Phil Dalhausser, Sean Rosenthal look forward after split

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LONG BEACH, Calif. — When Phil Dalhausser boarded a flight to Seattle in early August, bound for an AVP tournament, he found a familiar figure in the seat beside him: Sean Rosenthal.

It was the first time they’d seen each other since Dalhausser decided to end their two-year partnership and make a run for Rio with former partner Nick Lucena, with whom he started his career in 2003.

“It was a little awkward for the first two minutes, and then we got to talking about sports and video games,” Dalhausser said in advance of this week’s World Series of Beach Volleyball (NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra, Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET, semifinals) and Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, finals)). “And then we started playing Monopoly on my phone, so it was all good after that.”

Dalhausser, a two-time Olympian who won gold in Beijing with Todd Rogers, suffered an oblique injury May 28 while playing in Moscow. After a week of rest and three more rebuilding his strength, Dalhausser returned to competition with Rosenthal in Yokohama, Japan. The duo was eliminated in the round of 16 on July 24.

When Dalhausser flew home to California after the tournament, he found an email from Lucena expressing his interest in playing together again. It had been on Dalhausser’s mind, too.

“I always envisioned finishing my career with Nick,” Dalhausser said. The two first met while attending college in Florida and lived together in South Carolina before moving to California to focus on their beach volleyball careers.

For Rosenthal, a 2008 and 2012 Olympian with Jake Gibb, the split was unexpected. He quickly teamed up with Lucena’s former partner, Theo Brunner.

“I mean, it’s beach volleyball, and it does happen,” Rosenthal said. “The only thing was the timing of it, and they didn’t give us any heads up.”

Dalhausser and Rosenthal, both 35, won three FIVB events in their first year together in 2013 and then three more in 2014, more than any other pair. They had not made the semifinals of an FIVB World Tour event since last August’s World Series of Beach Volleyball, which they won.

The switch means both pairs will start from scratch in the Olympic qualification process and must compete in 12 FIVB events before June 12, 2016. The weight of the swap falls hardest on Brunner, who was part of the second-ranked American team in Olympic qualifying with Lucena, behind Gibb and Casey Patterson.

Two AVP events in Seattle and Manhattan Beach served as warm-ups for both partnerships before this week’s FIVB World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, where both will strive to earn points toward Olympic qualification.

Dalhausser and Lucena finished second in Seattle and first in Manhattan Beach, while Brunner and Rosenthal finished fifth and seventh. Though the results do not factor into Olympic qualification, it gave Rosenthal an idea of the workload that awaits.

“We’ve got a long, bumpy road ahead of us,” he said. “If we’d had a start at the beginning of the year, I think we’d be right there battling teams for first and second spots. [Those] weren’t the exact finishes we want, but it was good to maybe get those losses now.”

Dalhausser and Rosenthal could be on opposite sides of the net this week for the first time since their split.

“We were kind of hoping to get a shot in Seattle or Manhattan, but we didn’t match up in the brackets,” Rosenthal said. “But hopefully we match up here. It would be cool to knock them out.”

Kerri Walsh Jennings returns at World Series of Beach Volleyball

FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

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Jenny Thompson’s new team is on the front line fighting coronavirus

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Two weeks ago, Jenny Thompson, the 12-time Olympic swimming medalist turned anesthesiologist, told close friends about the worrisome situation at her hospital in Charleston, S.C.

Thompson and her perioperative team of 40 or 50 were stressed that they would not have the most effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for when the coronavirus pandemic peaks there, projected to be later this month.

The messages caused fellow former Stanford swimmers and Olympic teammates Gabrielle Rose and Lea Maurer to act.

“She almost never asks for any sort of help or support,” Maurer said. “She’s Herculean in her ability to take on life and all its challenges.”

Rose and Maurer started a GoFundMe titled “Go Jenny Go” on March 22 for help to purchase PPE for the hospital. At the time, critical care doctors were “scrambling to piece together purchases on their own in anticipation of their high risk patients,” Maurer wrote.

Thompson said the PPE situation is better now. The GoFundMe was suspended Wednesday. Future support is directed to help those in New York City. Thompson specifically noted a GoFundMe for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

More than $9,000 was raised in less than two weeks. Also, the hospital started receiving more PPE on its own. Thompson’s team now feels prepared for what’s to come.

“People were responding and donating from all chapters of my life,” Thompson said by phone Thursday. “People I didn’t even know. Family from USA Swimming and international swimming. It’s really touched me to know that so many people care and are able to donate, help share the message.”

Thompson woke at 4 a.m. several days this week with thoughts of her peers in New York City. Healthcare workers there have cited a lack of PPE in putting their own lives at risk while they fight to save others. Some have contracted the virus.

“We’ve been fortunate [in South Carolina]. I feel lucky,” Thompson said. “We’ll definitely be in a place where we’re taking care of a lot of Covid patients, but we’re not there yet.

“I’ve heard people say, people in healthcare knew what they were signing up for. I never signed up to get sick and potentially die from this job. I always assumed that I would have the protection or the supplies needed to help me do my job, and that’s been a real struggle nationwide.”

Thompson went to medical school in New York at Columbia University starting in 2001.

“I’d been there maybe a couple weeks at Columbia, when 9/11 happened,” she said. “I remember feeling very helpless as a first-year medical student. I wanted to help so badly, but there really wasn’t much I could do. All my classmates felt the same way. I’ve always had that as part of the making of me as a doctor, having to go through crisis, but I never imagined a pandemic. I guess some people prepare for this sort of thing their whole life, but I didn’t.”

The term “front lines” has been applied to healthcare workers around the globe. Thompson said it’s apt at her hospital.

“We definitely have Covid here, but we have not had a major outbreak like some other cities,” she said. “We consider every patient who we give general anesthesia and intubate to be a potential risk. As anesthesia providers and people who intubate the airway, we are on the front line. We are at a much higher risk of getting sick without the right PPE.”

Thompson’s team feels more ready for the peak with every passing day. They’re simulating, donning and doffing and scheduling to work longer shifts starting next week. The preparation extends home, where she has a husband and three children.

“I have, like, four different pairs of shoes,” Thompson said. “I spray my socks with fabric disinfectant. I take them off in the car, and then I put on flip-flops. Then when I get home, I shower and put my clothes in the wash immediately. It’s a strange place to be, but just consider everything I touch to be contaminated in an effort to protect myself.”

Both Rose and Maurer still see in Thompson that swimmer who awed them in college. As Thompson trained to become the most decorated female U.S. Olympian in history, she studied at Stanford and then Columbia to become a doctor.

“I knew I wanted to take care of critically ill patients,” she said.

As a swimmer, Thompson was known as the ultimate teammate. Eight Olympic gold medals in relays, often an anchor. Always there. Dependable.

“She knows that she’s going to make a difference,” Maurer said. “She knows that she’s going to achieve that goal. She knows that she’s going to help to make people better. And so she does it.”

Thompson believes the next few weeks will be unlike anything she’s ever faced.

“Everybody was sort of freaking out in the beginning and feeling very stressed, and I think that at some level has not gone away,” she said. “That’s going to stay with us, but we have a we-can-do-this-together fighting mentality that we are leaning on each other for. It’s really no different than being a part of any kind of team.”