Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross
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Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross forge ahead after notable phone conversation

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NEW YORK — Kerri Walsh Jennings says she has no doubt she will win a fourth straight Olympic gold medal in Rio, but, after dislocating her right shoulder twice this season to require a fifth career surgery on the shoulder, she had this to say two months ago to partner April Ross, with her surgeon also present:

“You know, if you’re going to pick someone else up and play, make sure it’s somebody you picture yourself going to the Olympics with,” Ross said, recalling the summer phone call on The Net Live on Monday. “I kind of laughed, and I was like, you know I don’t really doubt us. I’m not going to make a run with somebody else. I had faith that we would make it happen.”

Walsh Jennings confirmed the conversation before a TODAY appearance on Wednesday, promoting her fourth straight Olympic partnership with Visa (with whom she made this memorable 2004 Super Bowl commercial).

Walsh Jennings, a 37-year-old mother of three, tweaked that first quote from Ross. She said, “make sure it’s somebody you picture yourself winning a gold medal with.”

Walsh Jennings dislocated her right shoulder in a match for the second time in two months on July 10 in Gstaad, Switzerland, and this time it was worse, a tear that required surgery.

Walsh Jennings didn’t immediately know when she’d need the surgery, but it was possible that she’d require it before being able to return to competition. That could have knocked out the Olympic qualifying hopes for her and the 2012 silver medalist Ross, who at the time needed at least eight more international tournament appearances by June to be eligible to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

If Walsh Jennings is unable to play in Rio, then so is Ross, unless Ross somehow played 12 total international events with another partner to be eligible.

“Had the worst case happen where I couldn’t have any more finishes, I wanted [Ross] to be taken care of,” Walsh Jennings said. “Basically, I care for her. She deserves to fight for a gold medal. If it’s not me, I wanted her to find the best substitute.”

Ross ended up finding two replacement partners, Jennifer Fopma and Lauren Fendrick, the latter with whom she’ll play at the FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., next week.

But that’s mainly for Ross to stay sharp (and for Fendrick, too, has her partner has been injured). Walsh Jennings was able to play three more tournaments after that conversation with Ross and her surgeon, before undergoing surgery earlier this month.

She plans to return next spring, and she and Ross are in favorable shape to qualify for Rio.

Ross said the thought of finding a new, permanent partner never crossed her mind.

“The only time I would’ve thought about that is if it turned into a career-ending injury [for Walsh Jennings],” she said on The Net Live.

Walsh Jennings considered it important to have that conversation with Ross, at least in part due to what happened in 2004.

That year, Walsh Jennings and then-partner Misty May-Treanor steamrolled toward the Olympics with a 90-match winning streak. But May-Treanor suffered an abdominal injury in May 2004, played through it in June, reaggravated it and missed most of July before the Athens Olympics in August.

“She tore her ab pretty significantly,” Walsh Jennings, who played with two different partners that summer while May-Treanor healed, said Wednesday. “I had no doubt she’d be back, but the media and the outside and people who care for me were like, ‘Are you taken care of? Is [May-Treanor] coming back?’ It just put doubts in my head. That’s why I thought it was really important for April and I to stay really close in that conversation [this year].”

May-Treanor did come back, and she and Walsh Jennings didn’t drop a set en route to winning their first of three straight Olympic gold medals.

MORE BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Kerri Walsh Jennings on her Super Bowl commercial, toughest loss and more

Heimana Reynolds wins skateboard world title, nears an Olympic goal from age 10

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In February 2009, a 10-year-old Heimana Reynolds was profiled by his local NBC TV station on Oahu.

“My goal is to become a professional skateboarder and compete in the X Games and the Olympics,” he said, according to the report.

Skateboarding would not be added to the Olympics for another seven years. But here Reynolds is, age 21, having just won the world title in park, one of two skateboarding events that debut at the Games in Tokyo.

Reynolds, who wasn’t named to the four-man U.S. national team in March, consolidated his lead in the Olympic qualification rankings by prevailing over a pair of Brazilians in Sao Paulo on Sunday.

A shirtless Reynolds scored 88 points in the final, beating Luis Francisco (85.50) and Pedro Quintas (85).

No more than three Americans can make the Olympic team in the event, which will make it difficult if three-time Olympic halfpipe snowboarding champion Shaun White decides to continue his skateboarding pursuit. White was the sixth-best American, bowing out in the semifinals in 13th place on Saturday in just his second contest since returning to competitive skating last year.

Back to Reynolds. He grew up on the North Shore and attended the Punahou School, where Barack Obama is the most famous alum. His first name is Tahitian, reportedly referring to the power of Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Reynolds, the son of a surfer, proved a natural on land. After pre-teen media profiles, he blossomed into a world silver medalist last year. He won an Olympic qualifier in China in July to take the top spot in the Olympic rankings despite a best career X Games finish of sixth.

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Primoz Roglic, ex-ski jumper, wins Vuelta a Espana

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In a year of new talent in cycling, a former world junior champion ski jumper won the last Grand Tour.

Primoz Roglic, a 2007 World junior team ski jumping champion, won the Vuelta a Espana, becoming the first Slovenian to capture a Grand Tour. He prevailed by 2 minutes, 16 seconds over Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde after Sunday’s final stage, a largely ceremonial ride into Madrid.

“Not much words to say about it,” Roglic said in a speech atop the podium. “See you next races.”

Roglic, 29, became the fifth straight first-time Grand Tour champion dating to Geraint Thomas‘ 2018 Tour de France title.

Roglic benefited from Thomas and other stars like Chris Froome skipping the Vuelta, but he also had the credentials, having finished fourth in the 2018 Tour and third in this year’s Giro d’Italia.

Valverde deserves acclaim, too, having, at age 39, made his ninth Grand Tour podium and seventh at the Vuelta. Valverde, the reigning world road race champion, has gone 16 years between his first and most recent Vuelta podium. He also had a record-breaking 19th Grand Tour top 10, according to Gracenote.

Then there’s third-place finisher Tadej Pogacar, a 20-year-old Slovenian who became the youngest Grand Tour podium finisher since 1974.

Roglic, who suffered this scary crash before leaving ski jumping, joined Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz and Colombian Egan Bernal as this year’s Grand Tour winners. All ride for different teams.

Roglic is with Jumbo-Visma, which also includes this year’s Tour de France third-place finisher Steven Kruijswijk and will include, starting in 2020, 2018 Tour de France runner-up Tom Dumoulin.

Kruijswijk abandoned the Vuelta with a knee injury in the fourth stage. Dumoulin did not start the Vuelta.

The road cycling season continues with the world championships in Yorkshire, Great Britain, later this month.

MORE: Chris Froome: Pre-Tour de France crash like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ scene

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