April Ross, Kerri Walsh

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross would not go back to old partners

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Imagine this scenario: Misty May-Treanor decides she wants to unretire and go for a fourth straight Olympic beach volleyball gold medal. The first person she calls is her old partner, Kerri Walsh Jennings, who is currently playing with new partner April Ross.

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A similar instance occurred before the 2011 season. May-Treanor decided in 2010 she would take the next year off and was uncertain about her future, so Walsh Jennings partnered with Nicole Branagh.

But May-Treanor had a change of heart and told Walsh Jennings she was coming back, either with Walsh Jennings or with a new partner if she had to.

Walsh Jennings made a friendly split with Branagh, teamed up with May-Treanor again, and they won a third Olympic gold a year later in London.

So, what would Walsh Jennings say if May-Treanor, retired since London, called her with comeback plans again?

“I would say, thank you for calling me, I really appreciate that and tell her good luck,” Walsh Jennings said.

She’d stick with Ross. The makings of their partnership were born at the London Olympics, where Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor beat Ross and Jennifer Kessy in an all-American gold-medal match. Walsh Jennings told Ross, “Let’s go win gold in Rio,” when they shook hands after the final point.

Walsh Jennings and Ross didn’t make it official until later, after Walsh Jennings called May-Treanor one more time.

“[May-Treanor] left the door open for sure, even if it was a millimeter,” Walsh Jennings said.

“It will be what it will be; I’d have to figure out my own side,” May-Treanor essentially said, according to Walsh Jennings.

“I’m committed so much with April,” said Walsh Jennings, who has won four FIVB World Tour events in her first full season with Ross this year and six straight AVP tournaments, including this past week in Atlantic City, N.J. “It was such a unique situation last time around [four years ago with Branagh and May-Treanor].”

Likewise, Ross’ Olympic partner stepped away from beach volleyball after London. Kessy decided to start a family and then return to the sport. But she will not be coming back to play with Ross.

“I had such a great time playing with Jen, and I’m so happy with how we did, but this is my team now,” Ross said. “I’m 100 percent committed. There would be no thought in my head regarding changing teammates at this point.”

Walsh Jennings and Ross have twice as many international wins as any other team this year. Last week, Ross said they will play at the AVP Championships in Huntington Beach, Calif., from Sept. 18-21, followed by the final FIVB Grand Slam in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the next week. Sao Paulo would likely be their last tournament of the year, Ross said.

Sao Paulo could provide a preview of the kind of atmosphere to expect at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil has been the biggest rival to the U.S. since beach volleyball was added to the Olympics in 1996. Ross said the most heated environment she’s faced in her career wasn’t in Brazil but in Austria.

“In Brazil, they’re just fans of volleyball,” Ross said. “They want to get your picture and get your autograph. They’re just fans of the sport.”

Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor won their first World Championship together in Rio de Janeiro in 2003.

“We don’t speak their language, so if they’re heckling we have no idea what they’re saying,” Walsh Jennings said. “They’re loud and crazy, and it’s hot. Misty and I tried to quiet the crowd. That’s definitely the goal in Rio [in 2016], to quiet the Brazilians.”

Adding to the anticipation of Sao Paulo is the new Brazilian team of Talita and Larissa, which has won the last two FIVB World Tour events. Larissa, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist with Juliana, came out of retirement earlier this year. Walsh Jennings and Ross have yet to play Talita and Larissa.

“They’re probably No. 1 on our radar right now,” Ross said. “We have to play them to figure out what the matchup’s going to be like to figure out how to beat them.”

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Great Britain gets first win at men’s ice hockey worlds in 57 years

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Lord Stanley would be proud. Great Britain’s men’s ice hockey team pulled off its biggest win in more than a half-century on Monday.

Great Britain beat France 4-3 in overtime at the world championship in Slovakia, in its last game of the tournament, to avoid relegation and remain in the top division of worlds in 2020 with the likes of the U.S., Canada and Russia.

France, whose streak of 12 straight top-level world championship appearances ends, had led 3-0 in the second period.

“We just don’t know when we are beaten,” golden-goal scorer Ben Davies said, according to Ice Hockey U.K. “This just underlines what GB is all about.”

It marked the Brits’ first win at a top-level worlds or Olympics since 1962. Great Britain last qualified for an Olympics in 1948. Its only top-level world championship appearance since 1962 was in 1994, when it lost all five games by a combined 44-7.

At these worlds, Great Britain was outscored 38-5 in its first six games, all losses. It came into the 16-nation event as the lowest-ranked team at No. 22 in the world.

“No one knows anything about U.K. hockey, and the first couple of days here people were laughing at us,” defenseman Ben O’Connor said, according to The New York Times, which reported that fans dressed as Queen Elizabeth II, Mary Poppins, Beefeaters, cricket bats and the Olympic ski jumper Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards to the Brits’ 6-3 loss to the U.S. last Wednesday.

(h/t @OlympicStatman)

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Caster Semenya enters Pre Classic in new event after testosterone ruling

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Caster Semenya is entered in the Pre Classic on June 30 to run the women’s 3000m, an event that does not fall under the IAAF’s new testosterone limits.

It’s the first announced meet for Semenya since the new IAAF rule capping testosterone in women’s events between the 400m and the mile went into effect. The Court of Arbitration for Sport denied her appeal and upheld the rule on May 1.

Semenya, the two-time Olympic 800m champion, has raced almost exclusively the 400m, 800m and 1500m up until this season.

She won an 800m on May 3 in the last top-level meet before the testosterone cap went into effect for those distances.

At that May 3 meet in Doha, Semenya reportedly said “hell no” when asked if she would take testosterone-suppressing measures to stay eligible for the 400m, 800m or 1500m at the world championships this fall.

Semenya also said she would keep competing but would not race the 5000m, the shortest flat event on the Olympic program that she could move up to without a testosterone cap, according to those same reports.

The flat 3000m is not on the Olympic program (though the 3000m steeplechase is).

South Africa’s track and field federation has indicated it will appeal the CAS ruling.

“I keep training. I keep running,” Semenya said May 3. “Doesn’t matter if something comes in front of me, like I said. I always find a way.”

The Pre Classic women’s 3000m also includes distance titans Almaz Ayana (Olympic 10,000m champion who last raced in 2017), Hellen Obiri (world 5000m champion), Genzebe Dibaba (1500m world-record holder) and Sifan Hassan (world bronze medalist at 1500m and 5000m).

The Pre Classic will be held at Stanford, Calif., this year due to construction at Oregon’s Hayward Field ahead of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.

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