Sean Rosenthal

Ross, Pavlik, Dalhausser, Rosenthal advance at beach worlds

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Two out of eight American pairs are alive going into the final two days of the beach volleyball world championships in Stare Jablonki, Poland.

No. 3 women’s seed April Ross and Whitney Pavlik reached the semifinals with two wins Friday.

No. 3 men’s seed Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal are into the men’s round of 16 after beating fellow Americans Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson 23-21, 21-16.

“We would have preferred to have played them in the semifinal or the final, but we didn’t get a good Independence Day present with the draw,” Dalhausser said, according to FIVB. “It was a tight match for us, and we had a lot of luck because those guys played well. Jake and Casey made a few mistakes in the second set which made things easier for us.”

Ross and Pavlik face a German pair, seeded 17th, in the semifinals on Saturday at 7 a.m. ET. Universal Sports has the coverage.

The winner of that match advances to the gold-medal match against either No. 2 seed Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China, who are world and Olympic medalists, or a 13th-seeded Brazilian pair at noon ET. The loser goes to the bronze-medal match at 11 a.m.

Ross and Pavlik look to keep a strong U.S. tradition at beach volleyball worlds, where an American female team has medaled at seven of eight tournaments dating to its debut in 1997. Of course, the dominant team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings is not playing this week, May-Treanor having retired and Walsh Jennings setting up for her 2013 debut with a new partner, which happens to be Ross, later this month.

The other U.S. women’s teams were eliminated Friday. No. 22 Lauren Fendrick and Brittany Hochevar fell in the round of 16 and No. 28 Jennifer Fopma and Brooke Sweat and No. 39 Summer Ross and Emily Day lost in the round of 32.

Olympians Dalhausser and Rosenthal are competing in their first major meet together after Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, Olympic gold medalists in 2008, split up following their elimination in the London Olympics round of 16. Rogers and new partner Ryan Doherty, a 7-foot-1 former minor-league pitcher, lost in the round of 32 to No. 2 seed Brazilians Alison and Emanuel 21-19, 21-12.

Dalhausser and Rosenthal will play a second match Saturday, a quarterfinal, if they beat a 10th-seeded Brazilian team in the round of 16 at 4:45 a.m. ET. They’re in the same half of the bracket as the defending world champs Alison and Emanuel, meaning they could face off in the semifinals on Sunday. The final is later Sunday. NBC has coverage from 2-3:30 p.m. ET.

The other U.S. men’s team, Nick Lucena and John Hyden, failed to get out of pool play.

Walsh Jennings heads back to beach with new partner

Simone Biles becomes honorary Houston Texans cheerleader

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The NFL’s Houston Texans may not be having the greatest season on the football field, but that hasn’t stopped one famous diehard fan from cheering them on.

On Sunday, Simone Biles took her fandom to the next level by debuting as an honorary Texans cheerleader before the team’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers.

game day feels ❤️ so excited to dance at the Houston Texans Game!

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officially ready for game day now that I got my legendary red boots 🏈

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As an added bonus, she also found time to take a few photos with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon, a 7-foot center who once starred for the Houston Rockets.

This isn’t the first time that the Olympic gold medalist has teamed up with her hometown Texans. In 2016, Biles had the honor of announcing one of the team’s draft picks, and in 2015, she made this memorable entrance onto the field after a pre-game introduction.

Julia Marino, Jamie Anderson close in on Olympic snowboard team spots after second U.S. qualifier

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Julia Marino is within striking distance of qualifying for her first Olympic team. Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson is even closer.

Marino, who won four X Games medals in slopestyle and big air competitions last season, unleashed a frontside 720 and her signature cab double underflip to take second place in big air at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, the second of five qualifying events for the U.S. snowboard slopestyle and big air team.

Anderson, who received high marks for her cab 900 but lower scores for her frontside 720, finished off the podium in fourth. Because she and Marino were the only Americans to reach the final at Copper though, Anderson still received a valuable haul of Olympic selection points and maintains the lead in the overall rankings.

Although Marino’s cab double underflip received the highest score of the competition, riders in big air are scored on their two best tricks. That enabled Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi to take the win with a pair of solid jumps that included a backside 1080. Silje Norendal of Norway finished on the podium in third behind Iwabuchi and Marino.

In order to be named to the U.S. Olympic slopestyle and big air snowboarding team, riders must have a minimum of one podium finish at the selection events. If more than three riders attain podium finishes, then the tiebreaker will come down each rider’s two best results.

Marino and Anderson have both fulfilled the minimum criteria for automatic selection. Either of them could clinch spots on the Olympic team for both slopestyle and big air by finishing as the top U.S. rider at any of the remaining selection events. The next event will be a slopestyle contest next week in Breckenridge, Colo.

Meanwhile, the men’s big air competition had the potential to shake up the U.S. Olympic rankings, as none of the podium finishers from the first selection event reached the final at Copper.

After a disappointing result in that first qualifier, which was held at Mammoth Mountain last winter, Chris Corning bounced back to finish as the top American in this contest and second place overall. He landed a frontside 1440 and a massive backside triple cork 1440 on his two jumps, putting his own stylish twist on both tricks with melon grabs.

Corning, the 2015/16 World Cup champion in slopestyle, has emerged as perhaps the U.S. team’s top hope for an Olympic medal this year in both men’s slopestyle and big air, events typically dominated by riders from Canada and Norway. Now that he has his first selection event podium under his belt, he can clinch a spot on the Olympic team by finishing as the top American at any of the remaining contests.

Also earning a podium result with a third-place finish was 19-year-old Chandler Hunt, who has suddenly added his name to the U.S. Olympic discussion.

The victory in men’s big air went to Norway’s Mons Roisland, who stomped a switch backside 1620 and a frontside 1440 tail grab on his jumps.

Three more selection events for the slopestyle and big air team still remain, and all three will be slopestyle events. Dew Tour will host a selection event next week in Breckenridge, then there will be a break until Olympic qualifying resumes in January with competitions at Aspen and Mammoth.

U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Results

Men’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Mons Roisland (NOR), 182.75
2. Chris Corning (USA), 177.25
3. Chandler Hunt (USA), 159.00
4. Ryan Stassel (USA), 154.50
5. Max Parrot (CAN), 121.50

Women’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Reira Iwabuchi (JPN), 169.25
2. Julia Marino (USA), 160.25
3. Silje Norendal (NOR), 156.75
4. Jamie Anderson (USA), 151.50
5. Sina Candrian (SUI), 135.50

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings

Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Red Gerard, 1400*
2. Chris Corning, 1200*
3. Chandler Hunt, 1160*
4. Kyle Mack, 1000*
5. Judd Henkes, 1000

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Jamie Anderson, 1800*
2. Julia Marino, 1600*
3. Hailey Langland, 1300*
4. Jessika Jenson, 1050
5. Nora Healey, 950

*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.