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

Tokyo Paralympic triathlon test event cancels swim due to water bacteria

AP
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TOKYO (AP) — High levels of bacteria forced the swimming portion of a triathlon test event for the Tokyo Paralympics to be canceled Saturday.

It’s the second setback in the triathlon for organizers of next year’s Olympics and Paralympics. An Olympic triathlon running event was shortened from 10km to 5km on Thursday because of what the International Triathlon Union (ITU) called “extreme levels” of heat.

Tokyo’s hot and humid summers are a major worry for Olympic organizers. The water issues are a reminder of the Rio Games, when high bacteria and virus levels were found in waters for sailing, rowing and open-water swimming.

In a statement, the ITU said E-coli levels were “more than two times over the ITU limits.” It said the water was at Level 4, the highest risk level.

E-coli bacteria, which normally live in the intestines of animals and people, can produce intestinal pain, diarrhea and a fever.

The venue in Tokyo Bay, called Odaiba, has been a concern for organizers, who have experimented with different measures to clean the water in the area, located in an urban part of central Tokyo.

The ITU is scheduled to hold it final test event on Sunday “depending on the latest water quality tests”, it said in a statement.

A few days ago the ITU described water quality conditions at the venue as “very good.” However, swimmers at a recent distance swimming event at the same venue complained of foul-smelling water.

The water temperature at the venue on Saturday was 84 degrees Fahrenheit, with the air temperature hovering above 90.

Tokyo spokesman Masa Takaya said “we are set to conduct a comprehensive review with the international federation.”

He said a triple-layer underwater screen will be installed for next year’s Olympics, replacing a single-layer.

“Based on the results of multiple research in the past, we believe that the multiple layer screen will assure the successful delivery of the competitions,” he said.

Filthy water plagued the Rio Olympics. The South American city lacks a functioning sanitation system for much of its population. Open water there tested high for bacteria and viruses, which confronted athletes in rowing, sailing and triathlon.

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MORE: Double DQ caps bizarre Tokyo Olympic triathlon test event

Women’s hurdlers take center stage as Diamond League hits crunch time; how to watch

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A showdown between world record holder Kendra Harrison (U.S.), reigning Olympic champion Brianna McNeal (U.S.) and 2019 world leader Danielle Williams (Jamaica) in the women’s 100-meter hurdles is the marquee event of the Diamond League meet Sunday in Birmingham, England.

With the track and field world championships not starting this year until Sept. 28, the Diamond League gets an uninterrupted run to its season finales Aug. 29 in Zurich and Sept. 6 in Brussels. The 32 Diamond League events are split between the two finales, with a $50,000 prize awaiting the winner of each final.

The last two meets before those finales — Sunday’s meet and the Aug. 24 meet in Paris — are all about qualifying for a shot at those final jackpots.

Birmingham will be the last chance to win points in the men’s 400m, women’s long jump, women’s 1,500m/mile, men’s javelin, women’s 100m hurdles, men’s 100m and women’s 200m. It’s the second-to-last chance in the women’s discus, women’s pole vault, men’s 400m hurdles, men’s high jump, women’s 3000m steeplechase and women’s 800m.

NBC Sports Gold streams live and commercial-free on Sunday, starting with field events at 7:15 a.m. Eastern and track events kicking off at 9 a.m. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs coverage Monday at 4 p.m.

The women’s 100m hurdles also features two Americans who need points to reach the final — Nia Ali and Queen Claye.

Other American athletes aiming to improve solid chances of qualifying include Raevyn Rogers (women’s 800m), Jenn Suhr (women’s pole vault), Mike Rodgers (men’s 100m), Valarie Allman (women’s discus), Michael Cherry (men’s 400m), Kahmari Montgomery (men’s 400m), Vernon Norwood (men’s 400m), David Kendziera (men’s 400m hurdles), Jeron Robinson (men’s high jump) and Courtney Frerichs (women’s 3,000m steeplechase)

Americans who have already qualified in these events include Ajee Wilson (women’s 800m) and Brittney Reese (women’s long jump), both of whom will be competing in Birmingham,

U.S. qualifiers Jenna Prandini (women’s 200m), Emma Coburn (women’s 3,000m steeplechase) and Sandi Morris (women’s pole vault) will not be in Birmingham. Christian Coleman (100m) withdrew from the meet on Friday, spoiling a showdown with Canada’s Andre De Graase and leaving the potential qualification of Jamaica’s Yohan Blake as the most interesting question.

Americans who may qualify in absentia, pending other results, include Justin Gatlin (100m), Noah Lyles (100m), Jenny Simpson (1,500m), Rai Benjamin (400m hurdles), TJ Holmes (400m hurdles), Michael Norman (men’s 400m), Nathan Strother (men’s 400m) and Fred Kerley (men’s 400m).

In a non-Diamond League event, U.S. champion Craig Engels brings his famous mullet to Birmingham in the 1,500 meters.

Here are the Birmingham entry lists and the current Diamond League standings. The schedule (all times Eastern, x-event not counted toward Diamond League standings):

7:45 a.m. — Women’s Discus
8:02 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Heat A
8:07 a.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
8:14 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Heat B
8:26 a.m. — x-Men’s 110m Hurdles
8:46 a.m. — Men’s 100m Heat A
8:55 a.m. — Men’s 100m Heat B
9:03 a.m. — Men’s 400m
9:10 a.m. — Women’s Long Jump
9:13 a.m. — Men’s 400m Hurdles
9:19 a.m. — Men’s High Jump
9:23 a.m. — Women’s Mile
9:33 a.m. — x-Women’s 100m
9:38 a.m. — Men’s Javelin
9:43 a.m. — x-Men’s 1,500m
9:55 a.m. — Women’s 3,000m Steeplechase
10:12 a.m. — x-Men’s 800m
10:22 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Final
10:32 a.m. — Men’s 100m Final
10:41 a.m. — Women’s 800m
10:52 a.m. — Women’s 200m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 8:07 a.m.
Suhr has no Diamond League points but has the world lead at 4.91 meters. Perennial contenders Katerina Stefanidi (Greece) and Yarisley Silva (Cuba) are also competing.

Men’s 400m — 9:03 a.m.
No one has clinched qualification yet, but Cherry is set to compete in Birmingham and should get through. Americans have the top four spots in the standings — Norman, Cherry, Strother and Kerley.

Women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase — 9:55 a.m.
World record holder Beatrice Chepkoech and three fellow Kenyans who have all qualified alongside Coburn will have their eyes on records.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — 10:22 a.m. final; 8:02 a.m. heats
Most of the top 12 on the world list this year and most of the hurdles who have clinched spots in the final will be here, including Williams and the American trio of Harrison, Sharika Nelvis and Christina Clemons. McNeal, who will run in the world championships with Harrison and Ali, will not qualify.

Women’s 200m — 10:52 a.m.
Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers, who’s aiming for her third straight world championship, has qualified but will race in Birmingham against equally accomplished sprinters Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas), who has won the last two Diamond League titles at this distance and the 2016 Olympic 400-meter gold, and Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, whose list of international honors is lengthy.

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