team may not be chosen until late June — a little more than one month before the Olympics — and will include 12 players, and the competition to be one of four or five guards is deep. London Olympians James HardenChris Paul and Russell Westbrook were on the camp roster, as were 2014 FIBA World Cup guards Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving, plus John Wall.

In 2014, Oladipo said playing on the U.S. Olympic team was a lifelong dream and that he realistically hoped to make it for the 2020 Olympics, according to

“Isn’t that every little kid’s dream? For me to be a part of that team, it would be a blessing,” Oladipo said, according to the website. “That’s something that I have added to my goals list, and I want to keep working and getting better.”

Both the U.S. and Nigeria are already qualified for the Olympic men’s basketball tournament, along with seven other teams.

Nigeria won the African Olympic qualifying tournament in August, led by 2012 Olympian Al-Farouq Aminu, an Atlanta-born Portland Trail Blazers forward who also has Nigerian parents.

African nations have lost 25 straight Olympic men’s basketball games to non-African nations, the last win coming by Angola over South Korea in the 11th-place game at Atlanta 1996.

For 2012, Tunisia won the African qualifying tournament for the London Olympics, while Nigeria was the last of 12 nations into the Olympic tournament by placing third in a global, last-chance qualifying tournament.

In London, Nigeria beat Tunisia 60-56 in the first game of the Olympic tournament. Nigeria went on to lose to the U.S. 156-73 in group play, marking the biggest U.S. men’s margin of victory in Olympic history.

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