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Jamaica aiming to play hockey at 2018 Winter Olympics

Jamaica is well on its way to fielding its own national ice hockey team after the International Ice Hockey Federation voted the country as an associate member on Friday.

Associate member status means that the country still can’t compete in any IIHF sanctioned events, but the wheels certainly are in motion with the goal of fielding a team for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Yes, Jamaica, the tiny Caribbean island nation with only one ice rink in its borders, is working on sending a hockey team to a Winter Olympiad. The comparisons to the Jamaican bobsled team at the 1988 Games, immortalized by the tremendous film “Cool Runnings,” are all too obvious. The bobsled team, in fact, partly inspired the Jamaican Olympic Ice Hockey Team (JOIHT) and helped blaze a trail for it.

“We had Devon Harris here with us from the bobsled team and he was telling us how when they first started, nobody took it seriously, but it’s been different for us,” Sandra Lord, a key strategist for the venture, told The Gleaner. “When we talk about this with people, everyone’s been so supportive of us. They remember the bobsled team and they have been so encouraging, we have support that has been beyond our expectations.”

The team already has an endorsement from the Jamaican Olympic Association and reportedly has the financial backing from a throng of donors to reach its estimated functioning budget of $1.7 million, a crucial hurdle leaped for a country struggling financially.

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Ian Poulter thinks the Olympic golf format should be match play

Golf will be making its glorious return to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Games after a staggering 112-year absence. But even though that moment is four years from coming to fruition, Ian Poulter is already assuming the role of an Olympic organizer and expressing ideas for what he thinks would be in the sport’s best interest.

The current plan for Brazil is to use a 72-hole stroke-play tournament format, similar to what we see almost every week on the professional tours. But Poulter thinks the Olympics should abandon uniformity and go for entertainment value by utilizing match play.

“Most other sports are one-on-one,” the Englishman told The Telegraph. “And that’s why I think viewers enjoy match play more. It’s more exciting and plays out better on TV. I think match play would suit the Olympics better.”

In fact, Poulter wouldn’t be upset if match play started popping up more frequently on the calendar.

“How about every week?” Poulter added. “The more we play, the better. I love the cutthroat, face-to-face nature of it and find the buzz a refreshing change from what we play week-in and week-out.”

Pretty bold idea from a guy with a pretty bold sense of style in his own right.

But, ultimately, people aren’t going to care what format in which golf is played during the Olympics, so long as stars like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy are on the course. And, yes, we too crack a smile at idea of Tiger possibly hanging out at Rio.

Note: This post also appeared on Yardbarker’s Olympics blog Medal Detector.

Photo credit: Simon Stacpoole/Offside Sports via US PRESSWIRE

Shawn Johnson was hurt by criticism about her weight

Shawn Johnson seems like she has everything going for her, but even someone considered “America’s most-liked sports figure” battles self-esteem and weight issues.

The Olympic gold medalist and winner of the popular “Dancing With the Stars” TV show admitted recently that she was hurt by criticism about her weight.

“At my heaviest all the tabloids said some pretty hurtful things,” Johnson said at an Olympics media summit on Monday.

“That whole process kind of broke me down and taught me something. People put too much emphasis on looks.”

The 4’9″ gymnast has lost 25 pounds since beginning her Olympics comeback (she’s hoping to participate in the London Games). She expressed concern over the message the media and other critics send.

“We’re taught at such a young age that you can always be better and that you’re never perfect and that you’re never good enough,” she said. “You find your worth in someone else and what they say just from having looked at you. It’s hard. I was at the Olympic Games winning medals and I still doubted my image. I doubted what I looked like. That’s sad. Girls should be taught different than that. I think everyone should be taught different than that.”

It really is unfair when Johnson faces such criticism. At 4’9″, she has a smaller frame and very little margin for error when it comes to her weight. People also need to remember that she was only 16 when she became famous at the Beijing Olympics. Bodies evolve as people get older; it’s no different for Johnson.

What’s also interesting is that she’s not the first Olympian who has voiced concerns of this nature recently.

