U.S. women's hockey
AP

U.S. women’s hockey team beats Canada in Worlds opener

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KAMLOOPS, British Columbia (AP) — Hilary Knight had two goals and Brianna Decker scored the winner to help the United States begin its title defense at the Women’s World Hockey Championship with a 3-1 victory over Canada on Monday night.

Knight’s even-strength goal tied it 1-1 with 10:02 to play, and Decker scored a power-play goal about 4 minutes later. Knight added an empty-netter with 20 seconds left.

Laura Fortino scored for Canada 14 seconds into the third period.

Alex Rigsby stopped 22 shots for the Americans, and Canada’s Emerance Maschmeyer had 36 saves.

In other preliminary-round games, Finland beat Russia 5-3, Switzerland beat Japan 4-2 and Sweden beat the Czech Republic 3-2.

Canada faces Russia and the U.S. takes on Finland on Tuesday.

Both countries went with their younger, less experienced goaltenders in the opener.

Maschmeyer, 21, was given the nod over Charline Labonte for her third career start against the Americans. Rigsby, 24, started for the U.S. ahead of Jessie Vetter.

Decker banged in a rebound from the high slot after Maschmeyer’s initial save on Monique Lamoureux‘s blast from the point.

Knight pulled the U.S. even with a wrist shot that deflected off Canadian defenseman Halli Krzyzaniak‘s stick and beat Maschmeyer low glove side.

After two scoreless periods and with the U.S. holding a 24-13 edge in shots, Fortino beat Rigsby high stick side from the high slot in front of a full house at the 5,400-seat Sandman Centre.

The U.S. power play was 44 percent successful at last year’s World Championship in Malmo, Sweden, where they scored three power-play goals in the final en route to a 7-5 win over Canada.

The Canadians had a pair of key penalty kills in this one before giving up the winner during the third.

Canada stopped the Americans on a two-man advantage early in the first period. Overlapping penalties to start the second had Canada short-handed for almost 4 minutes.

The hosts generated the bulk of their scoring chances in the middle of the opening period. Momentum swung to the U.S. in the final minutes, though, and the visitors headed to the dressing room up 12-6 in shots on goal.

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Iran banned from judo for instructing athlete to withdraw rather than face Israel opponent

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Iran has been banned from international judo for instructing one of its athletes to withdraw from August’s world championships rather than face an Israeli judoka.

The International Judo Federation said Iran authorities instructing Saeid Mollaei to withdraw rather than face Israeli judoka Sagi Muki was “a serious breach and gross violation” of its code of ethics and the Olympic Charter.

IJF spokesman Vlad Marinescu said any ban won’t apply to the Tokyo Olympics. That’s because it’s the Iranian Olympic Committee, not the Iranian Judo Federation, which formally enters the Olympic team.

“We have been informed by IJF that they will launch a proper procedure giving all concerned parties the right to be heard,” an International Olympic Committee spokesperson said. “Should the issue become an Olympic issue we will take the result of this procedure into consideration.”

An IJF disciplinary commission said it “has a strong reason to believe that the Iran Judo Federation will continue or repeatedly engage in misconduct” given its history of similar actions with its athletes potentially facing Israelis.

Mollaei, a 2018 World champion, said he was afraid to return to Iran after disobeying those orders at worlds. He competed anyway but lost one round before a potential final with Muki.

“I want to compete wherever I can,” Mollaei said in a statement from the IJF. “I live in a country whose law does not permit me to. We have no choice, all athletes must comply with it. All I did today was for my life, for a new life.

“I need help. Even if the authorities of my country told me that I can go back without any problems, I am afraid.”

The IJF said it would help Mollaei prepare for next year’s Olympics, also in Tokyo. If Iran refuses to enter him, one option could be the International Olympic Committee-backed team of refugee athletes.

Iranian sports teams have for several decades had a policy of not competing against Israelis, which the country does not recognize. The IJF has said Iranians have thrown matches and used “questionable injuries” to avoid competing against Israelis.

Mollaei’s case came four months after judo officials hailed a breakthrough in relations with Iran, publishing a letter signed by Salehi Amiri pledging to “fully respect the Olympic charter and its non-discrimination principle.”

Back in August, Iranian Sports Minister Masoud Soltanifar accused the IJF of trying to “create problems” with Mollaei, the IRNA news agency reported. He said Iran will send a protest letter to the IOC.

Iranian team manager Majid Zareian also criticized the IJF, saying “everything was set in advance to put Mollaei against a participant from (Israel).”

“They did not allow me to be present next to my athlete in exercise salon,” Zareian said. “After the competitions they changed hotel of Mollaei without my permission, against the regulations.”

He denied reports Iranian authorities had put pressure on Mollaei.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: Israel, judo federation hail letter from Iran; Tehran silent

Jacarra Winchester, after foe bites her, wins first wrestling world title

United World Wrestling
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Jacarra Winchester missed the Rio Olympic wrestling trials after tearing her knee playing soccer. She missed a medal at the 2018 World Championships after a semifinal-winning takedown was reversed.

There was no denying her on Wednesday.

Winchester, who picked up wrestling a decade ago as a high school junior, became the first American to earn a medal at the worlds in Kazakhstan this week. And it was gold.

She came back to beat Japanese Nanami Irie 5-3 in the final of the 55kg division, a weight class that is not on the Olympic program. Winchester must move to 53kg or 57kg next year.

But for now she can celebrate quite a journey. At 26, she’s one of the older wrestlers to become a first-time world champion. She believed she had what it took last year, when a reversed call kept her from the final and she subsequently lost a bronze-medal match.

Winchester, who has problems sleeping, said she replayed the end of that semifinal in her head ever since.

“There’s no reason why I should have gotten beat,” she said Wednesday. “Clearly I have what I need on the mat. I just need to change my mindset. … Just knowing you’re the best, pushing yourself and not letting anything get to me.”

That helped in Tuesday’s semifinals, where Winchester said her Turkish opponent bit her, pulled her hair and twisted her fingers. Winchester, who grew up in the Oakland, Calif., area, said that when she started wrestling she had no Olympic goals.

“I had a mindset of I’m not a quitter,” she said.

Earlier Wednesday, Adeline Gray reached Thursday’s 76kg final, where she will try to become the first American to earn five world titles.

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