Jennifer Kessy

Jennifer Kessy, Emily Day form new beach volleyball partnership

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Olympic silver medalist Jennifer Kessy will return to beach volleyball next season, after taking this year off due to pregnancy, with new partner Emily Day.

Kessy, 37, lost in the London Olympic final with then-partner April Ross. They were beaten by fellow Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings.

After the Olympics, Ross switched to team with Walsh Jennings in 2013, while Kessy took a break to have her first child. Daughter Aïla was born Aug. 14. May-Treanor retired.

When Kessy initially took her break, she knew she needed to find a new partner before returning, but figured she would play domestic tournaments exclusively in 2015. She considered never competing internationally again and not going for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Kessy changed her mind while watching the World Series of Beach Volleyball near her home in Long Beach, Calif., in July, one of the top international tournaments.

Walsh Jennings and Ross won in Long Beach, but no other U.S. pair was seeded in the top 10. Walsh Jennings and Ross were the only Americans to make the semifinals of any of the 10 FIVB World Tour Grand Slam events this season.

A nation can qualify a maximum two pairs for the Olympics in 2016. Kessy hasn’t seen another U.S. pair step up to become favorites for that second spot with Walsh Jennings and Ross.

“If there was a team like April and I were, ranked like fourth in the world right now, I’m not sure I would be 100 percent in as I am right now,” Kessy said in a phone interview Monday. “I see the opening and opportunity. It really has lit a fire. I can’t really back down from it.”

So, three of the four U.S. women’s beach volleyball players from London could return for Rio, but none with the same partner.

When Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor beat Kessy and Ross for gold, Walsh Jennings told Ross in a post-match meeting near the net, “Let’s go win gold in Rio,” which proved to be the early makings of their partnership. Kessy didn’t hear Walsh Jennings at the time, but she found out later.

“It’s not my favorite thing that [Walsh Jennings] has ever said,” Kessy said, “but it’s not a knock to me, of course, because I know [Walsh Jennings] very well. For me, I wouldn’t have said that at that moment, but it’s not me. It does motivate me to see her and April in Rio and maybe have a rematch.”

Kessy said she, Ross and Walsh Jennings communicated before Ross and Walsh Jennings began playing together in 2013.

“It was really hard for me, and I didn’t know how [Kessy] was going to take it initially, even though I knew she was going to slow down,” Ross told the Orange County (Calif.) Register last year. “Knowing her as well as I do, she knows this is a business, and she’s the best at not getting emotional about this stuff.”

It was an especially tough year for Kessy, who lost her father due to a heart attack.

Kessy said she and Ross still get along fine off the court. They see each other daily in the same gym.

“On the court it’s going to be quite interesting,” Kessy said. “It never will get bad. It will be interesting because we do know so much about each other that it’ll be fun. It might get competitive, and it might get a little heated every once in a while, especially with Kerri on the other side — her and I have been known to get heated.”

Kessy’s new partner was part of the No. 2-ranked U.S. pair last season.

Day, 27, spent most of the last two years playing with Summer Ross (no relation to April). They decided to end their partnership following their last tournament this season in late September.

“Our style of play on the international level was not working out,” Day said.

Meanwhile, Kessy kept a list of people she considered asking to partner with. She consulted with men’s and women’s players, her mother and husband, a former player.

“Everyone kept coming back to Emily,” Kessy said. “I thought about who I should play with, who would complement my game, who I would be comfortable with. Of course, I would love to play with April again — I would love to clone April — but also have somebody who can bring something different to the game. I’m not looking to be just like I was with April.”

Kessy reached out to Day in the last two to three weeks.

“She knows what it takes to get there [to the Olympics],” Day said, “and I’m looking forward to learning from her and using what I know already, combining with her knowledge to take it to the next level.”

If Kessy makes her second Olympic team in 2016, she will become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s beach volleyball player ever at 39. The oldest U.S. men’s player was Sinjin Smith, who was also 39 in 1996, the first Olympics to include beach volleyball.

Kessy might not have come back had she and Ross upset May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings for gold in London.

