A hard loss forced Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross out of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships before the quarterfinals, matching Walsh Jenning’s earliest exit from a Worlds or Olympics since 2001.
Walsh Jennings and Ross were undefeated in pool play and had a historic win over Paraguay on Wednesday. Walsh Jennings set personal records for Olympic or Worlds play for fewest points allowed in a match (16) and largest margin of victory in a set (15), according to BVBinfo.com.
But they were far less dominant when faced with China’s Wang Fan and Yue Yuan in the round of 16. The Americans lost two out of three tight matches: 21-19, 17-21 and 15-13.
In a FIVB interview after the loss, Walsh Jennings said, “I think serving was the difference. They got way more aces than we did. We missed too many and served a little more tentatively because of it.”
Walsh Jennings won gold at the 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics with former partner Misty May-Treanor. Now just 400 days out from the start of the Rio Olympics, Walsh Jennings will have a uphill battle in claiming a fourth gold in 2016. Only two athletes, Al Oerter and Carl Lewis, have won gold in the same event at four consecutive Olympics.
Four other U.S. teams advanced to the quarterfinals: Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat, Jacob Gibb and Casey Patterson, Nick Lucena and Theo Brunner, and John Hyden and Tri Bourne.
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.
Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.
Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.
She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.
Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.
Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.
Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.
The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.
Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.
Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.
The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.
In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.
Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.
“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”