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

New generation of male figure skaters owns spotlight at worlds; preview

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Nobody in the men’s field at figure skating worlds owns an Olympic or world title for the first time since 1985. This could lead to the best U.S. men’s results in years.

Yuzuru HanyuJavier Fernandez and Patrick Chan combined to win every gold medal since 2011, but all of them ended their seasons at the Olympics.

This week in Milan, the four leading men, who just competed in their first Olympics, are all 20 years or younger. And that includes two Americans.

Nathan Chen can become the first world singles champion from the U.S. since Evan Lysacek in 2009. Chen and Vincent Zhou could be the first U.S. men to finish in the top five together since Lysacek and Johnny Weir in 2005. Chen, Zhou and Max Aaron could make up the best U.S. trio at a worlds in more than 20 years.

Start with Chen. The 18-year-old said he planned to compete this week regardless of what happened at the Olympics, but after his struggles in the team event and individual short programs, the quad master nailed his free skate, came home to California and said he took maybe one day off of training before this event.

Chen is one of three men in the gold-medal hunt, along with Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China. While Chen largely struggled at the 2017 Worlds and in PyeongChang, Uno and Jin each made the podium at both events. And each can come close to or equal Chen in quad numbers.

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Zhou, 17, has a chance to become the youngest man to earn a world medal since Hanyu in 2012. Or the first man to win the world junior title one season and make the world senior podium the next since Yevgeny Plushenko in 1997-98.

Zhou is riding momentum. He struggled in the fall and entered nationals in January ranked fifth among Americans for the season. He placed third to make the Olympic team and then landed three clean quads in his Olympic free skate to jump from 12th to sixth.

“I did better there than a lot of people thought I would,” Zhou told NBC Sports research last week. “I knew I was capable of that all season.

“I want to reach my ultimate goal of being Olympic champion, and my best chance is in 2022 … because by 2026 I will probably be old and creaky with four prosthetic limbs.”

Aaron made it to Milan after Olympian Adam Rippon gave up his spot, and the top two alternates (Jason Brown and Ross Miner) both declined. Still, Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, is seeded seventh in the men’s field based on top scores this season.

NBC Sports figure skating researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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Carolina Kostner the sentimental favorite at figure skating worlds

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Olympic champion Alina Zagitova is without question the favorite at this week’s world figure skating championships, especially after the sprightly Russian’s training partner and rival Yevgenia Medvedeva withdrew because of injury.

She won’t be the sentimental favorite, though.

That would be Carolina Kostner, the ageless Italian star who could be competing at worlds for the last time on home soil. The 2012 champion and six-time world medalist seemed to indicate that retirement could be looming after she finished fifth at the PyeongChang Games, where she was chosen to carry the Italian flag at the Closing Ceremony.

Kostner will have a huge home crowd behind her when the event begins Wednesday in Milan.

“Decisions like that should never be taken in a hot moment. It will come naturally,” said Kostner, who no longer can compete with the sport’s high-fliers when it comes to technical marks, but whose elegant artistry and presentation often make up the difference.

“She is an example of perseverance, of a long-lasting athlete,” Medvedeva said. “I have trouble imagining how someone can stay in that shape for a very long time. When you see people like Carolina, you understand that if she can do something, then that something is possible. If you love what you do, you put all of yourself into it, like Carolina Kostner.”

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When asked about retirement, Kostner brought up her cousin, Isolde Kostner, who won three Olympic Alpine skiing medals before deciding to step away from competition.

“She stopped skiing shortly before the (2006) Olympics in Italy,” Caroline Kostner said. “Many did not understand why she wouldn’t pull through because it was her home country, and she said, ‘You will feel strongly when it is time to stop.’ And I haven’t felt it yet.”

The biggest story at the world championships in an Olympic year tends to be who is missing rather than who shows up. The grind of competing for an entire season builds toward the quadrennial event, and athletes who medal or intend to retire rarely press on to worlds. Then there are the injuries, which accumulate during the year.

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