Jennifer Kessy

Jennifer Kessy, Emily Day form new beach volleyball partnership

Leave a comment

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

2020 Tour de France standings

1 Comment

2020 Tour de France results for the yellow jersey, green jersey, white jersey and polka-dot jersey …

Overall (Yellow Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:05
2. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — +:59
3. Richie Porte (AUS) — +3:30
4. Mikel Landa (ESP) — +5:58
5. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — +6:47
7. Tom Dumoulin (NED) — +7:48
8. Rigberto Uran (COL) — +8:02
9. Adam Yates (GBR) — +9:25
10. Damiano Caruso (ITA) — +14:03
13. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — +25:53
15. Sepp Kuss (USA) — +42:20
17. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +1:03:07
29. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) — +1:59:54
36. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) — +2:19:11
DNF. Egan Bernal (COL)

Sprinters (Green Jersey)
1. Sam Bennett (IRL) — 380 points
2. Peter Sagan (SVK) — 284
3. Matteo Trentin (ITA) — 260
4. Bryan Coquard (FRA) — 181
5. Wout van Aert (BEL) — 174

Climbers (Polka-Dot Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 82 points
2. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — 74
3. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — 67
4. Marc Hirschi (SUI) — 62
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — 51

Young Rider (White Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:13
2. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
3. Valentin Madouas (FRA) — +1:42:43
4. Dani Martinez (COL) — +1:55:12
5. Lennard Kamna (GER) — +2:15:39

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage | Favorites, Predictions

Tadej Pogacar, Slovenia win Tour de France for the ages

Leave a comment

A Tour de France that almost didn’t happen ended up among the most exciting in the race’s 117-year history.

Tadej Pogacar, a 21-year-old Slovenian, rode into Paris on Sunday as the first man in more than 60 years to pedal in the yellow jersey for the first time on the final day of a Tour.

Let’s get the achievements out of the way: Pogacar is the first Slovenian to win the Tour, finishing with the other overall leaders behind stage winner Sam Bennett on the Champs-Elysees.

“Even if I would come second or last, it wouldn’t matter, it would be still nice to be here,” Pogacar said. “This is just the top of the top. I cannot describe this feeling with the words.”

He is the second-youngest winner in race history, after Henri Cornet in 1904. (Cornet won after the first four finishers were disqualified for unspecified cheating. The 19-year-old Frenchman rode 21 miles with a flat tire during the last stage after spectators reportedly threw nails on the road.)

Pogacar is the first man to win a Tour in his debut since Frenchman Laurent Fignon in 1983.

And he’s part of a historic one-two for Slovenia, a nation with the population of Houston.

Countryman Primoz Roglic, who wore the yellow jersey for nearly two weeks before ceding it after Saturday’s epic time trial, embraced Pogacar after a tearful defeat Saturday and again during Sunday’s stage.

Tasmanian Richie Porte, who moved from fourth place to third on Saturday, made his first Tour podium in his 10th start, a record according to ProCyclingStats.com. The age range on the Paris gloaming podium — more than 13 years — is reportedly the largest in Tour history.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

Three men on a Tour de France podium in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, each for the first time. Hasn’t been done since 2007, arguably the first Tour of a new era.

This Tour feels similarly guard-changing.

It barely got off, delayed two months by the coronavirus pandemic. Two days before the start, France’s prime minister said the virus was “gaining ground” in the nation and announced new “red zones” in the country, including parts of the Tour route.

Testing protocols meant that if any team had two members (cyclists or staff) test positive before the start or on either rest day, the whole team would be thrown out.

It never came to that. Yet the Tour finishes without 2019 champion, Colombian Egan Bernal, who last year became the first South American winner and, at the time, the youngest in more than 100 years.

Bernal abandoned last Wednesday after struggling in the mountains. His standings plummet signaled the end, at least for now, of the Ineos Grenadiers dynasty after five straight Tour titles dating to Chris Froome and the Team Sky days.

Jumbo-Visma became the new dominant team. The leader Roglic was ushered up climbs by several Jumbo men, including Sepp Kuss, the most promising American male cyclist in several years.

What a story Roglic was shaping up to be. A junior champion ski jumper, he was concussed in a training crash on the eve of what would have been his World Cup debut in 2007. Roglic never made it to the World Cup before quitting and taking up cycling years later.

As Roglic recovered from that spill in Planica, Pogacar had his sights on the Rog Ljubljana cycling club about 60 miles east. Little Tadej wanted to follow older brother Tilen into bike racing, but the club didn’t have a bike small enough.

The following spring, they found one. Pogacar was off and pedaling. In 2018, at age 18, he was offered a contract and then signed with UAE Team Emirates, his first World Tour team. The next year, Pogacar finished third at the Vuelta a Espana won by Roglic, becoming the youngest Grand Tour podium finisher since 1974.

Pogacar was initially slated to support another rider, Fabio Aru, for UAE Emirates at this year’s Tour. But his continued ascent propelled him into a team leader role.

Bernal and Roglic entered the Tour as co-favorites. After that, Pogacar was among a group of podium contenders but perhaps with the highest ceiling.

He stayed with the favorites for much of the Tour, save losing 81 seconds on the seventh stage, caught on the wrong end of a split after a crash in front of him.

“I’m not worried,” Pogacar said that day. “We will try another day.”

The next day, actually. He reeled back half of the lost time, putting him within striking distance of Roglic going into Saturday’s 22-mile time trial, the so-called “race of truth.”

Pogacar put in a performance in the time trial that reminded of Greg LeMond‘s epic finale in 1989. Pogacar won the stage by 81 seconds, greater than the margin separating second place from eighth place. Roglic was a disappointing fifth on the day, but he could have finished second and still lost all of his 57-second lead to Pogacar.

Pogacar turns 22 on Monday, but that might not add much to the celebration.

“Sorry,” he said, “but I’m not really a fan of my birthdays.”

MORE: USA Cycling names Olympic team finalists

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!