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

Kerri Walsh
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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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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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