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NHL Star Psyched for Olympic Torch Moment

Ancient Olympia, Greece — Alex Ovechkin said he is thrilled to kick off Russia’s Olympic torch relay for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi — a mammoth effort covering the country’s nine time zones that will include a trip to outer space.

“I’m going to be probably smiling all the time and I’m going to remember this stuff for all of my life,” the NHL star said late Saturday after arriving in Ancient Olympia for Sunday’s flame lighting ceremony.

The 28-year-old Washington Capitals winger will be the first Russian to run with the torch on Sunday after 18-year-old Greek alpine skier Ioannis Antoniou will take it out of the ancient stadium in southern Greece, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics.

“I going to tell my kids, my grandkids, and it’s probably one of the biggest moments in my life,” Ovechkin said.

The 6-foot-3 hockey player said he was not worried about a potential match against his U.S.-based teammates.

“I’m playing in the NHL right now,” he said. “I’m playing against lots of my friends, with players from different countries there so, you know, it’s kind of going to be normal.”

Ovechkin sidestepped controversy over Russia’s record on gay rights, saying only that he was looking forward to the competition.

“To be honest with you, I’m a hockey player and I’m not (into) politics. In this kind of situation you’d have to ask those (in) politics.”

Games organizers described Ovechkin as a natural choice to represent Russia’s campaign to increase its visibility around the world.

Golf

Uihlein Leads in Scotland

St. Andrews, Scotland — Peter Uihlein holed his second shot for an eagle on the 18th hole Saturday to take a two-stroke lead after the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

After settling for 60 at Kingsbarns when he missed an eagle putt on the final hole, the American managed a more spectacular finish on the Old Course at St. Andrews when his 47-yard wedge shot on the 18th found the bottom of the cup. That gave him a 7-under 65 and a 20-under 196 total.

Web.Com Tour Championship

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. — Scott Gardiner of Australia had a 5-under 65 and wound up with the lead in the Web.com Tour Championship when Chesson Hadley stumbled at the end.

NBA Basketball

Heat Make
Front-Office Moves

Miami — The Miami Heat promoted Andy Elisburg to general manager and hired Juwan Howard as an assistant coach, those moves among a slew of front-office maneuvering announced Saturday.

Elisburg has been with the Heat since the team’s 1988 inception. He will continue reporting to team president Pat Riley and CEO Nick Arison.

WNBA Basketball

Kiss Causes Internet Buzz

Diana Taurasi became an Internet sensation when the Phoenix star gave Seimone Augustus of Minnesota a peck on the cheek after the players were called for double personal fouls in Minnesota’s 85-62 rout of the Mercury on Thursday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

Video of the moment has garnered more than 2.5 million views on YouTube in just 36 hours.

Augustus was surprised by how much attention it’s gotten.

“I had no idea it would catch fire like it did,” she said in a phone interview Saturday. “I guess I should’ve expected it when I woke up the next morning and saw ESPN had its little segment on sentimental smooches. But I didn’t think it would reach this magnitude. It’s great. I hope those 2.5 million views transfer over to the game.”

While it was unclear exactly what the foul was called for at the time, a WNBA spokesman said that “both players were given personal fouls for contact made coming up the floor.”

Soccer

United, City Lose

Manchester, England — The two Manchester clubs fell and Arsenal moved two points clear with a win at Swansea on Saturday, extending the unpredictable start to the English Premier League.

Five months after capturing a 20th English league title, Manchester United languished in 12th place in the 20-team standings after losing 2-1 at home to West Bromwich Albion in the latest setback to hit David Moyes’ troubled first season in charge.

Amid its worst six-game start since 1989, United slipped eight points behind Arsenal after the London club beat Swansea 2-1 for an eighth straight away victory in the league.

The only solace for United on an action-packed day was neighbor Manchester City enduring similar misery by losing 3-2 at Aston Villa.

Even promoted teams Cardiff and Hull are above United after six games. Cardiff won its first away match of the season, 2-1 at Fulham, and Hull edged West Ham 1-0.

But another newcomer, Crystal Palace, lost 2-0 at Southampton, which is adding to the surprise factor this season by sitting in fourth place.

Sunderland is lodged to the bottom on one point ahead of today’s game against Liverpool. Unbeaten Everton hosts Newcastle on Monday.