“I know the feeling right after we lost that game, and it wasn’t happy to win the silver,” Kessy said. “I was so upset. I was so devastated.

“I still have that feeling and a little bit of sadness, and I do think about that game. … So, yes, maybe that is part of the reason [I’m coming back].”

Peter Forsberg and the Olympics

Vonn wins Spirit of Sport Award at Laureus World Sports Awards

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MONACO (AP) — Lindsey Vonn, Tiger Woods, Novak Djokovic and the France national soccer team were among the winners at the Laureus World Sports Awards, with Woods claiming the Comeback Award 19 years after he was first recognized.

Vonn, who retired during the recent Alpine skiing world championships , took home the Spirit of Sport Award, which is given to an athlete for relentless dedication to his or her career, and France was honored for winning the World Cup in July.

Woods, who won the inaugural World Sportsman of the Year award in 2000, won the Tour Championship in September for his 80th PGA Tour title and his first since August 2013.

Djokovic matched Usain Bolt’s record by being named World Sportsman of the Year for the fourth time after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He also earned the honor in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Simone Biles was named World Sportswoman of the Year for winning four gold, one silver and one bronze medal at the gymnastics world championships. Naomi Osaka won the Breakthrough Award for winning the U.S. Open and Chloe Kim was named the World Action Sportsperson of the Year.

The awards were given in recognition of outstanding sports performance in 2018.

Remembering the day Dan Jansen struck Olympic gold, 25 years ago

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By US Speedskating

Many of us remember that momentous day 25 years ago (Friday, Feb. 18, 1994), when Dan Jansen finally achieved his dream and won an Olympic gold medal in the 1000m in world record fashion at the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

It was a moment of triumph and exhilaration for Jansen. It was also a time of celebration for many Americans, the whole world for that matter, to see the down-to-earth, all-American good guy finally snap the Olympic medal jinx in such dramatic fashion. The world was a nicer place when Jansen struck Olympic gold.

“Overall I have been very blessed, because of who I am, what I’ve done and how I did it,” Jansen said. “I am in a position to do positive things in this world. If my visibility and character can be used to create more awareness and raise funds for worthy causes, I am happy to do what I can.”

Dan turned his Olympic glory into another form of gold when he started the Dan Jansen Foundation. Thanks to the generosity of individual donors, corporate contributions and his own charity golf outing, his foundation is helping in the fight against leukemia, assisting high school seniors in pursuit of higher education, and supporting a variety of youth sports programs.

Since 1995, the DJ Foundation has contributed more than $800,000 to needy families and causes.

The DJF/Jane Jansen Beres Family Aid Fund has benefited over 700 families affected by leukemia and related cancers. The DJF Scholarship Fund has helped more than 100 high school seniors who need financial aid and have demonstrated the Dan Jansen spirit toward life, education and overcoming adversity. Olympic speed skaters striving to realize their Olympic dream have been among those who also have benefited.

The goal this year for Dan and the Dan Jansen Foundation is to surpass the $1 million mark in total funds donated to worthy causes and those in need.

In honor of Jansen’s epic Olympic gold medal performance, a special Dan Jansen 25th (Gold turns Silver) Anniversary Tribute is being planned on Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisc.

Donors and participants are being invited to take a trip down memory lane with Jansen; catch up with an Olympic icon and one of Wisconsin’s favorite sons; and honor his achievements with special tributes from the likes of Olympic gold medalists Mike Eruzione (hockey), Kristi Yamaguchi (figure skating), Bonnie Blair (speedskating) and other luminaries. They’ll also be showing their support for the Dan Jansen Foundation.

In addition, Dan serves on the Board of Directors for Cool Kids Campaign Foundation. This foundation provides services and resources to children with cancer and their families in Baltimore, MD and soon in Charlotte, NC. To learn more about Cool Kids Campaign Foundation, go to coolkidscampaign.com

For information on the attending this charity fundraising event or making a donation to this, cause visit djfoundation.org or contact Sean Callahan, Executive Director Dan Jansen Foundation at 414-687-7781.

MORE: Catching up with Bonnie Blair

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