Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

NHL players in Sochi “all but a forgone conclusion”

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After avoiding the Olympic discussion during the entire 113-day NHL lockout, and then putting it off again so the league could get itself situated for the start of an abbreviated season, it looks like we finally have some good news about NHL players heading to Sochi next February.

“It’s highly likely, just short of a foregone conclusion,” Bob McKenzie said on TSN, “that the National Hockey League will be shutting down for 16 days in the middle of next season to allow its players to participate in the Olympics.”

McKenzie added that the only thing keeping this decision from being shoved into the sure thing column is the NHL and the NHLPA’s desire to lock up a deal with the IOC and IIHF that would include better access to players, use of images and video, and better accommodations and tickets for the NHL. Or “basically being treated as if it was a major sponsor of the Olympics,” McKenzie explained.

It doesn’t hurt that two of the league’s top stars, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin, are Russian and pushing hard to play at their hometown Olympics, or that the NHL needs a win with after alienating at least a few fans with the most recent lockout. So there’s really no reason to hold the players out other than scheduling.

There’s no timetable set, but May has been marked as a reasonable – if not broad – target date for a final decision by Hockey News, but don’t be surprised if we have to wait until the end of the season.

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross beat top-ranked Brazilians for first time

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross
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Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross beat Brazil’s best beach volleyball team for the first time and extended the longest winning streak of their partnership in winning the Moscow Grand Slam on Sunday.

“That just shows our growth,” Ross said. “We’re still on the up and up.”

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion, and Ross, an Olympic silver medalist, beat Olympic qualifying top seed Larissa and Talita 22-20, 22-20 in the final for their third straight international title.

Walsh Jennings and Ross have now won 22 straight FIVB World Tour matches, the best run of their three-year parternship. Walsh Jennings last reached a streak this long from 2007 to 2010, when she won 78 straight international matches with Misty May-Treanor and Nicole Branagh, according to BVBInfo.com

The Americans had lost all three of their previous matches (one a one-set exhibition) versus Larissa and Talita:

Feb. 27, 2015 — 26-24 in Rio de Janeiro
Aug. 23, 2015 — 21-18, 21-16 in Long Beach, Calif.
March 20, 2016 — 22-20, 21-19 in Vitoria, Brazil

Larissa and Talita, seeking to become Brazil’s first Olympic women’s beach volleyball champions in 20 years, have won 12 of their 20 international tournaments since pairing in July 2014.

The FIVB World Tour continues in Hamburg, Germany, next week, the final event in Olympic qualifying. Walsh Jennings and Ross are expected to play there.

Walsh Jennings and Ross and Larissa and Talita are already qualified for the Rio Games.

MORE: Logan Tom continues volleyball career in Indonesia

Joe Kovacs goes wild after winning Pre Classic shot put (video)

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Joe Kovacs put together an incredible series of throws to win the Pre Classic shot put on Friday night, and he topped it off with perhaps an even more impressive celebration.

The World champion Kovacs, who is listed at 6 feet and 276 pounds, let out bellowing roars and a “Hell yeah!” after his final throw of 22.13 meters.

Kovacs threw farther with every throw in Eugene, Ore., on Friday night:

20.41
20.49
21.26
21.57 (farthest in the world this year)
21.66 (farthest in the world this year)
22.13 (farthest in the world this year)

Kovacs has come a long way in four years. He finished fourth at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials with a then-personal-best throw of 21.08 meters. His last throw Friday night would have won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

MORE: Kovacs emerges from family tragedy, Olympic miss to world leader