Amanda Kessel
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Amanda Kessel on first world champs team since 2013

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Amanda Kessel headlines the U.S. women’s hockey roster for the world championship next month in Plymouth, Mich., the latest step in her return from a 2013 concussion.

The full roster is here.

The team, with new coach Robb Stauber, also includes Hilary Knight, a two-time Olympic silver medalist who was MVP of the last two world championships, both won by the U.S.

In fact, the U.S. has won three straight world titles dating to Kessel’s last worlds appearance in 2013 and is going for its first four-peat since the tournament began in 1990. Canada, as always, should be the toughest challenge.

Kessel, 25, hasn’t skated for the U.S. national team in major competition since the Sochi Olympics, missing nearly two years of game play due to the effects of a concussion suffered several months before playing at the 2014 Winter Games.

Kessel returned to complete her University of Minnesota career last winter and debuted professionally for the NWHL’s New York Riveters this season.

Kessel was named to the U.S. roster for the Four Nations Cup in the fall but was replaced at the last minute due to an undisclosed lower-body injury. Kessel did play in a home-and-home series with Canada in December.

She returned to her pro team in January and has tallied a goal or an assist in all seven of her NWHL games this season.

Stauber, a backup Los Angeles Kings goalie in the early 1990s, took over head coaching duties from longtime NHL defenseman Ken Klee last fall. Klee guided the U.S. to the 2015 and 2016 World titles after replacing Sochi Olympic coach Katey Stone.

The U.S. roster for worlds lacks stalwarts Julie Chu, a four-time Olympian, and Jessie Vetter, its No. 1 goalie at the last two Olympics.

Chu hasn’t played for the U.S. since the Sochi Olympics but also hasn’t announced a retirement from international competition. She is now coaching at the college level, while also playing professionally.

Vetter will miss an Olympics or worlds for the first time since the 2006 Torino Winter Games. Vetter recently had a baby but, as of last fall, had not retired despite August reports to the contrary, according to USA Hockey.

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MORE: Knight among Olympians in documentary about gender in sports

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

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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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