Cut four years ago, Alex Carpenter, Megan Bozek battled back to make Olympic team

U.S. Women's National Ice Hockey Team Training
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On a mid-December day in a Blaine, Minnesota, lounge, USA Hockey women’s national team director Katie Million addressed the player group that was left after the final cuts.

Congratulations, this is the Olympic team.

That’s how Megan Bozek, a 30-year-old defender from Buffalo Grove, Illinois, remembered it.

Bozek immediately looked across the room at Alex Carpenter, a 27-year-old forward from North Reading, Massachusetts. Carpenter reciprocated.

“The two of us, in particular, share a certain perspective,” Carpenter said.

Bozek and Carpenter became the first U.S. women’s hockey players to make an Olympic team, get cut from the next team and come back to make the following team.

“The average person doesn’t understand what type of sacrifice and commitment that takes,” said Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, who played with Bozek and Carpenter at the 2014 Olympics, where the U.S. took silver in an overtime loss to Canada. “There’s not many people who understand the journey.”

Start on May 5, 2017. USA Hockey named the women’s national team for the 2018 Olympic run-up. The roster size: 23 players, including Bozek and Carpenter. The Olympic roster size: 23 players. It appeared all of them would be going to South Korea in nine months’ time.

But, in a move reminiscent of Herb Brooks, three skaters were added to the national team in October and November: Cayla Barnes, a Boston College freshman, Haley Skarupa, a forward who played on the previous three world championship teams, and defender Sidney Morin, a pro playing in Sweden who had never suited up for the senior national team.

Suddenly, the team would have to make three cuts. First up was forward Annie Pankowski.

Then, in December 2017, Bozek sat in the lobby of the team residency and received a tap on the shoulder from an assistant coach.

“I knew right then and there that it wasn’t a good sign,” Bozek said. “It’s humiliating, embarrassing.”

Bozek said she was blindsided by the news, based on conversations she had with coaches throughout the autumn residency period.

“I had no inclination that this is the way that they were leaning,” she said. “And as that conversation then came into play, when it [getting cut] was actually happening, you’re speechless, you don’t know what to say, you have every emotion going through your body.”

The meeting ended. Bozek walked back to her apartment. Then she got a call from Carpenter, who had just gone through the same process, separately. Carpenter, like Bozek, didn’t have much to say when she got cut.

“I just wanted to get away from where we were and head home and be surrounded by my family and friends,” she said.

Lamoureux-Davidson said they were the most surprising cuts of her decade-long career with the national team.

“In our view, neither of those two should have gone home,” Lamoureux-Davidson and her twin sister, Monique Lamoureux-Morando, wrote in their book, “Dare to Make History.” The twins, veteran leaders, would have spoken up and asked questions, but their places on the team were in jeopardy that autumn, too.

Bozek flew to Toronto and joined the CWHL’s Markham Thunder mid-season. Carpenter ended up in China, joining the CWHL club Kunlun Red Star. Her dad, longtime NHL player Bobby Carpenter, coached the Kunlun men’s team that season.

Carpenter didn’t watch the 2018 Olympic women’s hockey final, which the U.S. won over Canada in a shootout for its first gold since women’s hockey’s debut in 1998. Her club had a practice at the same time.

“Happy for them,” Carpenter said of the Olympic team. “Lots of my friends that I’ve known for a long time.”

Bozek did watch the epic final, with friends in Toronto early in the morning.

“It makes me appreciate those girls [who won gold] that much more, because a lot of those girls are my best friends,” she said. “And I knew that Alex and I helped them get to the position that they were in, whether we were on that roster or not. We trained with them every single day, went to battle with them every single day. And you’re a big part of that, and it’s something that we can’t forget.”

The U.S. women’s national team coaching staff turned over after Olympics, as usual. Both Bozek and Carpenter were invited back into the program for camps and made every world championship team in this Olympic cycle.

“I can speak for myself, and I think also speak for Alex, that the heartbreak that we felt in 2018 just gave us more motivation to come back in and try to prove that we still deserve a spot on this team,” Bozek said.

Carpenter, the U.S.’ leading goal scorer at the 2014 Olympics, then scored both U.S. goals in the 2021 World Championship final, an overtime loss to Canada.

For her, having then-head coach Bob Corkum personally call her and invite her back for a training camp three years ago marked a turning point in her career.

“Seeing that I was wanted in this program,” she said.

In 2019, Bozek joined Carpenter’s club team. They played together in China, and then in Russia after the team relocated after Covid hit. Now, they’ll go back to China together, looking for the gold medal that all of their teammates brought home four years ago.

