U.S. beach volleyball stars painfully exit in season’s first Grand Slam

Sean Rosenthal, Phil Dalhausser
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U.S. Olympic beach volleyball champions Kerri Walsh Jennings and Phil Dalhausser suffered injuries in the biggest tournament of the season to date last week, less than a month before the World Championships.

Walsh Jennings, a three-time gold medalist and 36-year-old mother of three, injured her right shoulder in pool play at the Moscow Grand Slam on Wednesday and flew home before the elimination rounds.

Her partner, 2012 Olympic silver medalist April Ross, said the pair hopes to return to competition at an FIVB World Tour event in Stavanger, Norway, next week, two weeks before Worlds in the Netherlands.

After the top U.S. pair’s exit, top Brazilian pair Larissa and Talita went on to take the title in Moscow while dropping one set in seven matches. Larissa and Talita and Walsh Jennings and Ross both won four FIVB World Tour events last season, twice as many as any other pair.

Larissa and Talita, who first partnered during the 2014 season, beat Walsh Jennings and Ross in their only meeting, a one-set exhibition in Rio de Janeiro in February.

On the men’s side, 2008 U.S. Olympic gold medalist Phil Dalhausser said he tore his left oblique a little bit during the first set of his last pool-play match in Moscow. Dalhausser said he probably made the injury worse by playing through it with partner and two-time Olympian Sean Rosenthal and underwent an MRI, according to an FIVB press release.

Rosenthal said he would play with a different partner this week and next week in Europe, while Dalhausser, 35, said on Twitter he would go home for a few weeks.

Spain’s Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira were the surprise champions in Moscow, the first Spanish pair to prevail in an FIVB World Tour event since 2008. They lost in the round of 16 at the 2012 Olympics and the quarterfinals of the 2013 World Championships.

Also of note, Brazilian legends Ricardo and Emanuel were eliminated in the quarterfinals in Moscow. Emanuel, 42, and Ricardo, 40, earned medals at each of the last four Olympics, together or separately.

A nation may enter no more than two men’s and two women’s pairs in an Olympic beach volleyball tournament. Two other Brazilian pairs advanced further than Ricardo and Emanuel in Moscow, a tournament whose results play into Brazil’s Olympic qualification system.

The men’s elite international field is widespread. Pairs from 10 different nations won tournaments in 2014, and the first three winners of 2015 were from three different nations.

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Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

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Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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