April Ross, Lauren Fendrick take surprise silver at beach volleyball worlds

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Fewer than three months into their partnership, April Ross and Lauren Fendrick nearly scaled to the top of their sport.

Ross, the two-time Olympic medalist, and Fendrick, a Rio Olympian herself, took home silver from the world beach volleyball championships in Vienna on Saturday.

The Americans fell 19-21, 21-13, 15-9 in the final to German Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst.

Few expected the 35-year-olds to get that far, becoming the first U.S. men or women to earn world medals since Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor‘s silver in 2011.

Ross, after her split from triple Olympic champion Walsh Jennings, teamed up with Fendrick in the spring.

Ross has one of the top résumés in the sport — 2009 World gold and 2012 Olympic silver with Jennifer Kessy and 2016 Olympic bronze with Walsh Jennings.

But Fendrick came to Austria having never made a top-level international tournament final in 97 appearances dating to her 2008 debut, according to Bvbinfo.com.

In Vienna, Ross and Fendrick swept through their pool — dropping one set across three matches — and toughed out bracket play, needing the full three sets in the round of 32, round of 16 and the semifinals to meet the German champions.

Later on Saturday, the last remaining U.S. men’s team, Beijing Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, was eliminated by Russia’s Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Nikita Liamin in the quarterfinals.

The men’s semifinals and final will be played on Sunday. None of the teams from the Rio Olympic quarterfinals are still alive.

The U.S. was without its biggest star in Vienna. Walsh Jennings, 38, is missing worlds after dislocating her five-times surgically repaired right shoulder in a match with new partner Nicole Branagh two weeks ago.

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MORE: The beach volleyball player who turned down Kerri Walsh Jennings

World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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