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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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Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

MORE: World’s top skater leaves famed coach

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Respectfully, Donavan Brazier believes he has a chance at legendary record

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On the night of the biggest race of his life, Donavan Brazier met the man whom he is trying to succeed and, perhaps, supplant.

David Rudisha, the two-time Olympic 800m champion and world-record holder, told Brazier before the Oct. 1 world championships 800m final that he believed in the 22-year-old American more than any other man in that night’s event.

Later that evening in Doha, Brazier proved the sidelined Kenyan prophetic, winning in a national record 1:42.34 and becoming the first American to win a world title in the event.

Brazier, in his first global championship final, also ran the fastest time by somebody that young since Rudisha’s 2012 Olympic title and world-record epic pulled that field to personal bests.

Rudisha’s mark of 1:40.91 — from a race Brazier has watched dozens of times — is still significantly faster. That hasn’t stopped followers from wondering if Rudisha’s days as world-record holder may be numbered.

Sounds like Brazier may be wondering, too.

“I think I definitely have the opportunity,” Brazier told NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey in a watchback of his 2019 Diamond League and world titles. “If we’re looking at guys that are currently racing right now, I think I might have the best opportunity to do it.”

Brazier exercised caution. He was by no means predicting such a feat.

“David Rudisha, when he first broke it, he was a once-in-a-century athlete,” Brazier said. “For someone to break it so quick and just to say it so nonchalantly, I think it’s not really giving David Rudisha the respect that he deserves. A 1:40.91 is a really dangerous record to break.”

Brazier, who took up running in middle school in Michigan rather than football because he was “terribly skinny,” quickly became a dangerous prospect. In 2016, he went into the Olympic Trials ranked third in the world as a Texas A&M freshman.

Then came the obstacles. Brazier was eliminated in the first round of trials, three weeks after winning the NCAA title on the same Oregon track. In 2017, he won the U.S. title but failed to make the world final. He didn’t race at all outdoors in 2018 due to a foot injury.

Brazier looked at 2019 as a redemption year. He hit a series of successes: an American indoor 800m record, the world’s fastest indoor 600m in history, his first Diamond League win, a repeat national title and the Diamond League Final title.

Brazier said that last victory in Zurich took him from “not a well known guy, maybe a medal contender, maybe not,” to the world championships favorite. Rudisha hasn’t raced since 2017 due to injuries.

Brazier, after meeting Rudisha and former world-record holder Seb Coe, capped the season with his biggest title yet in Doha. The feeling was more relief than happiness. Brazier, after getting knocked down repeatedly in his first two seasons as a pro, noted that Muhammad Ali also won his first world title at age 22.

Brazier mouthed “thank you” after crossing the finish line, a salute to everybody who helped him reach that point.

“I’m thanking myself, too, because I’m the one who put in all the hard work to do it,” Brazier said. “I’m not saying that this is the end of my career, but it was definitely the peak of my career and the pinnacle of it. I never accomplished anything on a stage like that.”

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