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David Oliver, Olympic hurdles medalist, retires

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David Oliver, perhaps the most consistent U.S. hurdler of the last decade, ends his track and field career with a unique, and shorter than expected, Olympic history.

Oliver, at 35, has retired, his agent, Daniel Wessfeldt, said by email Wednesday. Earlier, Oliver was announced as the director for the track and field program at his alma mater — Howard University.

From 2008 through 2016, Oliver finished in the top four in the annual world rankings in the 110m hurdles eight of nine years.

However, Oliver made just one Olympic team — in 2008, winning a bronze medal — and failed to qualify in 2012 and 2016 despite going into the Trials as a perceived favorite to finish top three.

Start with those Beijing Games. Unlike 2012 and 2016, Oliver went into 2008 with little fanfare. He had ranked sixth in the U.S. in the 110m hurdles in 2007 (though he made the world team, bowing out in the semifinals).

Oliver, who hurdles and played wide receiver at Howard, lowered his personal best from 13.14 to 12.95 in 2008. He went into the Olympics as the only man other than Cuban world-record holder Dayron Robles to break 13 seconds that year.

Oliver delivered in Rio, joining Robles and countryman David Payne on the podium. Oliver was aged for an Olympic rookie, at 26, but continued to improve in the following years as he developed a rivalry with Robles and 2004 Olympic champion Liu Xiang of China.

The muscle-bound Oliver’s battles with injuries began in 2009, when a calf kept him out of the U.S. Championships and worlds. Oliver rebounded in 2010, tying and then lowering the American record by .01 in back-to-back meets and posting the five fastest times that year.

Oliver again clocked the fastest time in the world in 2011, but it came in early June. He was fourth at worlds in late August. Injuries crept up again.

It was another troublesome calf that slowed Oliver to fifth place at the 2012 Olympic Trials — where he entered as the joint-second-fastest man in the U.S. that year but nowhere near his times from the previous seasons.

He came back in 2013 to win a world title in Moscow and break 13 seconds again in 2015, ranking No. 3 in the world for the year.

Oliver looked prime to return to the Olympics in 2016, ranking No. 2 in the world going into the Olympic Trials. But he pulled up after crossing the finish line in his semifinal with a hamstring injury and scratched out of the final later that day.

He returned this year but was significantly slower, failing to break 13.40 in six races, according to Tilastopaja.org. His last outing was a fifth-place finish at the USATF Outdoor Championships.

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April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

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