“Getting to be on this journey with her,” Bozek said, “just brings me back to all the great memories we’ve had, all the tough memories we’ve had, and that we’re making right now and about to make next month.”

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Taylor Fritz becomes crowd enemy at French Open

Taylor Fritz French Open

The French Open crowd was not happy with American player Taylor Fritz after he beat one of their own — indeed, their last man in the bracket — so they booed and whistle relentlessly. Fritz’s response? He told them to shush. Over and over again.

Fritz, a 25-year-old from California who is seeded No. 9 at Roland Garros, got into a back-and-forth with the fans at Court Suzanne Lenglen after his 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 comeback victory over 78th-ranked Arthur Rinderknech in the second round on Thursday night.

Rinderknech attempted a lob that landed long on the last point, and Fritz, who had been running toward the baseline to chase the ball, immediately looked up into the stands and pressed his right index finger to his lips to say, essentially, “Hush!”

He held that pose for a bit as he headed back toward the net for a postmatch handshake, then spread his arms wide, wind-milled them a bit as if to egg on the rowdiness, and yelled: “Come on! I want to hear it!”

During the customary winner’s on-court interview that followed, more jeers rained down on Fritz, and 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli kept pausing her attempts to ask a question into her microphone.

So Fritz again said, “Shhhhh!” and put his finger toward his mouth, while Bartoli unsuccessfully tried to get the spectators to lower their decibel level.

More boos. More whistles.

And the awkwardness continued as both Bartoli and a stadium announcer kept saying, “S’il vous plaît” — “Please!” — to no avail, while Fritz stood there with his arms crossed.

A few U.S. supporters with signs and flags drew Fritz’s attention from the front row, and he looked over and said to them, “I love you guys.”

But the interview was still on hold.

Bartoli tried asking a question in English, which only served to draw more boos.

So Fritz told her he couldn’t hear her. Bartoli moved closer and finally got out a query — but it didn’t seem to matter what her words were.

Fritz, who has been featured on the Netflix docuseries about tennis called “Break Point,” had his hands on his hips and a message on his mind — one reminiscent of Daniil Medvedev’s contretemps with fans at the 2019 U.S. Open.

“I came out and the crowd was so great honestly. Like, the crowd was just so great,” Fritz said, as folks tried to drown out his voice. “They cheered so well for me, I wanted to make sure that I won. Thanks, guys.”

And with that, he exited the stage.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

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French Open: Coco Gauff to face younger opponent for first time at a Grand Slam

Coco Gauff French Open

Coco Gauff‘s first 49 Grand Slam main draw singles matches were all against older opponents. Her 50th will be against a younger one.

The sixth-seeded Gauff reached the French Open third round by beating 61st-ranked Austrian Julia Grabher 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday. Gauff, 19, next plays 16-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva in the round of 32 on Saturday.

“I don’t see age as a factor,” said Gauff, who has practiced with Andreeva. “When you step on the court, you just see your opponent, and you don’t really think about the personal side of things. You just see forehand, backhand, serve, and all the same.”

Gauff made her major debut at age 15 in 2019 by beating Venus Williams at Wimbledon. In her 15 majors, Gauff has usually been the youngest male or female singles player, including most recently at 2022 Wimbledon. She is still the lone teenager in the WTA top 49.

But that may soon change. Youngsters from the Czech Republic and Russia are on the rise. Such as Andreeva, who, at No. 143 in the world and climbing, is the highest-ranked player under the age of 18. And she doesn’t turn 17 until next April. Andreeva dropped just six games in her first two matches, fewest of any woman.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

But Gauff is still in a class of her own among her generation, having at last year’s French Open become the youngest major finalist since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon at 17. She somehow flew somewhat under the radar into Paris this year with a 4-4 record this spring and in between full-time coaches.

She has now won back-to-back matches for the first time since March, rallying past 71st-ranked Spaniard Rebeka Masarova in the first round and then dispatching an error-prone Grabher, a runner-up at a low-level clay event last week.

The other three seeds in Gauff’s section have all lost, so she would not play a seed until the quarterfinals. And that would be No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who has won all 12 sets they’ve played, including in last year’s French Open final.

“I lost that final, and like for like a week or two, I really thought it was the worst thing ever,” Gauff said. “There’s no point in me revisiting last year. It’s in the past. It was a great tournament, but I’m looking forward for more this week.”

While the men’s draw has been upended by 14-time champion Rafael Nadal‘s pre-event withdrawal and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev‘s loss in the first round, the top women have taken care of business.

The top four seeds — Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, American Jessica Pegula and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan — all reached the third round without dropping a set.

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