Hockey’s Lamoureux twins, Jocelyne and Monique, retire as Olympic heroes

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Twins Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando potted the two most memorable goals of the 2018 Olympic hockey final, but two months earlier, they showed up to practice every day as if it was a tryout, knowing three players were about to be cut.

Lamoureux-Davidson and Lamoureux-Morando, who announced their retirements together on Tuesday at age 31, felt the pressure in late 2017. They were healthy scratches for all four games at the Four Nations Cup, the U.S.’ lone pre-Olympic tournament.

Two weeks later, USA Hockey announced that two skaters, both several years younger than the twins, were added to the player pool. It was a move reminiscent of Herb Brooks in 1980.

That put the team at 26 players. An Olympic roster of 23 would be named a month later on New Year’s Day.

“I know the entire team felt the pressure, but for the specific situation we were in with having been healthy scratched, we were playing on a razor-thin edge of one mistake could send you home,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “For about six weeks or so, we’re literally playing for our lives.”

The twins, relying on their trademark perseverance and adaptability, made their third Olympic team together.

On Feb. 18, 2018, Lamoureux-Morando scored a tying goal in the gold-medal game on a breakaway with 6 minutes, 21 seconds left in regulation.

As she skated toward Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados, she heard a Swedish man. It was Peter Elander, one of her coaches at the University of North Dakota, years earlier telling her that if she ever found herself in that situation, always shoot.

“I’ve never been on a breakaway in a gold-medal game like that before,” she said. “You dream about having moments like that as a kid.”

Lamoureux-Davidson was tapped for the sixth round of the shootout an hour later. She gave U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney a pound and a two-word message before the sudden-death round: Game over.

She took the puck down the other end of the ice, deked with a move dubbed “Oops, I did it again” and beat Szabados.

“I was just thinking, I want this game to be over and I want that damn gold medal,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “Everything else is just kind of a blur.”

Moments later, Rooney made the final save. The U.S. won its first Olympic hockey title since the first Winter Games with a women’s event in 1998. The Lamoureuxs were on silver-medal teams in 2010 and 2014 and were part of a 2017 team that threatened to boycott in a successful fight for gender equity with USA Hockey.

“For everybody involved, it was incredibly special, but to see two players that had [grown] up in USA Hockey, to have that opportunity to showcase their skills that they had been perfecting their entire lives was an incredible moment,” said then-team general manager Reagan Carey, who surprised the roster by video conferencing in 1998 captain Cammi Granato before the game. “At the same time, I think they’d be also the first to say that their teammates were the ones that helped put them in that position.”

In a lot of ways, the twins were similar. But they also complemented each other.

“Monique was always willing to adapt and adjust to the various roles that were needed on the team,” Carey said, alluding to her playing both forward and defense on the national team. “Jocelyne just never quit. There’s always a way. A competitive attitude, an edge that really brought the energy to our team as well.”

The Lamoureuxs, born two minutes apart (Monique is older) into a North Dakota hockey family with four older brothers, honed their skating on a pond across the street from their house.

Doing things together became a habit: from making their first world championship team in 2009 to becoming moms within two months of each other in 2018 and 2019. They were the first players to take advantage of maternity protection added after the 2017 dispute. And, finally, in stepping away from the sport at the same time.

“I guess you could say it was kind of that twin radar,” said Lamoureux-Morando, who is due with her second boy next month.

She noted that they lost a godfather, a grandfather and a grandmother in a recent 18-month span.

“With all of the experiences we’ve been through in the last couple of years, it’s really put into perspective, made us really evaluate what’s really important to us moving forward and how we want to prioritize and spend our time,” she said, “because for well over half of our lives, it’s revolved around hockey and being the best teammates, athletes and leaders we can be.”

They’ve started a foundation to support underprivileged children and are about to become authors. “Dare to Make History: Chasing a Dream and Fighting for Equity” is out later this month.

The twins returned as moms to the U.S. national team in 2019, less than a year after giving birth, and played their final three Rivalry Series games with Canada.

“We were totally committed to coming back, and we had been training and going to camps all last year,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “We’d be away from our kids for a day or two or for two weeks sometimes. It really just made us think about the things we felt we were missing out on.

