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Kerri Walsh Jennings ponders future with April Ross starting a family

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TORONTO – Kerri Walsh Jennings paused when asked about her plans for the 2017 beach volleyball season.

“For the first time in my career,” she said, “there are so many unknowns.”

Walsh Jennings won three Olympic gold medals with longtime partner Misty May-Treanor. When May Treanor was set to retire after the 2012 Olympics, Walsh Jennings wasted no time finding a new partner, approaching silver medalist April Ross at the net after the gold-medal match and telling her, “Let’s go win gold in Rio.”

Now Walsh Jennings, who won a bronze medal with Ross in Rio, heads into the offseason needing a partner for the 2017 season, with Ross planning on starting a family.

Walsh Jennings has “no idea” who she will play with next season. She is familiar with some of the top young players from the AVP Tour, but plans on doing more research this offseason. She hopes to get input from Ross.

Once Walsh Jennings identifies a couple of potential partners, she would like to host them for training sessions to see how they mesh. She does not have a definitive timeline, but she would like to have a partner in place for the start of the international beach volleyball season, which is expected to begin in early February.

“I don’t want to be hasty and just find an answer to have an answer,” Walsh Jennings said last week in an interview at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Finals in Toronto. “I want to do it right and take some time.”

Walsh Jennings, 38 and the mother of three, does not plan on having any more children. But she has encouraged Ross to start a family of her own.

“Having kids made me appreciate my job, my body and myself a lot more,” Walsh Jennings said.

Ross, 34, is married to Brad Keenan, a former beach volleyball player who is now the head coach of the Arizona State University beach volleyball team. Ross is hoping to get pregnant this offseason, but if not, she would play the 2017 season and try again next offseason.

“I don’t want to have to miss two seasons ideally,” she said.

Ross has asked Walsh Jennings many questions about returning to the sand after giving birth.

“She gives me a lot of confidence,” Ross said. “I tell her all the time, ‘I’m not going to be like you. You’re crazy, it was so easy for you.’ She said, ‘No, you’re going to be fine. It’s going to be easier than you think it is.’”

Walsh Jennings has not committed to trying to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She plans on evaluating how she feels at the end of each year.

“The way I work, I would like to know right now,” she said. “But that’s not the reality of the situation.”

Even if Walsh Jennings does try to compete at her sixth Olympics, there is no guarantee that she would reunite with Ross.

“If I keep playing and go to the next Olympics, there is nobody I’d rather play with,” Walsh Jennings said. “But there are no assumptions there. We would have to talk about it and figure it out.”

Walsh Jennings was in a similar situation prior to the 2011 season. After May-Treanor decided in 2010 that she would take the next year off, Walsh Jennings partnered with Nicole Branagh. But when May-Treanor had a change of heart, Walsh Jennings had a friendly split with Branagh and teamed up with May-Treanor again.

But Ross understands that she could be replaced if Walsh Jennings develops chemistry with her new partner.

“I wouldn’t say that there’s no part of me that doesn’t worry about it,” Ross said. “If at the end of the day that’s what happens, that’s what happens, and I’ll be OK with that. “

The 2016 season came to an end for Ross and Walsh Jennings last Friday when they lost to Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany in three sets in Toronto. Afterwards, they did their post-match interviews arm in arm.

When the pair was asked about their partnership, Walsh Jennings appeared to be holding back tears, and Ross stepped up to answer the question.

“We’re not done yet,” Ross said. “We’ll be back.”

Joey Mantia extends U.S. medal streak at speed skating worlds; Dutch dominance returns

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Joey Mantia ensured the host U.S. finished with a medal at the world single distances championships. Ireen WüstKjeld Nuis and Jorrit Bergsma ensured the Netherlands finished atop the medal standings.

Mantia joined Shani Davis as the only U.S. men to earn individual medals at three different editions of the championships, taking bronze in the 1500m on the last day of the speed skating meet at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Mantia won the mass start at the last two worlds in 2017 and 2019 (and finished fifth on Sunday, after the 1500m bronze).

Mantia clocked a personal best 1:42.16 in the fifth of 12 pairs of the 1500m. It held up until Nuis (1:41.66) and countryman Thomas Krol (1:41.73) in the last two pairs.

“Was starting to think that I’m so old that I can’t time trial anymore,” Mantia, a 34-year-old whose last 1500m personal best came in 2015, told media in Utah. “Maybe there’s a little bit of hope left.”

Mantia’s medal extended the U.S. streak of making the podium at every world championships this millennium — 16 straight. The single bronze is the smallest medal output since 2000.

Full results are here.

Wüst and Nuis gave the Dutch a sweep of the men’s and women’s 1500m titles, two years after they did the same at the PyeongChang Olympics. Bergsma, an Olympic and world 10,000m champion, earned his first global medal of any color — gold — in the 16-lap mass start.

The Netherlands failed to earn any golds on the first two days of the four-day competition. The dominant Dutch, who topped the medal standings at every Olympics and worlds dating to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, entered Sunday trailing Russia.

But Wüst began the day by clocking 1:50.92 to win the 1500m by .21 over Russian Yevgenia Lalenkova. American medal hope Brittany Bowe, the 2015 World champion who took bronze last year, finished 14th a day after taking eighth in her world-record 1000m distance.

Nuis and Krol went one-two in the men’s 1500m to tie Russia’s medal total. Then Irene Schouten took bronze in the women’s mass start to put the Netherlands ahead for good, followed by Bergsma’s capper.

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MORE: Shani Davis retires, takes new role in speed skating

Netherlands on the board; more world records at speed skating worlds

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It took four world records from other countries before the Netherlands won its first title in an Olympic program event at the world single distances speed skating championships.

Jutta Leerdam got the dominant skating nation on the board on the third day of the four-day competition and in the ninth Olympic program event. Leerdam scored an upset over defending champion and world-record holder Brittany Bowe, the American who ended up eighth.

Leerdam, 21, prevailed despite having zero World Cup podiums to her name. She clocked 1:11.84, just .23 slower than Bowe’s world record set on the same Utah Olympic Oval last year. Bowe, who recently had her yearlong win streak snapped in the 1000m, finished in 1:12.92.

“It’s a nightmare,” Bowe said, according to media on site.

Later, the Netherlands won the men’s team pursuit in a world record 3:34.68, the fifth world record in Olympic events the last two days on the world’s fastest ice at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Full results are here.

The world championships conclude Sunday, highlighted by American Joey Mantia defending his world title in the mass start.

In other Saturday events, both the men’s 1000m and women’s 5000m world records fell. On Friday, world records were lowered in the men’s 10,000m and women’s team pursuit.

Pavel Kulizhnikov followed his Friday world 500m title with the 1000m crown, repeating his double gold from 2016. Kulizhnikov was one of the Russians banned from the PyeongChang Olympics after he served a prior doping ban.

On Saturday, Kulizhnikov clocked 1:05.69 to take .49 off Dutchman Kjeld Nuis‘ record from last March, also set at Salt Lake City. Nuis, the Olympic 1000m and 1500m champion, took silver, 1.03 seconds behind.

Russian Natalya Voronina and Czech Martina Sablikova both went under Sablikova’s world record in the 5000m. Voronina came out on top in 6:39.02, 2.99 seconds faster than Sablikova’s record from a year ago and 2.16 seconds faster than Sablikova on Saturday.

Voronina’s time would have been the men’s world record as recently as 1993. Sablikova won the previous 10 world titles in the event dating to 2007.

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MORE: World Single Distances Championships broadcast schedule