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Olympic speed skater, Montana’s only female governor dies

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Judy Martz, a 1964 U.S. Olympic speed skater and Montana’s only female governor, has died.

Martz had been battling pancreatic cancer. She was 74.

Martz died Monday in Butte, said state Attorney General Tim Fox, who is a friend of the family.

“She had a very forceful personality and was a very articulate, very smart person, and it doesn’t surprise me that she would be our first woman governor,” Fox said.

State political leaders, including Gov. Steve Bullock, are expressing sympathy and honoring Martz as a trailblazer for women in Montana.

“While she will always leave her mark in our history as a trailblazer for women, we will also remember the spirited enthusiasm she brought both in her service to Montanans and through her lifelong love for our state,” Bullock said in a statement.

Martz, then Judy Morstein, was 15th in the 1500m at the Innsbruck 1964 Winter Games.

Martz, a Republican, served as governor from 2001 to 2005. She was noted for turning a state deficit into a surplus while reducing taxes and increasing funding for education.

However, her term was besieged by missteps. Her popularity dropped to 20 percent at its low point.

Martz entered politics in 1996 as Gov. Marc Racicot’s running mate. She ran for governor after Racicot was barred from seeking a third term.

Martz faced backlash following a 2001 drunken-driving crash involving her chief policy adviser, Shane Hedges. He was at the wheel of an SUV that went off a mountain road and killed Montana’s House majority leader, who was a passenger. Martz was ridiculed for washing her aide’s clothes shortly after the crash, an act she said was a motherly reaction.

She was also criticized for comments suggesting she did not mind being referred to as a “lap dog” of industry. Her administration came under fire after news reports revealed that some of her staff used state phones to make political fundraising calls.

Martz, who often said she was mistreated by the news media, alluded to her political troubles in making her announcement not to run for re-election in 2003. “Among the difficulties, we have dealt with tragedy and adversity, some self-imposed, some stemming from misperception, and some the result of staff,” she said.

In the years since she left the governor’s office, Martz routinely addressed Christian organizations throughout the country and was part of a network that prays at locations across Montana.

In late 2014, Martz announced through a spokesman that she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was treated at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she and her husband, Harry, had a home.

She said at the time that prayers and her deep faith in God would carry her through the difficult time. She thanked people for their prayers.

Martz and her husband raised two children.

Martz graduated from high school in Butte in 1961, was named Miss Rodeo Montana and attended Eastern Montana College.

Martz was a field representative for U.S. Senator Conrad Burns from 1989 to 1995. She also owned and operated a commercial solid-waste business with her husband.

Emma Coburn, Sam Kendricks win USATF Athlete of the Year awards

Emma Coburn, Sam Kendricks
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Emma Coburn and Sam Kendricks followed Rio Olympic bronze medals with their first world titles in August. And now, they both won USATF Athlete of the Year honors.

Coburn, 27, took the female award named after Jackie Joyner-Kersee after becoming the first American woman to bag 3000m steeplechase gold at the Olympics or worlds.

Coburn led an emotional U.S. one-two with Courtney Frerichs in London on Aug. 11 (video here). She broke the American record (by five seconds) and the world championships record by winning in 9:02.58.

Kendricks, 25, captured the Jesse Owens Award after an undefeated season that included the first Olympic or world pole vault title by an American man in 10 years.

The first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve won all 17 of his competitions in 2017, clearing six meters for the first time. No American had eclipsed that barrier since 2008.

Coburn and Kendricks won the USATF honors over the likes of fellow world champions Justin Gatlin and Tori Bowie (100m), Christian Taylor (triple jump), Phyllis Francis (400m), Kori Carter (400m hurdles) and Brittney Reese (long jump). Plus Shalane Flanagan and Galen Rupp, who each won World Marathon Majors this fall.

Rio gold medalists Michelle Carter (shot put) and Matthew Centrowitz (1500m) won the awards last year.

Coburn is the first steeplechaser to take home a USATF Athlete of the Year award. They’ve been handed out since 1981.

Kendricks joined 2000 Olympic champion Stacy Dragila as the only pole vaulters to earn the honor.

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Jana Novotna, Wimbledon champ and Olympic medalist, dies at 49

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PRAGUE (AP) — Jana Novotna, who won the hearts of the tennis world when she sobbed on the shoulder of a member of the British royal family after a heartbreaking loss in the Wimbledon final, has died at the age of 49.

The WTA announced Novotna’s death on Monday, saying she died Sunday in her native Czech Republic following a long battle with cancer.

Novotna died “peacefully, surrounded by her family,” the women’s tennis body said.

Her family confirmed her death to the Czech Republic’s CTK news agency. No details were given.

Martina Navratilova, the tennis great who was also born in what was then Czechoslovakia, tweeted: “The tennis world is so sad about the passing of Jana Novotna. I am gutted and beyond words. Jana was a true friend and an amazing woman.”

Novotna won her only Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon in 1998, eventually triumphing after two losses in the final at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in 1993 and 1997.

She added three Olympic tennis medals — singles bronze at Altanta 1996 (knocking out top seed Monica Seles) and doubles silver in 1988 and 1996 with Helena Sukova.

She also lost in the 1991 Australian Open final.

While she finally captured the Grand Slam singles title she longed for in 1998, she won over the Wimbledon crowd five years earlier after wasting a big lead in the decisive set in a tough three-set loss to Steffi Graf.

Unable to hide her disappointment, Novotna cried on the shoulder of Britain’s Duchess of Kent at the prize giving ceremony and was gently comforted by the royal, who told her: “I know you will win it one day, don’t worry.”

Novotna ultimately had her moment five years later when she beat Nathalie Tauziat in straight sets to win Wimbledon. At the time, she was the oldest first-time winner of a Grand Slam singles title at age 29.

There wear tears again from Novotna, this time of joy, and the Duchess of Kent was present again to congratulate her.

“She was a true champion in all senses of the word, and her 1998 triumph will live long in the memory,” Wimbledon organizers the All England Club said in tribute to Novotna. “The thoughts of all those at Wimbledon are with her family and friends.”

Fellow Czech and four-time Grand Slam champion Hana Mandlikova, who coached Novotna for her Wimbledon win, said: “It’s hard to find words. Jana was a great girl and I’m happy that she won Wimbledon after all. It’s so sad when someone so young dies.”

During a 14-year professional career, Novotna won 24 singles titles and reached a career-high No. 2 in the singles rankings in 1997. She was a prolific and top-ranked doubles player, collecting 16 slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles.

She also won the Fed Cup with her country in 1988. Novotna was inducted into tennis’ Hall of Fame in 2005.

Even after retiring in 1999, Novotna was desperate to stay involved in tennis and became a commentator and coach.

“I’m dependent on tennis,” she said in an interview two years ago. “A day without it would be terrible.”

Members of the current Czech Fed Cup team said Novotna “supported us in the stands any time she could be there. We’ll miss her.”

“Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her,” WTA chief executive Steve Simon said. “Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA.”