Zach Parise sees benefits of big ice for U.S. men’s hockey

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After one impressive win, The U.S. men’s hockey team looks like it has the potential to be a powerful team. But how do they feel about the bigger ice surface, which is supposed to befuddle North American skaters?

Different United States players seemed to give different answers to Puck Daddy.

On one hand, you have team captain Zach Parise, who believes that the U.S. used its speed especially well over a larger surface.

“We almost used it to our advantage with our speed and taking the puck wide,” Parise said.

Paul Stastny seemed to warn against using that speed too much, however.

“The ice is big,” Statsny said. “We try to transition the game, and try to get good puck possession on the D-zone. You try to play a run-and-gun game and you’re going to be exhausted.”

David Backes was in the middle; he believes that the United States required “a feeling out process” in the first period before playing well in the second.

All of that aside, it’s just one game, and Russia is likely to provide a far more intense tense than Slovakia. Sticking with the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin is a difficult task on rinks in the NHL and overseas.

Besides, as Canadian head coach Mike Babcock notes, it’s not always as simple as the ice being bigger.

“What I learned tonight about the big ice is the big ice isn’t very big,” Babcock said to PHT. “What I mean by that is the offensive zone is way smaller, length-wise. So the D have a harder time getting to the middle to shoot the puck. So our active D got chances, our D sliding got no chances; they can get to you way quicker.”

In the end, that might be the real tantalizing thing. The United States stocked up on young, attacking defensemen. While that raises questions about their readiness for Olympic play, they very well might be able to be one of the most active units in Sochi.

Then again, Russia’s attack might change the tone of such discussions by the time Saturday’s game is over.

Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
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Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

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When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

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Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

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