Note: This post also appeared on Medal Detector
Photo Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

Australian shooter Russell Mark has to wear Borat mankini to Olympic opening ceremonies because of lost bet

And the award for best-dressed athlete at the London Olympics opening ceremonies goes to … Russell Mark. How do we know that already? The Australian shooting gold medalist recently lost a bet, and as a result he is required to parade at the opening ceremonies in a lime-green mankini similar to the one Sacha Baron Cohen wore in the movie “Borat” several years ago.

According to the Telegraph, the bet revolved around an Australian rules football match. Mark promised that he would wear the swimsuit if Carlton lost its Australian Football League match to St. Kilda and sure enough — well, you know.

“Oh, I must’ve been intoxicated,” the 48-year-old Mark said Tuesday. “Carlton promise so much and just deliver so little. It kills me.”

“Anyway, a lot of people would think a mankini might look better than the uniform they’ve nominated for us, so I don’t know if it’s such a bad thing.”

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Manchester United reportedly blocking its stars from Olympics

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has already said this week that his striker Javier Hernandez won’t be competing in the Olympics this summer for his native Mexico. But apparently he won’t be the only Man U player blocked from competing in London.

The English juggernaut has reportedly placed an embargo on its players after writing a letter to the English Football Association warning Great Britain coach Stuart Pearce to not select any of its over-age players. Men’s soccer teams at the Olympics are under-23 squads but are permitted to have three players over the age limit.

The lone player Man U is willing to concede from its blockade is 38-year-old midfielder Ryan Giggs, who as a Welsh international has never competed in a major international tournament. That would mean Man U stars Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney are restricted from being part of Team GB. However, it was already unlikely that Pearce would have called upon them. Ferdinand and Rooney are both standouts for England, which is set to compete in the Euro Cup in June, and Pearce has said he would not choose any English players who compete at Euros.

In the past, FIFA allowed clubs to block all their players from competing in the Olympcs. Only recently did it relent in advance for the London games, making clubs leave their under-23 players available for Olympic duty (which sounds in tune to what David Stern reportedly wants to do with basketball).

But, all in all, Man U definitely isn’t the only club with this attitude. It’s just doing what’s in its best interests. And Mark Cuban is probably somewhere giving them a standing O for it.

Note: This post also appeared on Yardbarker’s Olympic blog Medal Detector

Photo credit: Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

Azerbaijan’s wrestling team smells awful, uses Febreze (Video)

In case you were dying for proof that Febreze could eliminate the grimiest of stenches, here is Azerbaijan’s wrestling team dousing all of its equipment with the product after working up a massive sweat to make themselves extra musty.

Blindfolded people were then brought in to see if they could decipher what they were smelling. That the people were making guesses such as “potpourri factory,” “a field with a picnic” and “passionfruit” while their faces were nearly buried in shoes, head gear and wrestling leotards (sadly, no cups) makes this video extra delightful. Imagine their amusement when they took off their blindfolds to see they weren’t in a field of flowers but rather a dingy gym with a bunch of sweaty, smelly wrestlers.

As for the members of the Azerbaijani wrestling team, they’ve probably just been outed as the smelliest bros competing at Olympics this summer. Smelly, but hopefully at least stylish.

H/T Deadspin
Note: This post also appeared on Yardbarker’s Medal Detector blog

Michael Phelps credits Ray Lewis for motivation

Burned out by the rigors it took to amass eight gold medals in Beijing in 2008, Michael Phelps wasn’t sure if he’d have enough motivation to want to compete in another Olympic games.

But, thankfully for swimming fans and Team USA’s medal count, Phelps was able to rekindle his enthusiasm, and he says some of the credit for getting him over the hump belongs to a famous NFL player.

“Someone who helped me find the passion back was Ray Lewis,” Phelps said back in March. “He’s been able to help me kind of just find me.”

Hardly a surprising compliment for the all-pro linebacker, whom Phelps, a native of Baltimore and a big Ravens fan, has become close with. In March, a video of Lewis giving a rousing pregame speech to the Stanford men’s basketball team during its NIT championship run created a buzz around the Internet.

“I love to watch him play. It sends chills up my spine,” Phelps told The Baltimore Sun. “And his words are so powerful. It’s what friends are for.”

Now the question remains if Phelps will have Lewis tag along to London to preach about being “pissed off for greatness” before big races.

H/T Pro Football Talk
Photo credit: Greg Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Note: This post also appeared on Yardbarker’s Medal Detector blog