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

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships rhythm dance, women’s free skate

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Can Bradie Tennell hold off 14-year-old Alysa Liu? The U.S. Figure Skating Championships crowns its female medalists on Friday, live on NBC Sports.

Action starts with the rhythm dance at 4:30 p.m. ET for NBC Sports Gold subscribers, with NBCSN broadcast coverage joining in at 5. The women start at 7:25 on Gold, with NBC TV coverage starting at 8.

LIVE STREAM: Rhythm dance — Gold | NBCSN | Skate Order
LIVE STREAM: Women’s free skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Tennell topped Thursday’s short program with a clean slate of jumps, plus the highest artistic score.

She bettered Liu in the short program last year, too, but fell in the free skate to take silver. Liu, meanwhile, landed two triple Axels to win by 3.92 points and become the youngest U.S. champion in history.

Another skater to watch is Gracie Gold, the two-time U.S. champion competing at nationals for the first time in three years. Gold, lauded for her return from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety, struggled with jumps in the short and is in 13th place of 18 skaters.

In the rhythm dance, past U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are expected to begin a duel that should come down to Saturday’s free dance.

Key Skate Times
5:32 p.m. — Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
5:38 — Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
5:44 — Madison Chock/Evan Bates
8:07 — Gracie Gold
10:03 — Karen Chen
10:11 — Amber Glenn
10:27 — Bradie Tennell
10:35 — Mariah Bell
10:43 — Alysa Liu

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, who defected, eyes Tokyo Games as German or refugee

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LÜNEN, Germany (AP) — Iran’s only female Olympic medalist said Friday she wants to compete for Germany after defecting from her native country.

Kimia Alizadeh is trying to rebuild her life and career after she announced this month she had left Iran, citing sexism on the part of officials there.

“Even if I do not make it to the Olympics, it does not matter because I have made up my mind,” Alizadeh said at a meeting with journalists at a taekwondo club.

“I am sure that I will be judged by many, but I am just 21 years old and can attend world tournaments and future Olympics. However, I will spare no effort to get the best result at this time as well.”

She added she doesn’t expect ever to compete in Iran again.

Alizadeh was just 18 when she won bronze in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, catapulting her to instant fame at home. Despite Iran’s long history of victories in men’s wrestling and weightlifting, no Iranian woman had ever won a medal before.

However, Alizadeh was frustrated with life in Iran despite her Olympic success. In an Instagram post this month announcing she had left Iran, she accused Iranian officials of sexism and criticized wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf.

Alizadeh hasn’t given up hope of being able to compete at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. However, getting there would require highly unusual exemptions from the usual rules on nationality switches and qualification, regardless of whether she tries to represent Germany or the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team.

Alizadeh spent time in the Netherlands before heading to Germany this week to meet with taekwondo officials there. The German Taekwondo Union has spoken up in favor of Alizadeh staying in the country in what it calls a first step toward her gaining nationality and becoming eligible to compete for Germany.

“If the German government assists me and I can go through this process as fast as possible, I might be able to make it to the Olympics, too,” she said.

In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing government pressure. In September, the former world judo champion Saeed Mollaei moved to Germany after walking off the Iranian team at the world championships in Japan. He said Iranian officials had tried to force him to withdraw so as not to compete against an Israeli opponent.

Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, also left Iran for Australia last year.

Alizadeh said she just wants “a peaceful life,” and she’s not looking back.

“I have a great feeling to have made a decision for my life that would definitely change my future,” she said. “I think it is not even clear enough now and. in the years to come, I will understand what a good decision I made.”

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MORE: Full list of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics