Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross

World Beach Volleyball Championships preview

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Three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings said last week her recovery from a dislocated right shoulder went so well that suffering the injury May 27 felt like a lifetime ago, but a Brazilian pair has earned the favorite label going into the World Championships.

Walsh Jennings is set to return to competition for the first time in a month at the World Championships in the Netherlands on Saturday. She and partner Olympic silver medalist April Ross open pool play against a Dutch pair at 3 p.m. ET. The knockout rounds start Tuesday, with the medal matches July 3-4.

It’s the biggest tournament for both Walsh Jennings and Ross since the London Olympics, when they were on opposite sides of the net in an all-American gold-medal match.

Walsh Jennings’ partner at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics, Misty May-Treanor, retired following London. Walsh Jennings planted the seed to continue on with Ross as her new partner immediately after the Olympic final, and they teamed up full time after Walsh Jennings gave birth to daughter Scout on April 6, 2013.

Walsh Jennings, a 36-year-old mother of three, and Ross were strong but inconsistent in their first full season together in 2014. They won four FIVB World Tour events, tying Brazilians Larissa and Talita for the most by one pair.

This season has not gone according to plan. Walsh Jennings and Ross were beaten by Larissa and Talita in a one-set exhibition in Rio de Janeiro in February, the pairs’ first meeting.

Walsh Jennings and Ross finished third in their first international event in China in April, followed the next month by Walsh Jennings’ injury in Moscow that forced the pair to withdraw.

Complete World Championships men’s, women’s schedules

Walsh Jennings suffered the injury diving for a ball.

“The athlete hit a cut shot, I dug it, laid-out flat, something I’ve done a million times before,” Walsh Jennings, who had four shoulder surgeries but did not require an operation for this injury, said last week. “It was just a fluke. The ground is really hard, and it happens really fast. I think I kind of misjudged the level of everything.

“It definitely hurt. It was just more a really raw feeling. The pain was manageable. I knew I didn’t tear anything.”

“My doctor just said I got the crap kicked out of my shoulder.”

Meanwhile, the Brazilians Larissa and Talita have just about picked up from where they left off in 2014, when they paired midway through the year and won their final four FIVB World Tour events.

This season, Larissa and Talita won their first two FIVB World Tour starts before missing a Norway event due to Talita’s leg injury and being upset in the round of 16 in St. Petersburg, Fla., last week.

At the World Championships, Larissa and Talita are seeded ahead of Walsh Jennings and Ross. Walsh Jennings said the Brazilians deserve to be the favorites.

“They’re very beatable” she said. “They’re very similar to a lot of teams on tour, but their consistency is what separates them. They’re a stereotypical Brazilian beach volleyball team — two very good athletes who come together and complement each other very well.

“My money’s on us, all things being equal, but we have to prove ourselves. We’re unproven. That’s something that drove us crazy last year, the consistency.”

Walsh Jennings won three straight World Championships with May-Treanor in 2003, 2005 and 2007, but she didn’t start putting much stock into the prestige of the event until 2011.

That’s when Larissa and her former partner, Juliana, beat Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor in the Poland final and celebrated with screams and group hugs and by autographing video cameras like tennis players.

“Over the top,” May-Treanor called it.

“That pissed me off,” Walsh Jennings said of that defeat last week.

Walsh Jennings missed the 2013 World Championships, where Ross played with Whitney Pavlik and finished fourth. China’s Xue Chen and Zhang Xi took the title. Zhang hasn’t played since 2013, and Xue isn’t entered in the Netherlands.

The top men’s seed at Worlds was to be Americans Phil Dalhausser (2008 Olympic champion) and Sean Rosenthal (two-time Olympian), but they’re out due to Dalhausser’s muscle tear, also suffered in Moscow, and Rosenthal’s knee tendonitis, according to the FIVB.

Their absence opens up an already deep field of pairs that could take gold. Pairs from 10 different nations won FIVB World Tour events last season, and the first six events this year have been won by pairs from six different nations.

The U.S. pairs at Worlds are former minor-league pitcher and 7-footer Ryan Doherty and John Mayer, 42-year-old 1996 and 2000 indoor volleyball Olympian John Hyden and Tri Bourne, Rosenthal’s 2008 and 2012 Olympic partner Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson and Nick Lucena and Theo Brunner.

Gibb and Patterson won the FIVB World Tour Grand Slam in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, their second FIVB World Tour title since pairing for the start of the 2013 season.

The World Championships field also includes defending champions from host Netherlands — Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen — and Brazilian legends Ricardo and Emanuel, at least one of whom earned a medal at each of the last four Olympics, together or separately.

In 2003 and 2007, both men’s and women’s World champions went on to take Olympic gold the following year. In 2011, the World champions, both from Brazil, did not capture Olympic titles the next year.

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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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