Amanda Kessel
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Amanda Kessel on first world champs team since 2013

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Amanda Kessel headlines the U.S. women’s hockey roster for the world championship next month in Plymouth, Mich., the latest step in her return from a 2013 concussion.

The full roster is here.

The team, with new coach Robb Stauber, also includes Hilary Knight, a two-time Olympic silver medalist who was MVP of the last two world championships, both won by the U.S.

In fact, the U.S. has won three straight world titles dating to Kessel’s last worlds appearance in 2013 and is going for its first four-peat since the tournament began in 1990. Canada, as always, should be the toughest challenge.

Kessel, 25, hasn’t skated for the U.S. national team in major competition since the Sochi Olympics, missing nearly two years of game play due to the effects of a concussion suffered several months before playing at the 2014 Winter Games.

Kessel returned to complete her University of Minnesota career last winter and debuted professionally for the NWHL’s New York Riveters this season.

Kessel was named to the U.S. roster for the Four Nations Cup in the fall but was replaced at the last minute due to an undisclosed lower-body injury. Kessel did play in a home-and-home series with Canada in December.

She returned to her pro team in January and has tallied a goal or an assist in all seven of her NWHL games this season.

Stauber, a backup Los Angeles Kings goalie in the early 1990s, took over head coaching duties from longtime NHL defenseman Ken Klee last fall. Klee guided the U.S. to the 2015 and 2016 World titles after replacing Sochi Olympic coach Katey Stone.

The U.S. roster for worlds lacks stalwarts Julie Chu, a four-time Olympian, and Jessie Vetter, its No. 1 goalie at the last two Olympics.

Chu hasn’t played for the U.S. since the Sochi Olympics but also hasn’t announced a retirement from international competition. She is now coaching at the college level, while also playing professionally.

Vetter will miss an Olympics or worlds for the first time since the 2006 Torino Winter Games. Vetter recently had a baby but, as of last fall, had not retired despite August reports to the contrary, according to USA Hockey.

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MORE: Knight among Olympians in documentary about gender in sports

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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