Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin lead Russia Olympic hockey roster

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The last two NHL MVPs will be charged with leading Russia to the host nation’s most coveted medal at the Sochi Olympics.

Forwards Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin were the biggest stars on the Russian Olympic men’s hockey roster announced Tuesday.

Russia has never won an Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey. The Soviet Union/Unified Team won every Olympic title from 1964 through 1992 except for 1980.

Ovechkin and Malkin were on the 2006 and 2010 teams that finished fourth and sixth, respectively.

Olympic hockey rosters: U.S. | Canada | Russia | Sweden | Finland | Czech Republic | Slovakia | Switzerland | Latvia | Norway | Austria | Slovenia

Russia will play the U.S. in a group-stage game on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 a.m. live on NBCSN. Slovakia and Slovenia are also in the group. All 12 teams over three groups will advance to the playoffs, but the top four teams overall receive byes into quarterfinals.

Russia is expected to start the Colorado Avalanche’s Semyon Varlamov in goal, despite his off-the-ice issues. He’s been among the top 10 or 15 goalies in the NHL this season.

Other notables include multiple-time NHL All-Star forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, who is now in the KHL.

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar, 39, did not make the team in a bid for a fifth Olympics. Neither did Carolina Hurricanes star Alexander Semin

KHL forward Viktor Tikhonov is the grandson of the coach of the 1980 Soviet Union Olympic hockey team that lost to the U.S.

Here’s Russia’s full roster:

Goalies
Sergei Bobrovsky — Columbus Blue Jackets
Semyon Varlamov — Colorado Avalanche
Alexander Eremenko

Defensemen
Anton Belov — Edmonton Oilers
Alexei Emelin — Montreal Canadiens
Andrei Markov — Montreal Canadiens
Nikita Nikitin — Columbus Blue Jackets
Fedor Tyutin — Columbus Blue Jackets
Slava Voynov — Los Angeles Kings
Yevgeny Medvedev
Ilya Nikulin

Forwards
Artem Anisimov — Columbus Blue Jackets
Pavel Datsyuk — Detroit Red Wings
Nikolai Kulemin — Toronto Maple Leafs
Evgeni Malkin — Pittsburgh Penguins
Valeri Nichushkin — Dallas Stars
Alex Ovechkin — Washington Capitals
Vladimir Tarasenko — St. Louis Blues
Ilya Kovalchuk — former NHL player
Alexander Radulov — former Nashville Predators player
Viktor Tikhonov — former Phoenix Coyotes player
Denis Kokarev
Alexander Popov
Sergei Soin
Alexei Tereshchenko

Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

Sam Mikulak
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Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

MORE: Simone Biles’ closest rival chases comeback

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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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