Russia hires new hockey coach after Olympic disappointment

Oleg Znarok
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Russia’s hockey federation named Latvian Oleg Znarok its hockey coach Wednesday, tasked with bringing the national team back up after an underwhelming quarterfinal exit at the Sochi Olympics.

Znarok, 51, led club team Dynamo Moscow to back-to-back Gagarin Cup titles in the KHL the previous two seasons. His deal to coach Russia runs through the 2018 Olympics, according to R-Sport.

He takes over for Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, who in Sochi led a Russian team hoping to win its first men’s hockey Olympic gold since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

But it stumbled after an opening 5-2 win over Slovenia, losing 3-2 to the U.S. in a shootout and needing another shootout to defeat Slovakia 1-0.

Russia blanked Norway 4-0 in the qualification playoffs but fell 3-1 to eventual bronze medalist Finland in the quarterfinals.

Bilyaletdinov had a memorable press conference with Russian reporters after the elimination. He said, among other sound bytes, “eat me alive right now.”

Znarok played for the USSR and, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, was captain of the Latvian national team. He later coached Latvia at the 2010 Olympics, where it lost all four of its games with the worst goal differential in group play.

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Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

Brigid Kosgei
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World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

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Dmitriy Balandin, surprise Olympic swimming champion, retires

Dmitriy Balandin
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Dmitriy Balandin, the Kazakh swimmer who pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2016 Rio Olympics, retired at age 27.

“Today I would like to announce the end of my sports career,” Balandin said last week, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee. “I am still inspired. A new phase of my life begins. I have a lot of cool projects in my head that will soon be implemented.”

Balandin reportedly has coaching aspirations.

In 2016, he won the Olympic men’s 200m breaststroke out of lane eight as the last qualifier into the final. He edged American Josh Prenot by seven hundredths of a second and became Kazakhstan’s first Olympic swimming medalist.

He followed that up with 11th- and 17th-place finishes in the breaststrokes in Tokyo last year.

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