Goalie Jessie Vetter tries out for third Olympic team, two months after childbirth

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Jessie Vetter, holder of most U.S. women’s hockey career goalie records, is making one more Olympic run at next week’s national-team selection camp.

She’s doing so two months after giving birth to son Brady. Vetter, the No. 1 U.S. goalie at the last two Olympics, married Scott McConnell last May.

“What’s going on in my life is kind of a motivation,” Vetter said by phone last week while walking Brady. “Brady, if he ever wants to do something or have a passion for something, to see it through and give himself the best opportunity to make that happen. There’s still a good chunk of the girls I know from 2010 and 2014. It’s just seeing them being out there and knowing I can come in and be a positive teammate and a good influence to the younger girls and a good veteran on the team.”

Vetter was cleared to skate two weeks ago. She returned to the ice for the first time in nearly one year, since the 2016 World Championships.

And now she’s headed to Tampa with 41 other players for the five-day national-team selection camp that starts Sunday.

The camp is being viewed by players as an Olympic team tryout. The national team named on May 5 is expected to include 23 players, equaling the Olympic roster size.

Changes could be made before the Olympics, since the Winter Games are still nine months away, but national-team players clearly have the inside track to PyeongChang.

Vetter, 31, started eight of the 10 U.S. games between the last two Olympics, including both gold-medal game defeats to Canada. No U.S. women’s goalie has made three Olympic teams.

One men’s goalie has played in three Olympics — former New York Rangers All-Star Mike Richter, who happens to be the U.S. women’s goalie coach and Vetter’s idol growing up in Wisconsin.

Vetter is one of six goalies going to next week’s camp competing for what will be three Olympic team roster spots. She is six years older than anybody else, and even coached two of them at past USA Hockey camps.

Vetter admits she will be above her normal playing weight. She’s most concerned about her leg strength. But she’s mentally prepared and banking on her experience.

“I don’t think she’d put herself in a position to try out for the Olympic team if she wasn’t ready,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said.

Vetter has played 486 minutes at the Olympics, more than any woman in U.S. history. The other five goalies at camp have never been to an Olympics.

“Physically, I won’t be close to my expectations for myself,” she said. “But I can come in with a good mental game and a good mindset and still put myself in a position to do well. Maybe not be as successful as I would be if I had a few more months to get my legs bent underneath me, but I’m going to do the best I can, be a good teammate and have some fun.”

Vetter was unseated as the U.S. No. 1 at her last tournament, the 2016 Worlds. She didn’t start a gold-medal game for the first time since 2012, watching training partner Alex Rigsby stop all 32 Canadian shots for 72 minutes, 30 seconds in a 1-0 overtime win.

Vetter knew she would take an extended break after worlds.

She got married a month later but told U.S. women’s team director Reagan Carey she wasn’t committed to retiring just yet, despite reports to the contrary in August.

It seemed when Vetter announced her pregnancy that retirement was inevitable. But one week before she was due in February, she told Rigsby she had not ruled out a return. Brady arrived one week late, but Vetter still decided to come back.

Rigsby said she and their shared goalie coach, Larry Clemens, received text messages from Vetter five weeks after she gave birth. Something along the lines of, “It’s time for this old lady to skate.”

“I was like, literally, you’re goals,” Rigsby joked. “She got cleared at week six to skate, and we’ve been skating together for a couple of weeks.”

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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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