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Walsh Jennings, Ross fall in beach volleyball semis

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After winning three straight Olympic gold medals, Kerri Walsh Jennings won’t have the opportunity to extend that streak to four.

Brazil’s tandem of Agatha and Barbara ended the streak, beating the tandem of Walsh Jennings and April Ross in straight sets, 22-20, 21-18 at Copacobana Beach. Prior to Tuesday night Walsh Jennings had a 26-0 record in Olympic beach volleyball matches, but contrary to the expectations that come with said experience it was she who struggled against the Brazilians. Passes were off, and kills that were converted on such a consistent basis were either off the mark or blocked by Agatha and Barbara.

WongAgatha and Barbara “took it to the Americans”

But even with the struggles of the Americans, Agatha and Barbara deserve credit for what happened. Their defensive ability combined with the skill of mixing things up offensively, going with power at some points and placement at others, made it tough for Walsh Jennings and Ross to establish any kind of momentum.

Next up for Agatha and Barbara will be Germany’s Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst, who eliminated Brazil’s Larissa and Talita in Tuesday’s other semifinal. Walsh Jennings and Ross can still win a medal, as they’ll face Larissa and Talita for the bronze medal Wednesday night.

The loss itself isn’t an upset, with Agatha and Barbara being the two-seed in the tournament and an accomplished duo in their own right. But with Walsh Jennings being undefeated in Olympic play going into the match and she and Ross playing good volleyball throughout their time in Rio, this was a result few expected.

In the men’s bracket, Brazil’s Alison and Bruno Schmidt will look to win gold when they take on Italy’s Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo Thursday night. Nicolai and Lupo advanced to the gold medal match with a three-set win over Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Konstantin Semenov of Russia, 15-21, 21-16, 15-13.

Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

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Simon Ammann believes ski jumping career end is near

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Simon Ammann, the most decorated active ski jumper with four Olympic gold medals, said it is hard to imagine competing beyond this season, according to Swiss newspaper Blick.

Ammann, 37, swept the individual Olympic titles in 2002 and 2010 to join retired Finn Matti Nykänen as the only four-time Olympic ski jumping champs.

In PyeongChang, his sixth Olympics, Ammann placed 11th and 13th, one month after making his first World Cup podium in nearly three years. He decided after those Winter Games that he would continue at least one more season, but has no plan to go all the way to a seventh Olympics in 2022, according to Blick.

Ammann has teased retirement since at least 2011 and even said going into the 2014 Sochi Olympics that he was “99 percent sure” they would be his final Games.

The now-father of two first gained crossover celebrity with his surprise Salt Lake City 2002 gold medals, his first wins in top-level international competition. The bespectacled Ammann’s victory screams and resemblance to Harry Potter helped land him on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and one of Europe’s biggest shows, sitting next to Shakira.

Fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan holds the Winter Olympic record of eight appearances. Kasai, 46, has said he plans to go for a ninth participation at Beijing 2022.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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