Lily Zhang
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Lily Zhang makes second straight U.S. Olympic table tennis team

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MARKHAM, Ontario (AP) — Lily Zhang earned her second straight Olympic table tennis spot Friday, beating countrywoman Jiaqi Zheng 11-3, 11-4, 11-5, 11-9 in the North American Olympic trials.

“When the last point was over, it was a sense of disbelief and happiness all at the same time,” Zhang said. “It feels so amazing to go back to the Olympics to represent my country a second time. I am so humbled and happy.”

The top-ranked player in the field, the 19-year-old Zhang, from Palo Alto, Calif., will join Yue “Jennifer” Wu of Fort Lee, N.J., as the two U.S. singles players in Brazil. Wu had qualified by winning the Pan American Games last summer.

“The last time around, I had just turned 16, and I was kind of overwhelmed by the whole thing,” Zhang said. “This time around, I am much more prepared and know what to expect. I have a lot more experience and maturity.”

The third spot on the U.S women’s team for the team competition will be decided on the weekend at the qualification tournament.

Zhang opened the tournament with a 4-0 win over Yi Lu of Canada. In the semifinals, Zhang held off a tough challenge from 14-year-old Crystal Wang of Bellevue, Wash., 4-2. Wang had rallied by winning the last two games to beat Chen Wang of New York 4-2 in the first round. Wang was a 2008 Olympian.

Zheng, the 2015 U.S. champion, is from Milpitas, Calif.

The U.S. didn’t place a player in the men’s final.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Rio Olympics

USA Hockey to start reaching out to potential replacement players

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USA Hockey will begin reaching out to “alternate players” to determine their interest in playing for the U.S. at the women’s world championship next week amid a potential boycott by its national team.

The contact is taking place in the event a resolution cannot be reached between USA Hockey and the women’s national team in a wage dispute.

“It’s important for everyone to understand clearly that our objective is to have the players we named as the U.S. women’s national team be the ones that compete in the world championship,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, in a statement. “Productive conversations have taken place this week and are ongoing in our collective efforts to reach a resolution.”

The alternate players are in the professional NWHL and college, according to USA Today, a report that USA Hockey would not confirm.

U.S. captain Meghan Duggan has said every player in the U.S. national team player pool, plus under-18 national team players, committed to not playing at worlds unless the wage dispute is resolved.

The world championship tournament starts March 31 in Plymouth, Mich.

As of Thursday evening, no resolution has come between USA Hockey and its women’s national team. They met formally on Monday for more than 10 hours, with both sides calling it productive.

Neither side has said when its next scheduled meeting will take place.

On Tuesday, USA Hockey said it postponed a pre-worlds camp that was to run through next Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., and canceled a scheduled Friday exhibition against Finland.

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MORE: NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

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International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

The head of the NHL Players Association, Donald Fehr, says the players want to participate and hopes the league will take advantage of the chance to market the game in Asia.

However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says without “material change to the current status quo, NHL players will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics.”

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MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups set