April Ross
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April Ross looks ahead to 2016, ongoing Brazilian rivalry

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April Ross hasn’t won an individual FIVB annual award since 2012, but her play late this season merits accolades.

While three-time Olympic champion partner Kerri Walsh Jennings earned plenty of praise for returning twice from right shoulder dislocations, it was Ross who stepped up her game the most.

Walsh Jennings was effusive in interviews at the World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, Calif., in August, saying Ross was playing the best that Walsh Jennings had ever seen.

The duo, with Walsh Jennings primarily serving underhand and swinging with her left arm and Ross taking on more offensive responsibility, lost in the final in Long Beach and then played two more tournaments before Walsh Jennings ended her season to have a fifth right shoulder surgery.

But Ross kept on playing and will finish her campaign at the FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in two weeks, teaming with Lauren Fendrick while Walsh Jennings is out. NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will broadcast the finals live on Oct. 4 at 2:30 p.m. ET.

“It’s for sure tough, and it feels awkward,” Ross said in a phone interview of having a revolving door of partners this season. “I would obviously love to play with Kerri non-stop.”

Domestically, Ross won four AVP tournaments this year while using three partners — Walsh Jennings, then Jennifer Fopma for two titles and finally Fendrick in the AVP Championships in Huntington Beach, Calif., last week.

In Fort Lauderdale, Ross has her last chance at a first international tournament victory of 2015. She’s won at least one international title every full year she’s been on tour, since she was FIVB Rookie of the Year in 2007.

Ross said she will not play the remaining international events this fall and return to international play next season, either in late winter or early spring when the schedule starts up (depending on when Walsh Jennings is able to return).

Ross and Walsh Jennings’ challenges in the Olympic year are two-fold. One, qualifying for Rio.

They must play five FIVB World Tour events by June 12 to be eligible. There were six tournaments before that date on the 2015 schedule, so they will have little room for error and, more importantly, injuries next spring.

Second, winning in Rio. As of now, the favorites are Brazilians Larissa and Talita, who are also entered in the World Tour Finals and are 2-0 against Ross and Walsh Jennings.

Their first meeting was a preseason February one-set exhibition when Walsh Jennings and Ross weren’t in in-season form. The second, in the Long Beach final, came with Walsh Jennings playing with one good arm.

Larissa and Talita have won 10 of the 15 international events they’ve played since debuting in July 2014, a stretch of dominance reminiscent of Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor in past Olympic cycles.

Of course, Ross knows the challenge of both the Brazilian power pair and Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor.

She and Jennifer Kessy lost to Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor in May-Treanor’s final international match, the 2012 Olympic final.

Which is the tougher opponent — Larissa and Talita going into Rio, or Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor four years ago?

“They’re different beasts,” Ross said. “I think Misty and Kerri were definitely more formidable. I just don’t think we’ve had a good look at Larissa and Talita yet. … It’s weird how it’s shaping up. You would have totally thought we would’ve seen them a bunch, and we definitely haven’t.”

MORE: Kerri Walsh Jennings out until March

2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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Boston Marathon canceled for first time after 123 years; virtual event planned

Boston Marathon
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The Boston Marathon, held every year since 1897, has been canceled as an in-person event for the first time. It will be held as a virtual race instead due to the coronavirus.

“While we cannot bring the world to Boston in September, we plan to bring Boston to the world for an historic 124th Boston Marathon,” Boston Athletic Association (BAA) CEO Tom Grilk said in a press release.

The world’s oldest annual marathon had been postponed from April 20 to Sept. 14, it was announced March 13.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he first considered canceling the postponed marathon during a coronavirus surge in April.

“We were maxed out in our hospital emergency rooms,” Walsh said Thursday. “I realized that the downside of the curve, which we were on, the backside of the curve, is going to be going for some time. The concern of a second surge made me have some real reservations about can we have the marathon or not.”

Walsh said experts said a potential second surge would be between August and October. He held out hope to hold the race until talking with the BAA last week.

All participants originally registered for Boston will be offered a full refund of their entry fee and have the opportunity to participate in the virtual alternative, which can be run between Sept. 7-14.

More details, including entry information, will be announced in the coming weeks.

It’s the biggest alteration to the Boston Marathon, which was inspired by the marathon’s debut at the first modern Olympics in 1896. Previously, the biggest change came in 1918, the last year of World War I. The marathon was still held on Patriots’ Day in April but as a 10-man military relay race.

The original 2020 Boston elite fields included two-time U.S. Olympian Des Linden, the 2018 Boston winner who was fourth at the Feb. 29 Olympic Trials, where the top three earned Olympic spots.

London is the world’s other major spring marathon. It was rescheduled from April 27 to Oct. 4. Its original fields for April were headlined by the two fastest men in history — Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele. It’s unknown if they will remain in the field, should London happen.

The fall major marathon schedule

Boston — Sept. 7-14 (virtual event)
Berlin — TBD (will not be held as planned on Sept. 27)
London — Oct. 4
Chicago — Oct. 11
New York City — Nov. 1

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MORE: U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials results