Tuesday April 13th, 2010

•Fresh off an impressive silver-medal at the Vancouver Olympics, general manager Brian Burke will be back to lead another U.S. hockey team on international ice, this time at next month's world championships in Germany. David Poile, Burke's assistant in Vancouver, will join him in the same capacity, and Islander head coach Scott Gordon, one of Ron Wilson's assistant coaches at the Olympics, will serve as head coach. The U.S. will open its tournament against host Germany on May 7 and will finish off opening-round play against Denmark and Finland. The final is scheduled for May 23 in Cologne.

Though no players have been selected for the team, several 2010 Olympians play on NHL teams that failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring, and are therefore eligible to play in the tournament. They include Erik Johnson (Blues), Ryan Whitney (Ducks), Tim Gleason (Hurricanes), Chris Drury (Rangers), David Backes (Blues), Phil Kessel (Leafs) and Ryan Malone (Lightning). Others in the mix include Matt Niskanen (Stars), Ron Hainsey (Thrashers), David Booth (Panthers) and T.J. Oshie (Blues).

Mike Modano's (Stars) name would be an intriguing one, too, especially after he was left off the Olympic team, but Modano has likely played his last game of the season and possibly his career.

In addition to teams out of the playoff race, Burke will be able to add players from NHL teams that are eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

Discounting the Olympic year of 1960, when the Games, themselves, were also considered world championships, the U.S. men have not won a world ice hockey title since 1933.

•Two of the world's top female track and field athletes are taking breaks from the sport, though both insist they have unfinished business and Olympic goals in their sights. Britain's Paula Radcliffe, who ran the world's fastest time in the marathon, is expecting her second child in September, but should be ready to run on home pavement when the Olympics come to London in 2012. At 36, Radcliffe is among the most successful athletes in any sport without an Olympic medal. She won the world half-marathon title three times and the world outdoor title in the marathon in 2005. She captured world cross-country championships in 2001 and 2002. In 2003, Radcliffe ran what is still the fastest marathon in history for a woman, finishing in two hours, 15 minutes, 25 seconds. She also won the New York City Marathon three times.

Despite these strong finishes, injuries and cramps have felled her at the Olympics, where she has finished no better than fourth in the 10,000 meters in Sydney.

Radcliffe has been training in Portland, Ore., away from the immense national pressure she'll be facing over the next two years.

After shockingly missing out on medals at both the world outdoor championships in Berlin last summer and the world indoor championships in Doha, Qatar in February, Russian pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva announced that she would be taking a break from competition to recapture her competitive fire. Isinbayeva blamed general fatigue rather than a specific injury for her sub-par performance in the major events over the last year. The two-time Olympic champ has 27 world records on her resume and has said she will certainly compete in the London Games in 2012.

•New skip, same result. Even after a key change in personnel, Canada's men's curling team secured another title. Kevin Martin, the skip who led the hosts to a 6-3 victory against Norway and an Olympic gold medal in Vancouver, was replaced by skip Kevin Koe who helped defeat Norway, 5-1, in the final of the world championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy last weekend. His rink earned the world berth after winning the Canadian title in Halifax last month. Scotland defeated the United States, 6-4, to win the bronze medal, after scoring a decisive pair in the tenth end.

Patrick Makau of Kenya and Aberu Kebede of Ethiopia won the traditionally flat and fast Rotterdam Marathon on Sunday. Makau's winning time, two hours, four minutes, 48 seconds, is the year's fastest and ranks him fourth all-time, less than a minute off Haile Gebrselassie's world-best 2:03:59 set in Berlin in 2008. Kebede handily won the women's race in a time of 2:25.29.

Polish-born Magdalena Lewy-Boulet became the fourth-fastest U.S. female marathoner in history by placing second in 2:26:22. The result bettered her previous PR by four minutes and placed her behind Deena Kastor, Joan Samuelson and Kara Goucher on the all-time U.S. list.

•Polish Olympic Committee chief Piotr Nurowski was among those killed on Friday when an air force plane carrying the country's president Lech Kaczynski crashed in Smolensk, Russia. Nurowski, 64, had been a nationally ranked tennis player and was especially devoted to youth sports, having served on the country's Athletics Development Foundation and having led the Children and Youth Sports Association. He was the head of the Polish Athletics Federation for four years.

Nurowski was a strong supporter of the Youth Olympics that will make their debut this summer in Singapore. He was among those flying to Katyn to mark the 70th anniversary of the Polish officers and intellectuals who were killed by Soviet authorities during World War II. He was scheduled to place a wreath on the graves of several Polish Olympic medalists who had been murdered by the secret police.

Before the Beijing Games in 2008, Nurowski famously insisted he would resign his post if the 265-member Polish team did not win at least ten medals, equal to its output in Athens four years earlier. The team won exactly ten medals, including three golds.

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