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April Ross finds new partner for Tokyo 2020 Olympic run

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April Ross, a silver and bronze medalist at the last two Olympics, will try for gold in 2020 with a new partner who has no international beach volleyball experience.

Ross said she and Alix Klineman, a recent beach convert from indoor, are partnering for this Olympic cycle, beginning with the first FIVB World Tour event of 2018 in January.

“It was [either] the safe choice or the choice I thought was challenging but had the most potential,” Ross said on a podcast published Wednesday. “It came down to really intangible things. I decided to go with Alex Klineman, take a shot at Tokyo with her.”

The 35-year-old Ross won silver at the 2012 Olympics with Jennifer Kessy and bronze in Rio with Kerri Walsh Jennings.

Ross and Walsh Jennings split last spring. Ross paired with Rio Olympian Lauren Fendrick for the rest of the season.

They won silver at the world championships, when Ross said they would re-evaluate their partnership at the end of the season.

Ross said she trained with “a couple of people” before partnering with Klineman, a 27-year-old who primarily played indoor over the last decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10.

Klineman was the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school and the Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year for her senior season at Stanford.

She then gained some indoor national team experience, including playing as a reserve in the 2014 FIVB World Grand Prix but never at the world championships or Olympics.

Klineman also served a 13-month doping ban in 2013 and 2014 after testing positive for a banned substance found in one of her mom’s pills that she took. USADA, in announcing the 13-month ban, accepted that Klineman’s ingestion was inadvertent, and she did not intentionally cheat.

Klineman, who is 6 feet, 5 inches (three inches taller than Walsh Jennings), moved full-time to the beach in 2017, taking AVP Rookie of the Year honors but not playing any international events.

“I watched her a little bit, just after one season on the beach, I thought she was picking up some really good things, was a lot quicker than I expected her to be,” said Ross, who like Klineman played indoor volleyball in college in California (USC). “She has that chip on her shoulder a little bit. It reminds me of me when I got out onto the beach because I wanted to go to the Olympics indoor. I tried training with the national team a bunch and just felt overlooked, like all the time. Things weren’t objective. … She could keep playing indoor [professionally in Europe or Brazil] and keep making a good amount of money. She’s out here on the beach because she wants to go to the Olympics, and she has something to prove.”

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MORE: The player who turned down Kerri Walsh Jennings

Yuzuru Hanyu to miss Japan Figure Skating Championships

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world figure skating champion, will miss his national championships this week due to ankle and knee injuries suffered in a Nov. 9 practice fall, according to Japanese media citing the Japan Skating Federation.

Hanyu can (and very likely will) be named to Japan’s three-man Olympic team despite missing nationals.

Hanyu has reportedly been off the ice for more than one month since the fall.

“It is an important selection competition, and the Olympics are a big goal, so with that in mind we would like to think things through together,” Japan Skating Federation director Yoshiko Kobayashi said last week, according to Kyodo News.

Hanyu, who turned 23 on Dec. 7, fell on a quadruple Lutz attempted and then favored his right ankle in a Nov. 9 practice at a Grand Prix event (video here).

He skated the run-through for his free skate, although he elected not to do any more jumps.

“I have been told by the doctor that I need 10 days of complete rest,” Hanyu said in a statement on Nov. 12, according to Kyodo. “Following that, it will take three to four weeks to return and get back to where I was.”

Hanyu and world silver medalist Shoma Uno are favored to lead Japan’s Olympic men’s figure skating team. The third spot is likely to go to Takahito Mura or Keiji Tanaka.

Hanyu competed twice this season.

He posted a world-record short program score in his debut at a small September event in Canada, but struggled to fifth place in the free skate and finished second overall behind two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

He then finished second to U.S. champion Nathan Chen at the first Grand Prix event of the season in Moscow in October. Chen is the only undefeated skater this season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Matt, Becca Hamilton are first U.S. Olympic mixed doubles curling team

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A brother and sister from Wisconsin will be the busiest athletes at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

A month ago the Hamilton siblings, Matt and Becca, qualified to compete at the Olympics with the U.S. men’s and women’s curling teams, and today they also qualified to play as a mixed doubles team.

With a win over two of their teammates, John Shuster (skip of Matt’s four-man team) and Cory Christensen (alternate on Becca’s four-woman team), at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for mixed doubles curling, the Hamiltons earned the opportunity to curl on potentially every day of the Olympics.

The Hamiltons will start their Olympic competitions with the mixed doubles tournament on Thursday, Feb. 8, the day before the the Opening Ceremony marks the official beginning of the Olympics. When mixed doubles wraps up on Tuesday the 13th, they’ll start playing separately in the men’s and women’s tournaments on Wednesday the 14th. The traditional curling tournaments go until Sunday, Feb. 25, the day of the Closing Ceremony.

Of course, if one of their teams doesn’t advance past the round-robin rounds to the semifinals and medal games, they’ll have some time off. But if they do go all the way to the gold medal matches, it’ll mean 18 straight days of competition for the Hamiltons.

Matt and Becca showed their readiness during the Olympic Trials. They had the second-best record of the round-robin stage, 5-2, then beat Shuster and Christensen twice in two days to win the Olympic berth. The score of the final was 6-5.

After the match, the siblings–who say their partnership works because they can be brutally honest on the ice–had nothing but kind words for each other.

Becca, the younger Hamilton by a year and a half, said her older brother “taught me everything I know.”

Matt then said of Becca, “it’s been impressive to watch her grow up and become the superstar she is now.”

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VIDEO: Italian curlers go nuts after clutch shot qualifies for Olympics