Graeme Townshend

Jamaica eyes Winter Olympics in ice hockey

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Jamaica’s goal is to field a men’s hockey team at the Winter Olympics in the next 20 years, according to the Toronto Star.

“If we can pull this off, you’re looking at an inspiring story and the idea that anything is accomplishable if you put your mind to it,” Graeme Townshend, the head coach and first Jamaican-born player in the NHL for the Bruins, Islanders and Senators in the 1990s, told the newspaper. “If Jamaica can get a team in the World Championships or the Olympics, that’s like a miracle. It’s something that’s so outlandish that I think it actually might work.”

The makings of a Jamaican hockey team have been reported on since at least 2011, but the largest signs of progress are taking shape this weekend with a tryout camp, according to the newspaper.

Townshend, a former skating coach with the Maple Leafs, will be putting prospects through their paces at a talent identification camp at Westwood Arena. At least 30 players, from as far away as Sweden, Alberta and Virginia are expected at the tryouts.

The criterion for players, at this point, has been broadened to include anyone who can trace his heritage to the Caribbean. Townshend said the immediate goal is to put together a team that will tour next summer, playing exhibition games, to both increase awareness of Jamaica’s plan to enter the Olympics and to shake out sponsorship money to help fund the program. The eventual Olympic team must be composed of Jamaican citizens.

Jamaica, known for competing in bobsled in the Winter Olympics, has a long way to go. The nation does not have an indoor ice rink, according to the newspaper.

Several current NHL players have Jamaican ties, including Montreal Canadiens star defenseman P.K. Subban, whose father moved from Jamaica to Canada at age 11. Subban represents Canada internationally.

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Coaches to receive medals at World Track and Field Championships

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Coaches will receive medals at the World Track and Field Championships for the first time this summer.

London will host the 16th edition of the event in 100 days.

Coaches’ medals will be based on similar themes to athlete medals but will look different.

“The medals, gifted to successful athletes once they return from their ceremony, will be for them to hand to their coach or significant advisor in recognition of the unique and valued working relationship between athlete and coach,” the IAAF said in a press release.

Coaches do not receive Olympic medals.

The U.S. Olympic Committee established the Order of Ikkos medals starting with the 2008 Beijing Games, allowing medal-winning athletes to acknowledge one coach.

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What to watch at Drake Relays, Penn Relays

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Olympic gold medalists ramp up their track and field seasons at the Penn Relays and Drake Relays, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold this weekend.

Athletes are working toward the U.S. Championships in June and the world championships in August.

First, the historic Penn Relays will air on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Friday (5:30-6:30 p.m. ET) and Saturday (12:30-3 p.m. ET).

USA vs. The World in men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x400m and sprint medley relays will air live on Saturday from Franklin Field in Philadelphia. A full schedule is here.

The U.S. teams are led by Olympic relay champions English Gardner and Natasha Hastings. The full roster is here.

Rio Olympic rematches highlight the individual-event fields at the Drake Relays in Des Moines on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold from 3-5 p.m ET on Saturday. A full schedule is here.

Perhaps no field is deeper than the 100m hurdles. World-record holder Keni Harrison takes on Rio silver and bronze medalists Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali, plus 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson.

The 110m hurdles contingent is strong as well. It features the last two Olympic champions, Jamaican Omar McLeod and American Aries Merritt, plus 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Grenada’s Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt, who earned silver and bronze in Rio, go head-to-head again in the 400m at Drake.

The men’s 1500m is headlined by Rio Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and London Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.

Rio bronze medalist Jenny Simpson races individually for the first time this year in the women’s 1500m.

That field also includes New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, who gained fame of her own in Rio. Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino fell in an Olympic 5000m heat and helped each other make it to the finish line. Both were praised for their sportsmanship.

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