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U.S. women rout Russia at world hockey championship

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PLYMOUTH, Mich. (AP) — Amanda Kessel rediscovered just how good it feels to score a goal for your country.

The American forward missed more than 1 1/2 years after the 2014 Winter Olympics because of a concussion. There were times during her long recovery when Kessel wondered if she’d ever represent her country again.

She scored her first international goal in more than three years Saturday in the United States’ 7-0 win over Russia at the women’s world hockey championship.

Kessel and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson combined on an odd-man rush with Kessel pouncing on a rebound to score the first goal of the game.

“I kind of feel like I got a monkey off my back,” Kessel said. “I was kind of itching for that first one to give you more confidence. With every game I feel better and better.

“It makes you really appreciate the game and what you miss. I really cherish every moment now.”

The 25-year-old sister of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel also had an assist in the Americans’ second win in two days to open the world championship.

Lamoureux-Davidson, Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne each scored twice for the defending champions. Maddie Rooney stopped all 14 shots she faced to give the U.S. a second straight shutout, a day after Nicole Hensley turned away 18 in a 2-0 win over Canada.

Maria Sorokina had 27 saves for Russia (1-1).

Kessel had last scored for the U.S. in a 6-1 win over Sweden in the Sochi Olympics semifinal. She’d tripped and went head first into the boards in a scrimmage prior to the Winter Games. She played in the Olympics but experienced concussion symptoms through the summer.

Kessel didn’t appear in a game again until February 2016 when she rejoined the University of Minnesota. Kessel played for the U.S. in a two-game exhibition series against Canada in December, but didn’t record a point.

“She brings her speed to the game, and her vision,” Decker said. “Getting a couple more games under her belt, she’s going to settle in that much more.”

Watching her brother win the Stanley Cup last year inspired Kessel.

“It was really emotional actually watching him go through that,” she said. “I was able to go to pretty much every playoff game because I’d just ended college. … Seeing what they went through and how hard it is to win that is super special.”

The Americans scored in bunches Saturday with two goals in less than a minute in the second period and another two in the final 19 seconds of the game.

“It’s just those lapses we’ve got to get rid of,” Russian forward Iya Gavrilova said. “We just get too offensive with those teams and you can’t allow that. … You have to play disciplined and it’s hard sometimes when you have a chance to put the pressure on.”

Olga Sosina and Anna Shukina were back in Russia’s lineup after serving one-game suspensions for taking match penalties in an exhibition game against Switzerland earlier in the week. They missed Russia’s 2-1 win over Finland on Friday.

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U.S., Great Britain to hold track and field dual meet

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The U.S. and Great Britain go head-to-head in a track and field meet on July 21 at the London Olympic Stadium.

“The Meet” will include nine running, jumping, hurdles and relay events and last two hours. Specific events and athletes will be announced early next year.

The U.S. topped the overall medal standings at every Olympics and world outdoor championships since 2004.

Great Britain is one of three countries to earn at least five medals at every Olympics and worlds since 2007, joining the U.S. and Kenya.

British athletes made six podiums at the just-completed worlds at the London Olympic Stadium, including in all four relays. The other two medals came from Mo Farah, who is moving to road racing and marathons after this season.

“The Meet” is similar to swimming’s “Duel in the Pool,” a biennial head-to-head competition between the U.S. and rival Australia from 2003 through 2007 and between the U.S. and Europe between 2009 and 2015.

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Five women’s gymnasts to watch at P&G Championships

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As Rio gold medalists decide on their futures, this week’s P&G Championships mark the first showcase for a new class of U.S. women’s gymnasts.

For the first time since 2008, nobody in the nationals field in Anaheim has competed at an Olympics. Usually, a gymnast or two carries over into the post-Olympic year, like Bridget Sloan in 2009 and Kyla Ross in 2013.

But this year, the feeling is akin to 2005, when no woman (or man) from the 2004 Athens Games chalked up at nationals.

Back then, a 15-year-old Nastia Liukin, who had already starred in a commercial during the 2004 Olympics, made her senior nationals debut and won the all-around. Three years later, Liukin won the Olympic all-around in Beijing.

There will be talk this week of finding the next Liukin, or Gabby Douglas, or Simone Biles, who, like Liukin, won her senior nationals debut the year after the Olympics.

“Some of them [from Rio], hopefully Simone, will be coming back, but I think this is a great opportunity for some of these girls to go out there and prove that they’re just as ready to compete at a world championships,” said Liukin, now an NBC Olympics analyst. “They have to step up a little bit and kind of become the leaders.”

MORE: P&G Champs broadcast schedule

Gymnasts this week are vying to impress new U.S. national team coordinator Valeri Liukin (Nastia’s father). The four-woman roster for October’s worlds, where there is no team event, will be named after a selection camp later this summer.

Five gymnasts to watch at the P&G Championships:

Ragan Smith
Rio Olympic alternate
2017 AT&T American Cup champion

The Texan performed admirably in her first senior season in 2016, placing fifth in the all-around at the Olympic Trials. Her best events are balance beam and floor exercise, but the U.S. needed uneven bars help in Rio. So she went to the Games as an alternate at age 15, making headlines for this photo with 6-foot-11 basketball player DeAndre Jordan.

Smith, coached by 1991 World all-around champion Kim Zmeskal, emerged this year as the U.S.’ most reliable all-arounder and clear favorite this week. She won the American Cup on March 4 despite a beam fall. A definite all-around medal favorite at October’s worlds.

Ashton Locklear
Rio Olympic alternate
2014 World team champion

Locklear was beaten for the Olympic team bars specialist spot by Madison Kocian after nearly matching Kocian in scores in four routines between last year’s P&G Championships and Olympic Trials. The 19-year-old is not considered an all-around threat this week but is favored to make the world team based on her bars ability. She was fourth in the event at 2014 Worlds.

Riley McCusker
2017 Jesolo Trophy all-around winner

McCusker, who has the same coach as Laurie Hernandez, struggled at the American Cup in her first senior competition, falling on bars and beam. She rebounded to win Jesolo a month later and remain in the mix as the No. 2 U.S. all-arounder (Smith wasn’t at Jesolo).

However, McCusker was on crutches with a cast on her wrist in early July and said she expected to be back to peak form in September, not August.

Morgan Hurd
2017 Stuttgart World Cup bronze medalist

Hurd, a first-year senior who competes in glasses, was adopted from China as a toddler and now lives with her mom in Delaware.

Liukin, asked to name gymnasts to watch this week, started with Hurd, whom she says has the highest floor exercise start value in the world. “She could be capable of winning a world all-around medal and possibly become a world champion on floor,” Liukin said.

Jade Carey
2017 U.S. Classic vault winner

The U.S. has a tradition of sending a vault specialist to worlds, but neither of the top vaulters from the last Olympic cycle — Biles nor MyKayla Skinner — is competing this week. Enter Carey, a 17-year-old who wasn’t an elite gymnast before this season.

Carey performed the difficult Amanar vault at July’s U.S. Classic, where she was the only gymnast to perform two vaults, which is required to compete for medals on the event at worlds.

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