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Valeri Liukin named USA Gymnastics women’s national team coordinator

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Valeri Liukin, the four-time 1988 Soviet Olympic medalist and father of Nastia Liukin, has been named USA Gymnastics women’s national team coordinator, succeeding Martha Karolyi.

“I don’t know if I can say it’s a dream come true, but it feels like one,” Valeri Liukin said, according to USA Gymnastics. “I don’t know how to describe it.”

Valeri Liukin, 49, has been USA Gymnastics’ elite developmental coordinator since 2013 and was most seen at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, guiding his daughter to the Olympic all-around title.

“I’ve never been more proud to be his daughter,” Nastia Liukin said, according to USA Gymnastics. “He’s always been my father, but he’s also been a role model and inspiration for me, so to see him achieve something that he has wanted to do for so long, to see him lead the U.S. team, that makes me very proud of him.”

Valeri Liukin will report to Rhonda Faehn, the senior vice president of the women’s program for USA Gymnastics who was also seen as a candidate to succeed Karolyi, who had been in the role from 2001-16. Bela Karolyi was the first women’s national team coordinator in 1999 and 2000.

“Valeri has excelled as a personal coach, and he has demonstrated his ability to lead and guide other coaches through his efforts as the elite developmental coordinator,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a press release.  “He will provide a smooth transition from the program that has been created, and Valeri is recognized as a capable and talented coach.”

The Liukins moved from Russia to the U.S. in 1992, three years after Nastia was born. Valeri Liukin co-founded the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano, Texas, in 1994.

The gym helped produce the 2004 and 2008 Olympic all-around champions (Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin), a 2009 and 2010 World all-around medalist (Rebecca Bross) and 2016 Olympic team champion member Madison Kocian.

Similarly, Liukin takes over a program with a rich recent history — five straight Olympic or world team titles starting in 2011.

“We are at the highest level there is,” Valeri Liukin said, according to USA Gymnastics. “It’s not going to be easy – it shouldn’t be – but I have been a part of this team for many years in one way or another. I have been at The Ranch since 1999 and have coached several generations of national team members. I know the drill. I grew up in that system as a gymnast, and I’ve raised my athletes in that same system, too.”

The first national-team camp at the Karolyi Ranch in New Waverly, Texas, under Valeri Liukin will start Sept. 28, and he plans to have regular conversations with the Karolyis, according to USA Gymnastics.

“There is no point in changing something that isn’t broken,” Valeri Liukin said. “There is nothing new for me. I believe in it.”

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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.

“We are confident that they [potential replacement players] would choose not to play,” the U.S. players said in a statement.

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.

“We ask that they approve the original agreement that, the players believed, was acceptable to both parties after Monday’s meeting,” the players said in a statement. “Unless there is an agreement, the players remain resolved to bypass the defense of the world championship.”

Neither side has said when the next 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