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National

  • Atomic City Update: World Cup not the same without the Americans

    As the World Cup heats up this week, I’m really having trouble getting into it. You see, for the first time in my lifetime, the USA is not involved. As much as I enjoy watching the best soccer players in the world compete, it’s tough not having a real team to root for and be invested in. 

    I have vivid memories of the past few World Cups, but all of them involve watching the Americans. I know I watched other matches but the only memories that stuck were dramatic goals and moments from USA matches, like Landon Donovan’s dramatic goals against Algeria and Ghana in 2010, and the painful loss in the round of 16 against Belgium in 2014. 

    This year, I’m watching matches and enjoying them, but the tournament doesn’t seem to have the same weight as it has in past years. I’m curious to see if other people feel the same way as I do. In the past, soccer has become a main talking point around the country in June every four years, but I struggle to see that being the case this year. 

  • NFL owners approve simplified catch language

    Maybe it’s too late for Jesse James and the Steelers or Zach Miller and the Bears.

    No matter, the NFL has a simplified catch rule designed to eliminate confusion — and, the league hopes, controversy — about receptions.

    Team owners unanimously approved the new language Tuesday, with basically three elements defining a catch:

    —having control of the ball;

    —getting two feet down or another body part;

    —making a football move, such as taking a third step or extending the ball.

    “We wanted to simplify and provide clarity,” Pittsburgh coach and longtime competition committee member Mike Tomlin said. “It was time to do so after we got caught up in language that didn’t do that. The language was obscure and confusing.”

    The committee cited overturned receptions by tight ends James and Miller last season among the dozens of plays they reviewed “dozens of times,” according to committee chairman Rick McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons.

    The James call was particularly impactful because the Steelers wound up losing to New England in a December game that determined home-field advantage for the playoffs. The Patriots got it and wound up in the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh lost its first postseason game to Jacksonville.

  • Lone dog: No. 11 Loyola joins list of regulars at Final Four

    Three teams that need no introduction. One from out of nowhere.

    Though the 2018 NCAA Tournament produced the biggest upset in the history of the event along with a seemingly endless string of wild finishes and unexpected results, the Final Four will look very much like it has over the last handful of seasons.

    In one of next Saturday’s semifinals, it’s a barnburner of a matchup between top-seeded programs with rich histories: Villanova vs. Kansas.

    In what will quickly become known as the “other” semifinal, it’s an upstart vs. another school that knows this road: No. 11 Loyola-Chicago vs. No. 3 Michigan .

    Remarkable as Loyola’s run — and this tournament — have been, this marks the fifth time over the last six seasons that three teams seeded 1 through 4 have been joined by another seeded 7 or higher.

    The four previous times, the underdog has bowed out in the semifinal.

    “Why not us?” Ramblers coach Porter Moser said, repeating his team’s oft-used mantra this month — one he hopes can lead to yet another history making upset. “You have to have high-character guys that believe to truly do that.”

    The teams will have trouble topping the show Kansas and Duke put on Sunday with the last spot in San Antonio up for grabs.

  • Wanted by the IOC: A city to host the 2026 Winter Olympics

    PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Wanted: A city to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.

    Getting bidders for the Olympics used to be easy. But no longer, and particularly for the Winter Games.

    Six European cities pulled out of official bids or possible bids when the IOC sought candidates a few years ago for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

    Cities balked over soaring costs, political unrest or a lack of public support as expressed in referendums.

    That left the IOC with only two proposals, both from authoritarian governments that backed cities devoid of winter sports traditions: Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing, China.

    Beijing narrowly won, but that set off alarms at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

    “The 2022 (bidding) certainly highlighted the problems we were facing in attracting cities, particularly winter cities,” IOC member and former vice president John Coates said. “We had to do something to address the cost of the games. Increased costs have forced our hand.”

    Coates said the International Olympic Committee is doing a “total rethink” over the way the games are presented to potential bidders, and how they’re sold to the public.

  • Mother, daughter boxers in West Texas battle for victories

    EL PASO, Texas — The sacrifice is impossible to measure as the hours pile upon hours, the sweat fills bucket after bucket and even a bit of blood and possibly a tear or two accumulate in the hard knock, unforgiving journey that is boxing.

    But both the pain and the joy are best when shared. And no one can share it like daughter and mother and grandmother. The sport has slowly, gradually built an indelible bond between three generations.

    The El Paso Times reports Kayla Gomez is but 14 years old, just an eighth-grade student at Bel Air Middle School. But she is already a five year veteran of the demanding sport of boxing and she has already won six national championships and earned a spot on the U.S. National Team. She dreams of going to the Olympics and then going pro.

    Crystal Aceves is 32 and is also a five year veteran of the sport ... bringing her daughter Kayla with her when they decided to get serious about boxing. And no sport demands that you be serious more than the sweet science. Aceves has competed in three national tournaments and has two-second place finishes and one-third place.

    Cindy Aceves is mother and grandmother and coach and travel partner and confidant for the two in their fistic quest.

