Kerri Walsh Jennings pain free after first tournaments back from surgery

Kerri Walsh Jennings
Getty Images

NEW YORK (AP) — Kerri Walsh Jennings enjoyed two weeks of pain-free beach volleyball competition in Brazil, testing her surgically-repaired shoulder in the hopes of qualifying for the Rio Olympics.

The three-time Olympic gold medalist played her first matches after a six-month layoff following surgery on her torn right labrum and capsule.

“Amazing. Didn’t think about it once, which is shocking,” Walsh Jennings said Tuesday during a stopover on her way home to California. “There’s no pain and I just need to keep getting stronger. I feel very confident we’ll qualify and win.”

She’s teaming up with April Ross in an attempt to win her fourth gold medal. They recently won the Rio Grand Slam in Copacabana, the site of the Olympic venue this summer, before losing to the No. 1 Brazilian team at the Vitoria Open.

“My trainer said, ‘Let’s just take a moment and think about what just happened — 14 days of playing, there were 30-something sets and not one scare,’” she said.

There was reason for concern after Walsh Jennings dislocated her right shoulder twice in two months last summer, had surgery in September and returned to training in January.

“My labrum tore off the bone, the labrum itself didn’t tear,” she said. “So actually, oddly, it made recovery a little easier.”

So how did her shoulder feel after all that volleyball on the beaches of Brazil?

“Awesome. It felt really good, it would get tired, but that’s nothing abnormal,” she said. “I felt really strong. I didn’t want to come back at 80 percent. I didn’t want any setbacks.”

On Sunday, Walsh Jennings and Ross lost to Brazilians Larissa and Talita in what could be a preview of the final in Rio. They’ve been the toughest team so far, beating the Americans twice in the past year and snapping a 13-0 winning streak.

“The more we play them, the better for us,” Walsh Jennings said. “We played them when I was playing left handed [because of her injury]. This last time we were almost at full strength. We were up 16-11 and let that slip away in game one. They played out of their minds, which is what they’re going to have to do to beat us.”

The Americans have played nine Olympic qualifying events and need to compete in 12 before the June deadline. They must be ranked among the top 16 teams in the world and at least the No. 2 U.S. team to qualify for Rio. They’ve already reached that mark and their ranking will only improve after the results in Brazil.

Walsh Jennings last played at the Copacabana in September, three days before her surgery. This time, she had better memories.

“Every visual image, every sensory experience I put it in my pocket so I could take it home with me and create the vision and the masterpiece,” she said. “When we go back in August, we’re just going to be so ready.”

Walsh Jennings also had shoulder surgery several months before her last two Olympics and won gold with partner Misty May-Treanor. She was pregnant with her third child, Scout, while winning gold at the 2012 London Games.

Walsh Jennings said she’s not overly concerned about the outbreak in parts of Brazil of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which can cause birth defects. She said it wasn’t a topic of conversation in Rio.

“I understand it’s a health concern when the World Health Organization is involved and babies are involved,” she said. “I’ll educate myself about all the remedies and preventatives and cover up.”

Next she’ll team with her partner in two Olympic qualifying events in China in April, followed by another in Cincinnati in May. By then, the duo hopes to be one step closer to returning to the sands of Copacabana in August.

MORE: Logan Tom continues volleyball career in Indonesia

U.S. men’s gymnastics team named for world championships

Asher Hong
Allison and John Cheng/USA Gymnastics

Asher Hong, Colt Walker and world pommel horse champion Stephen Nedoroscik were named to the last three spots on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Brody Malone and Donnell Whittenburg earned the first spots on the team by placing first and second in the all-around at August’s U.S. Championships.

Hong, Walker and Nedoroscik were chosen by a committee after two days of selection camp competition in Colorado Springs this week. Malone and Whittenburg did not compete at the camp.

Hong, 18, will become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009. He nearly earned a spot on the team at the U.S. Championships, but erred on his 12th and final routine of that meet to drop from second to third in the all-around. At this week’s camp, Hong had the lowest all-around total of the four men competing on all six apparatuses, but selectors still chose him over Tokyo Olympians Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus.

Walker, a Stanford junior, will make his world championships debut. He would have placed second at nationals in August if a bonus system for attempting difficult skills wasn’t in place. With that bonus system not in place at the selection camp, he had the highest all-around total. The bonus system is not used at international meets such as world championships.

Nedoroscik rebounded from missing the Tokyo Olympic team to become the first American to win a world title on pommel horse last fall. Though he is the lone active U.S. male gymnast with a global gold medal, he was in danger of missing this five-man team because of struggles on the horse at the U.S. Championships. Nedoroscik, who does not compete on the other five apparatuses, put up his best horse routine of the season on the last day of the selection camp Wednesday.

Moldauer, who tweeted that he was sick all last week, was named the traveling alternate for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. It would be the first time that Moldauer, who was fourth in the all-around at last fall’s worlds, does not compete at worlds since 2015.

Though the U.S. has not made the team podium at an Olympics or worlds since 2014, it is boosted this year by the absence of Olympic champion Russia, whose athletes are banned indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine. In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

The U.S. women’s world team of five will be announced after a selection camp in two weeks. Tokyo Olympians Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles are in contention.

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Paris 2024 Olympic marathon route unveiled

Paris 2024 Olympic Marathon
Paris 2024

The 2024 Olympic marathon route will take runners from Paris to Versailles and back.

The route announcement was made on the 233rd anniversary of one of the early, significant events of the French Revolution: the Women’s March on Versailles — “to pay tribute to the thousands of women who started their march at city hall to Versailles to take up their grievances to the king and ask for bread,” Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said.

Last December, organizers announced the marathons will start at Hôtel de Ville (city hall, opposite Notre-Dame off the Seine River) and end at Les Invalides, a complex of museums and monuments one mile southeast of the Eiffel Tower.

On Wednesday, the rest of the route was unveiled — traversing the banks of the Seine west to the Palace of Versailles and then back east, passing the Eiffel Tower before the finish.

The men’s and women’s marathons will be on the last two days of the Games at 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET). It will be the first time that the women’s marathon is held on the last day of the Games after the men’s marathon traditionally occupied that slot.

A mass public marathon will also be held on the Olympic marathon route. The date has not been announced.

The full list of highlights among the marathon course:

• Hôtel de ville de Paris (start)
• Bourse de commerce
• Palais Brongniart
• Opéra Garnier
• Place Vendôme
• Jardin des Tuileries
• The Louvre
• Place de la Concorde
• The bridges of Paris
(Pont de l’Alma; Alexandre III;
Iéna; and more)
• Grand Palais
• Palais de Tokyo
• Jardins du Trocadéro
• Maison de la Radio
• Manufacture et Musées
nationaux de Sèvres
• Forêt domaniale
des Fausses-Reposes
• Monuments Pershing –
• Château de Versailles
• Forêt domaniale de Meudon
• Parc André Citroën
• Eiffel Tower
• Musée Rodin
• Esplanade des Invalides (finish)

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