Kerri Walsh

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross clicking ahead of World Series of Beach Volleyball

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It’s been nearly two years since Kerri Walsh Jennings won her third straight Olympic gold with Misty May-Treanor and about one year since she began playing internationally with new partner April Ross.

Based on early results, Walsh Jennings and Ross could very well be playing for gold two years from now in Rio de Janeiro.

Walsh Jennings, 35, paired with Ross, 32, following May-Treanor’s retirement and the birth of Walsh Jennings’ third child. Ross is a star in her own right, winning the 2009 World Championship and 2012 Olympic silver with Jennifer Kessy.

Not too surprisingly, Walsh Jennings and Ross have performed quite well in their first 10 FIVB World Tour events together. They’ve won half of them, which, as the Wall Street Journal noted, is better than Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor’s record in their final 10 events together in 2012.

This week, they’re the star pair at the biggest beach volleyball tournament in the U.S. this year — the World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, Calif., which will air on NBC, NBCSN, Universal Sports and NBC Sports Live Extra from Friday through Sunday.

Long Beach marks the seventh FIVB World Tour Grand Slam event this season. Walsh Jennings and Ross are the only women’s team to win multiple Grand Slams this year and are the world’s No. 1 team in the FIVB’s technical rankings.

Walsh Jennings’ biggest competition during the May-Treanor years usually came from Brazil. Of course, the Brazilians will be pumped at their home Olympics in 2016, but their top players are still in a transition phase since London 2012.

The London Olympic bronze medalists, Juliana and Larissa, broke up with Larissa’s retirement in 2012. Larissa recently unretired, but she is now paired with a different Brazilian partner.

Last year’s World Championships final did not include a Brazilian pair for only the second time in its nine-edition history (Walsh Jennings and Ross missed the tournament). However, the best women’s pair on the World Tour was Brazilian, Talita and Taiana, who are now no longer a pair.

In Long Beach, the top-seeded Walsh Jennings and Ross won their first two pool matches Wednesday and will look to advance through elimination rounds to Sunday’s final.

A U.S. Olympic champion is also a top seed on the men’s side. Beijing gold medalist Phil Dalhausser and two-time Olympian Sean Rosenthal won their first two matches Wednesday, too. The men’s final is also Sunday.

Here’s the broadcast schedule:


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Thomas Bach: Hamburg bid rejection is ‘missed opportunity’

Thomas Bach
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The rejection of Hamburg’s bid for the 2024 Olympics marks a “missed opportunity” for the city and Germany, IOC President Thomas Bach said Monday.

Hamburg withdrew its bid Sunday after it was defeated in a referendum by voters in the northern port city. The vote was 51.6 percent against, and 48.4 percent in favor.

“The IOC of course respects the close vote by the citizens of Hamburg,” Bach said in a statement. “We regret the decision, which should be seen in the light of the very particular and difficult circumstances the referendum was held in. This is a missed opportunity for Hamburg and Germany.”

The vote came as Germany copes with an influx of migrants and refugees, a situation that Bach said “requires a great effort by German government and society and is causing widespread feelings of uncertainty.”

He also said the result may have been influenced by current doping and corruption scandals in sports. Without citing any by name, Bach alluded to the scandals surrounding FIFA, allegations of bribery involving Germany’s winning bid for the 2006 World Cup, and doping and corruption charges facing the IAAF and track and field.

“This is a pity,” Bach said, adding that the IOC applies strict anti-corruption rules.

The IOC president said the Hamburg vote was “greatly influenced” by the issue of how the games would be financed. Hamburg’s operating budget of 3.4 billion euros ($3.6 billion) was “very well balanced,” with the IOC planning to contribute $1.7 billion to the project, Bach said.

Hamburg’s withdrawal leaves four cities in contention: Rome, Paris, Los Angeles and Budapest, Hungary. The IOC will select the host city in September 2017.

“The IOC is proud to have four strong candidate cities,” Bach said.

A spokeswoman for Angela Merkel said the German chancellor regretted the decision by Hamburg voters.

Merkel “took note of the results of the vote in Hamburg, and the chancellor finds this decision regrettable but of course she respects the will of the people,” government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz told reporters in Berlin.

“That’s why referendums are held – to find out what the population wants, and obviously Hamburgers don’t want the Olympics,” Wirtz said.

MORE: Soccer star Carli Lloyd and coach Jill Ellis nominated for FIFA honors

Soccer star Carli Lloyd and coach Jill Ellis nominated for FIFA honors

Jill Ellis, Carli Lloyd
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FIFA announced today that Carli Lloyd, the midfielder on the U.S. women’s national soccer team whose hat trick in the World Cup final helped the US win gold, was nominated for the Women’s World Player of the Year award.

The woman who coached the USWNT to a 5-2 World Cup victory over Japan, Jill Ellis, was nominated in the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football category.

Nominated alongside Lloyd are Japan’s Aya Miyama, a member of the silver-medal winning team at the London Olympics, and Germany’s Celia Sasic, a bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Both Lloyd and Miyama are expected to represent their countries again at the 2016 Rio Olympics, while Sasic retired after the 2015 World Cup.

Only two American women have been named the FIFA World Player of the Year–Abby Wambach in 2012 (when Lloyd was also a semifinalist) and Mia Hamm in both 2001 and 2002.

Lloyd is already racking up a long list of honors in 2015. In addition to earning the Golden Ball Award at the World Cup, she’s nominated by Sports Illustrated for Sportsman of the Year and will be honored on December 2nd by the March of Dimes as their Sportswoman of the Year.

Ellis has been USWNT head coach since May 2014, but has a long Olympic history with the team. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics she was a scout, and then was assistant coach to Pia Sundhage at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. She also served as the interim coach at the end of 2012 after Sundhage left to coach for Sweden, and again when Tom Sermanni was fired in April 2014. She is expected to be the head coach at the 2016 Games.

The other nominees for FIFA World Coach of the Year are England’s Mark Sampson and Japan’s Norio Sasak.

The awards are voted on by team captains, coaches and the media, and will be announced on January 11th. The Ballon d’Or winner will also be announced. The three finalists for the top honor on the men’s side are Neymar, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

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