Kerri Walsh

Kerri Walsh Jennings’ ab strain delays her appearance in Long Beach event

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Three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings withdrew from this week’s Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, Calif., with an ab strain, but she will still play this weekend at the site’s World Series Cup event.

Walsh, 34, who gave birth to her third child, daughter Scout, in April, said she felt the injury coming on after her first match since the London Olympics.

She debuted with new partner and Olympic silver medalist April Ross at an FIVB event in Gstaad, Switzerland, two weeks ago. They were eliminated before the quarterfinals after going 3-0 in pool play.

“Every day my abs on the right side started to get tighter and tighter and tighter,” Walsh Jennings said in a phone interview Monday before going out to test her abs for the first time since July 12. “By the end of the second day, I said ‘Oh, I’ve got to get it worked on.’ I had no power. I couldn’t reach anything overhead.”

Walsh Jennings spoke to doctors, who were confident she didn’t tear any muscles but suffered a significant strain.

“When I play, I want to go out and win,” Walsh Jennings said. “I didn’t want to come back premature and out of shape and just play to play. I have too much respect for the game to do that.”

So Walsh will take the extra few days between now and the World Series Cup, which she likened to golf’s Ryder Cup, to get back to full strength.

The World Series Cup will pit a U.S. team against a U.S. team and an international team against an international team on Saturday in Long Beach. The winners of those two matches will play a final Sunday, separate from the FIVB Grand Slam event.

Walsh Jennings will partner with Whitney Pavlik. They’ll play the Olympic silver medal pair of Ross and Jennifer Kessy in one semifinal. The international semifinal will include the recently crowned world champions, Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China.

Walsh Jennings said Ross and Kessy will finish out the season together before she and Ross become permanent partners. Walsh Jennings and Pavlik will next play an AVP Tour event in Salt Lake City on Aug. 17-18.

The World Series of Beach Volleyball is the first FIVB Grand Slam event to be played in the U.S. in 10 years. Complete information on the event can be found at WSOBV.com.

NBC, NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports will have coverage beginning Thursday and through the weekend. Full listings here.

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Ex-No. 2 women’s marathoner of all time retires after doping ban ends

Liliya Shobukhova
AP
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Liliya Shobukhova, who was the second fastest women’s marathoner of all time before her three Chicago Marathon wins were stripped due to a doping suspension, said she has retired and is now a coach, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Shobukhova, 38, returned to race Sept. 12 from a two-year, seven-month ban for abnormal biological passport levels. She finished fifth in a Russian Half Marathon Championship.

Shobukhova’s ban was reduced from three years, two months, after she provided “substantial assistance” to anti-doping officials.

IAAF and Russia track and field officials were banned for life in January for extorting Shobukhova out of hundreds of thousands of dollars to avoid a doping ban ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

Shobukhova won the Chicago Marathon three straight times from 2009 to 2011, the first man or woman to accomplish the feat. Her last title in Chicago came in 2 hours, 18 minutes, 20 seconds, making her the second fastest woman over 26.2 miles ever behind Brit Paula Radcliffe, who holds the three fastest times.

Shobukhova’s wins and times since 2009 were annulled when she was banned in 2014.

Shobukhova also won the 2010 London Marathon (that win also stripped) but never finished better than sixth in three Olympic track and field races.

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IIHF president doesn’t expect NHL participation in 2018 Olympics

Sidney Crosby
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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The head of ice hockey’s international body says there is a strong possibility that NHL players won’t be competing at the next Winter Olympics.

International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel puts the chances at 60 percent that the NHL will decline to go to the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, because of a lack of money to cover player insurance.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Fasel said the IOC has canceled its contribution to player travel and insurance costs for Pyeongchang, leaving the IIHF facing a $10 million shortfall and “begging” for money around the world.

“It’s always difficult to get (to) the Olympics, the Games,” he said. “And now with some problems on our side, 50-50 is very positive. I would be more 60 percent that they are not coming.”

Negotiations and brinkmanship over finances are common in the lead-up to Olympic hockey tournaments. For the 2014 tournament in Sochi, Russia, the NHL’s participation was assured only in July 2013, seven months before the Games.

The IOC’s refusal to cover player insurance adds an additional dimension for 2018.

The NHL did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, but Commissioner Gary Bettman has made it clear costs are a key factor.

“There are real costs to us going, including insurance, including transportation because we’re losing part of our season, we’ve got to get in and out quickly,” Bettman said last month at a meeting of the Associated Press Sports Editors in New York. “The players for the last five Olympics in particular have been accommodated in a certain way as far as it relates to their families. Those are issues that would once again have to be resolved. … I’m not sure that there would be a lot of appetite for us on top of that to have to pay for the privilege. We don’t make money going to then Olympics.”

Bettman said he didn’t expect a decision until after the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto in September.

While the IOC gives the IIHF around $40 million of revenue each Olympics, Fasel insists that money is earmarked for developing hockey and wants national Olympic committees and hockey federations to plug the gap.

The IOC pulled its extra subsidy because its leaders are “a bit scared that other (sports) federations will come and also ask for some compensation for traveling and insurance,” said Fasel, who is also an IOC member and serves on its rule-making executive board.

“I think my idea is to work closer together with the national Olympic committees, as they have normally to pay transportation and insurance for the athletes when they come to the Games, so I can imagine that some of the NOCs are also ready to spend some money there, so we have to go around and do some begging,” he said.

Fasel said the end of this year is the deadline to reach a deal because of the NHL’s need to draw up a calendar for the Olympic season.

“If you don’t have the best, (the Olympics) will be a different competition for sure,” he said, but warned: “At the end somebody has to pay. That’s the question. On my side I will do everything possible to make it happen.”

Fasel dismissed the suggestion that the World Cup of Hockey could offer some players less incentive to demand to be allowed to play at the Olympics.

“There is nothing like the Olympics,” he said. “I think for an athlete to win the gold medal is so different from winning the Stanley Cup. You can win the Stanley Cup every year.”

In Pyeongchang in 2018 and Beijing in 2022, the Winter Olympics move to Asia and away from the North American and European nations that have historically been the bedrock of hockey.

South Korea, which has built a team mixing import players with locals, plays in the second level of the IIHF’s world championship and hopes not to be a walkover in 2018. China is far less competitive. China will be in the fifth tier for next year and in 2022 could become the first Winter Olympic host not to enter a hockey team — a situation that worries the IIHF, given China’s potential to become a huge market for the sport.

“One thing they do not like is to lose the face, so they cannot do that,” Fasel said. “I hope and I think they will have a Chinese player, Chinese team in Beijing in 2022. We cannot put them on the ice and they will be beaten 15, 20-nothing. We cannot do that.”

Things are looking up for China, with increased government interest and the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League due to open a team there this year, but Fasel said the NHL is key to unlocking potentially vast commercial rewards in China.

“A North American brand in China has a very special taste. We can see that with the NBA,” he said. “I think what we need is to have a Chinese NHL player, like Yao Ming with basketball.”

MORE: 2018 Olympic men’s hockey groups determined