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

Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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