  • Canada leads after opening day of figure skating team event

    Patrick Chan stood emotionless in the middle of the ice after a shaky short program, one the three-time world champion thought had doomed Canada’s chances in the team event at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

    His teammates picked him up in more ways than one.

    Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford responded with a strong pairs program to cover Chan’s missteps and give Canada the lead over the United States, while the rest of the squad lifted his outlook considerably with the positive way they greeted him when he finally skated off the ice.

    “It’s hard for figure skaters to think outside, and not think of individual performances,” Chan said. “The reaction when I got off the ice made me go from being poor to being fun and lighthearted, and I thought we carried that energy over to the pairs.”

    The powerhouse Canadian squad, which is expected to challenge the Russians for the gold medal, finished with 17 points on the opening day of the figure skating program. The U.S. wound up with 14 points, followed by Japan and the Russians with 13 points apiece.

  • UNM track star named national athlete of the week

    New Mexico track and field student-athlete Josh Kerr was named Monday as NCAA Division I Men’s National Athlete of the Week by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

    Kerr, a redshirt sophomore from Edinburgh, Scotland, ran a personal-record time of 3 minutes, 54.72 seconds to win the elite Wanamaker Mile at the 2018 NYRR Millrose Games on Saturday at The New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory in New York City.

    Racing against a field that included six Olympians, Kerr showed off his middle-distance acumen on arguably one of the most prominent stages in all of track and field, earning his second career National Athlete of the Week honor.

    His time of 3:54.72 makes him the fifth-fastest collegian in the mile run in NCAA history with the sixth-fastest mile time in NCAA history.

    After opening the race in the back half of the 12-runner field, Kerr rallied over the final stages of the race, moving from eighth at 800 meters to second at the line. He finished the final 200 meters in 27.69 seconds, the best split by any athlete over the entire race.

    He also nearly caught the eventual Wanamaker Mile winner Chris O’Hare at the line, as O’Hare won in 3:54.14.

  • 32 Russians appeal to CAS seeking Olympic spots

    Six-time Olympic gold medalist Viktor Ahn and three former NHL players are among 32 Russian athletes who filed appeals Tuesday seeking spots at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

    The 32 athletes all failed to pass the mandatory International Olympic Committee vetting — imposed as a result of Russian doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics — and weren’t invited to the games, which begin later this week.

    The Court of Arbitration for Sport said it would likely hear the case Wednesday in Pyeongchang.

    If the Russian athletes force the IOC to invite them, it would mean the medal contenders in some sports change dramatically only days before the games open on Friday.

    CAS added that as well as short-track speedskating great Ahn, the 32 include world cross-country skiing champion Sergei Ustyugov and world biathlon champion Anton Shipulin.

    Also on the list are former NHL players Sergei Plotnikov, Anton Belov and Valeri Nichushkin, who had been considered possible candidates for the Russian team in Pyeongchang.

    If figure skater Ksenia Stolbova is invited, she could compete as soon as Friday morning in the pairs short program component of the team event.

    Some of the 32 Russians are already in Far East countries like Japan so they will be acclimatized and ready to travel to Pyeongchang if invited.

  • Georgia holds on this time to finish No. 1 in recruiting

    Georgia was not about to blow this lead.

    The Bulldogs, who let a 13-0 halftime advantage get away in a national championship game loss to Alabama, finished their 2018 recruiting class with a flourish and laid claim to the No. 1 ranking on national signing day.

    Georgia loaded up in the new early signing period and came into Wednesday’s start of the traditional signing period with the top-rated class, according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings. Coach Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs put the finishing touches on the recruiting championship by flipping a pair of four-star linebackers, one who had been committed to Michigan (Otis Reese) and another who had been committed to Alabama (Quay Walker), and grabbing a highly touted wide receiver from Texas (Tommy Bush).

    Georgia also beat Miami and Alabama for star cornerback Tyson Campbell from American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida.

    “It’s ridiculous,” said Mike Farrell, the national recruiting coordinator for Rivals. “The average star ranking is near historic levels.”

  • Prominent baseball agent suggests spring training boycott

    A prominent baseball agent says players are angered over the slow free-agent market and suggests they consider boycotting spring training.

    Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of CAA Baseball, floated the idea in a statement released Friday, less than two weeks before spring training workouts are to start in Florida and Arizona.

    “The players are upset. No, they are outraged. Players in the midst of long-term contracts are as frustrated as those still seeking employment,” he said. “I would suggest that testing the will of 1,200 alpha males at the pinnacle of their profession is not a good strategy for 30 men who are bound by a much smaller fraternity.”
    J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Greg Holland and Lance Lynn remain among the dozens of unsigned free agents.

    “There is a rising tide among players for radical change. A fight is brewing,” he said. “A boycott of spring training may be a starting point, if behavior doesn’t change. Players don’t receive their paychecks until the second week of April. Fine them? OK, for how much? Sue them? OK, they’ll see you in court two years from now.”