Olympic medalists return to sand at beach volleyball worlds

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A look at the field for this week’s beach volleyball world championships in Stare Jablonki, Poland, reveals how much shuffling has gone on since the London Olympics.

Start with the women. Neither Misty May-Treanor nor Kerri Walsh Jennings are competing. May-Treanor retired after the pair won their third straight Olympic gold medal in August.

Walsh Jennings, 34, who had her third child after London, plans to make her 2013 FIVB debut with new partner April Ross at the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, Calif., beginning July 22 on NBC, NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports.

Ross, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist with Jennifer Kessy, is in Poland. She’s playing with Whitney Pavlik after Kessy withdrew due to hip and Achilles problems. The duo swept their three pool-play matches to reach the round of 32, which begins Thursday. The other U.S. pairs are No. 22 seed Lauren Fendrick and Brittany Hochevar, No. 28 Jennifer Fopma and Brooke Sweat (those two pairs meet in the round of 32) and No. 39 Summer Ross and Emily Day, who also advanced out of pool play. The women’s semifinals and final are Saturday, streamed live on Universal Sports.

The 2011 world champions, Brazilians Larissa and Juliana, are not in Poland to defend their title after Larissa retired in 2012 to start a family. That leaves Chinese Xue Chen and Zhang Xi as the most accomplished pair of the 48 teams in pool play. Xue and Zhang, the No. 2 seed because a host-nation pair automatically gets No. 1, won bronze at the 2008 Olympics and at the 2011 worlds and were fourth in London.

A U.S. women’s team has medaled in seven of eight world championships since their debut in 1997.

On the men’s side, these are the first worlds without Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser together since 2003. Dalhausser announced their amicable split in September.

“At some point, teams reach their peak and have nowhere else to go and trickle down on the other side of the peak, and that’s where we were at in the process,” Dalhausser told Presidio Sports in September, one month after the 2008 Olympic champs surprisingly fell in the London Olympic round of 16. “Losing sucks, and I felt like making the change.”

Another reason for the split, at the time, was that Rogers, 39, was reportedly done playing internationally. So much for that.

He’s at worlds with new partner Ryan Doherty, the tallest player in minor-league baseball history as a 7-foot-1 pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks system six years ago. It was Rogers, nicknamed “The Professor,” who helped transform the 6-9 Dalhausser into the “Thin Beast,” one of the world’s most feared attackers.

Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal are the No. 3 seed and 2-0 so far in Poland, and Rogers and Doherty are No. 17 and 1-1. The top seed is a Polish pair, and No. 2 is the Brazilian defending world champions Alison and Emanuel, the silver medalists at the London Olympics. The reigning Olympic champions, Germans Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann, are not at worlds. Brink is out with a reported thigh injury, and Reckermann has retired.

The other U.S. teams are No. 4 Jake Gibb (Rosenthal’s Olympic teammate) and Casey Patterson, who are 1-1, and No. 33 Nick Lucena and John Hyden (0-2). The men conclude pool play Thursday, and their semis and finals are on Sunday, when NBC will have coverage from 2-3:30 p.m Eastern Time.

Walsh set to return to beach with new partner

Lindsey Vonn shows how to win bronze

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JEONGSEON, South Korea — The United States has a fixation at the Olympics on winning gold. Lindsey Vonn showed Wednesday how to win bronze.

“I skied a great race today,” Vonn also said. “Sofia [Goggia] just skied better than I did.”

NBCOlympics.com: Lindsey Vonn oldest woman to win Olympic Alpine medal

She also said she hoped she had made her grandfather proud. Dabbing away tears, she said: “It’s sad. This is my last [Olympic] downhill. I wish I could keep going, you know? I had so much fun. I love what I do. My body just can’t — probably can’t — take another four years. But — I don’t know, I’m proud. I’m proud to have competed for my country. Proud to have given it my all. I’m proud to have … come away with a medal.”

Meyers-Taylor and Gibbs claim silver in women’s bobsled

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Pilot Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz won Germany’s latest gold in a sliding sport in PyeongChang, defeating Team USA’s Elana Meyers Taylor sled by 0.07 seconds. Meyers Taylor, along with brakeman Lauren Gibbs, matched the silver she won in Sochi.

NBCOlympics.com: Nigerian bobsled team makes first Olympic appearance

Jamanka led after two runs, and delivered in Run 3, setting a track record with a phenomenal run down the course. She hit the lines perfectly to put the pressure on Meyers Taylor — and Meyers Taylor, who has dealt with an achilles injury in PyeongChang, delivered with a course record of her own. She was 0.07 seconds back after two runs, but closed the gap to 0.04 heading into the final run.

The stage was set for a thrilling final leg. It, too, did not disappoint. Elana Meyers had her best run of the Games, but Jamanka matched it, to give Germany yet another win on the PyeongChang sliding course.

To read the full recap, click here 

Final Standings: 

Gold: Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz (GER) – 3:22.45

Silver: Elana Meyers-Taylor and Lauren Gibbs (USA) – 3:22.52

Bronze: Kaillee Humphries and Phylicia George (CAN) – 3:22.89

4. Annika Drazek and Stephanie Schneider (GER) – 3:22.97

5. Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evans (USA) – 3:23.02