Kerri Walsh Jennings

U.S. teams sweep World Series of Beach Volleyball (video)

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The best beach volleyball teams in the U.S. also showed why they’re the best on the planet, recording an American sweep of the World Series of Beach Volleyball titles in Long Beach, Calif., on Sunday.

Kerri Walsh Jennings won her 50th career FIVB title, with April Ross, while Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal won for the third time in the last four FIVB Grand Slam events. Walsh Jennings and Ross and Dalhausser and Rosenthal delivered as the top seeds for the tournament, the biggest one in the U.S. this year.

Walsh Jennings, the three-time Olympic champion, and Ross, the Olympic silver medalist, beat Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas 21-17, 21-17.

“For Kerri it was working great; I had a little trouble out there playing D, which is why we were switch blocking, and Kerri got some key digs,” Ross said on NBC. “That team is so good. I’m sure we’re going to see them a bunch in later rounds in many tournaments to come. I’m just so proud of how we played together. That was the epitome of teamwork.”

Walsh Jennings and Ross, the tournament’s top seeds, have won six of their 11 FIVB tournaments together since teaming up last year, following Misty May-Treanor‘s retirement and Walsh Jennings’ third pregnancy.

They have won three of the seven FIVB World Tour Grand Slams this season and are the only pair to have won more than one.

“Even when the bad tournaments happen, it takes us one step closer to our ultimate goal, which is gold in Rio [de Janeiro in 2016],” Walsh Jennings said. “Today, our heads are high. We’re super stoked.”

The 2008 Olympic champion Dalhausser and two-time Olympian Rosenthal knocked off Poland’s Grzegorz Fijałek and Mariusz Prudel 22–24, 21–17, 15–9.

The FIVB World Tour continues with a Grand Slam in Klagenfurt, Austria, this week.

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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