“Although a hard decision, we feel like it’s the right decision and the right time for us.”

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IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

Thomas Bach
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GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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How did U.S. women’s basketball replace its legends? It starts with Alyssa Thomas.

Alyssa Thomas
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If this FIBA World Cup marks the beginning of a new era of U.S. women’s basketball, it is notable, if not remarkable, that no player has been more visible than Alyssa Thomas.

Thomas is making her global championship debut in Sydney. She is the only woman on the team in her 30s. Rarely, if ever, has a player who waited this long to put on a U.S. uniform made such an impact out of the gate. Certainly not since the last major tournament in Australia, when 30-year-old Yolanda Griffith starred at the 2000 Olympics.

Over the last week, Thomas leads the U.S. in minutes played and is one of two players to start all seven games along with Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP. She ranks fourth on the team in scoring (10.6 points per game), is tied for second in rebounding (6.7), second in assists (4.6) and first in steals (2.7).

The Americans, with their new breakthrough power forward, face China in Saturday’s final, seeking a fourth consecutive world title and 60th consecutive victory between Olympic and world championship play dating to 2006.

“She takes a lot of pressure off of us,” two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson said after Thomas had 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in a quarterfinal win over Serbia. “I think she’s the glue of this team, the X-factor of this team, because that’s her game and that’s her style.”

Thomas earned the nickname “Baby Bron Bron” at the University of Maryland for her LeBron James-like play. USA Basketball took notice in 2013, when she was one of six collegians named to a 33-player national team training camp.

But that participation was the last of Thomas’ bullet points on her USA Basketball bio for another nine years, until she was named to the FIBA World Cup qualifying team last February.

Thomas had to wait her turn.

The U.S. was loaded in the frontcourt in the 2010s with more established players — Candace ParkerTina CharlesSylvia FowlesBrittney GrinerElena Delle Donne — and then Stewart and Wilson came along, becoming arguably the two most valuable Americans in the last Olympic cycle.

Thomas produced, to that point, the best WNBA season of her career in 2020, but tore an Achilles playing overseas in January 2021, ruling out any chance of making the Tokyo Olympic team. (Thomas was not in the 36-player national team pool at the time of her injury.)

The combination of players’ absences this year — Charles, after three Olympic golds, ceded to younger players, Fowles retired and Griner is being detained in Russia — and Cheryl Reeve becoming head coach created an opportunity.

Thomas seized it, leading the Connecticut Sun to the WNBA Finals, where she recorded triple-doubles in the last two games of a series loss to the Las Vegas Aces. Then she boarded a plane to Sydney for her first major international experience and has similarly flourished.

Jennifer Rizzotti, part of the USA Basketball selection committee, said the 6-foot-2 Thomas combines the movement of Lindsay Whalen, the passing of Parker and the physicality of Rebekkah Brunson. She plays with labrum tears in each shoulder. There’s no single player like her.

“There’s definitely some post players that have that point forward mentality, but not quite with the guard skills that Alyssa has,” Rizzotti said. “I don’t see anybody, including guards, that can do what she does in the open court. Then you talk about how disruptive she is defensively and her ability to guard one through five. A’ja can guard one through five, Stewie can guard one through five, but nobody’s as disruptive as Alyssa is. On the perimeter and off the ball.”

Thomas also fit what Reeve, who succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, was looking for in retooling the roster following the retirement of Sue Bird and possible end of Diana Taurasi‘s national team career at age 40.

“[Reeve] made it clear that she was hoping with the guard turnover that we would be able to play faster, more athletically, more possessions in the game,” Rizzotti said. “And therefore, she wanted to have post players that could push tempo, that could facilitate and kind of fit in with a ball-handling, passing mentality from the trail spot.”

Still, Thomas did not expect to be putting on a USA jersey this year. “Shocked” is the word USA Basketball chose to describe her reaction to making this team.

“It was kind of a surprise,” she said, according to USA Basketball. “I had just really taken my name out of it.”

Rizzotti said Thomas is an example — a very successful one, it turns out — of an asset in the eyes of the selection committee: patience.

“I think a lot of players feel like if they don’t make the USA national team right away, it’s never going to happen,” she said. “You get the comments like, oh, it’s political, or they keep inviting the same guys back. And it’s not true.”

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