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Kerri Walsh Jennings’ first choice for new partner said no

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Kerri Walsh Jennings may be the greatest beach volleyball player of all time, but she was reportedly turned down by her top choice for a new partner after splitting from April Ross.

Walsh Jennings had her eye on promising 22-year-old Sara Hughes after a four-year partnership with Ross ended in May.

“All I wanted to do was play with [Hughes],” Walsh Jennings said recently, according to ESPN.com.

Walsh Jennings reached out multiple times, but Hughes turned her down, according to the report.

Hughes, arguably the most promising U.S. beach prospect since Walsh Jennings in the early 2000s, chose to continue her budding partnership with former University of Southern California teammate Kelly Claes.

Hughes and Claes, while still at USC, were the only pair to take a set off Walsh Jennings and Ross in 2016 AVP play, losing in three sets a month and a half before Rio.

Hughes and Claes had scant international experience at the time and thus did not make the Rio Olympic team.

But this season, they have made two FIVB World Tour event quarterfinals after being part of a fourth straight NCAA title-winning team at USC. They’re one of the top U.S. pairs heading into the world championships in three weeks.

After Hughes declined, Walsh Jennings found her new partner later in May in Nicole Branagh, a 2008 Olympian and 38-year-old mother of two. Walsh Jennings, also 38, has three kids.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh lost their first three matches together before reaching the round of 16 in Gstaad, Switzerland, last week. (Walsh Jennings lost four straight overall dating to her last match with Ross, marking the longest losing streak in her 16-year career)

Walsh Jennings has repeated that she and Branagh will decide after this season whether they will continue playing together.

However, they both said they hope to play together through the Tokyo Olympics, according to ESPN, which also reported that Walsh Jennings may have retired after Rio had she and Ross won gold instead of bronze.

Come Tokyo 2020, Walsh Jennings and Branagh will both be older than any previous Olympic men’s or women’s indoor or beach volleyball player, according to Olympic historians.

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MORE: April Ross discusses playing without Kerri Walsh Jennings

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.

MORE: Katie Ledecky on her new suit, challenges for Tokyo 2020

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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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MORE: Finland ski jumping legend retires for third time