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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.

Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned 4 years

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Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017, according to track and field’s doping watchdog organization.

The ban is backdated to Feb. 3, 2018, when the 29-year-old was provisionally suspended after the failed test.

Kiprop repeatedly denied doping since last May, when he first acknowledged the positive test. Most recently, a 3,000-word defense from his lawyer was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page.

Kiprop’s defenses included saying he was a victim of extortion and that he was offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied the latter last May.

A disciplinary panel dismissed six defenses from exonerating him, including the possibility his sample was spiked, in handing out the four-year ban.

Kiprop, the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade, can appeal the ban.

At 19, he finished second in the Beijing Olympic 1500m but was upgraded to gold a year later after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test. He is the youngest Olympic 1500m medalist of all time, according to the OlyMADMen.

Kiprop went on to earn three straight world titles in the 1500m in 2011, 2013 and 2015, matching the feats of retired legends Noureddine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj.

He struggled in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, finishing last in the London final with a hamstring injury and sixth in the Rio final won by American rival Matthew Centrowitz.

Kiprop has targeted El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26:00, missing the mark by .69 of a second in 2015.

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Maggie Nichols is second woman in 20 years to repeat as NCAA all-around champ

Maggie Nichols
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Oklahoma junior and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols became the first woman to repeat as NCAA all-around champion in 12 years, returning from a heel injury to compete on all four events for the first time since January on Friday.

Nichols, a Rio Olympic hopeful before being beset by a torn meniscus in 2016, joined 2004 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Kupets as the only women to win back-to-back NCAA all-arounds in the 2000s.

A junior, Nichols can next year join Jenny Hansen as the only women to three-peat in NCAA history.

Oklahoma goes for a third team title in four years on Saturday night against UCLA (featuring Olympic champions Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross), LSU and Denver.

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NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Individual Results
All-Around
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) — 39.7125
2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) — 39.6625
2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) — 39.6625
4. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 39.65
5. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 39.6

Vault
1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 9.95
1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Uneven Bars
1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 9.95

Balance Beam
1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) — 9.95

Floor Exercise
1. Alicia Boren (Florida) — 9.95
1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)