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U.S. men end volleyball worlds medal drought; Poland repeats as champion

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The U.S. men’s volleyball team heads into the Olympics as a world championship medalist for the first time since the Atlanta Games, taking bronze at the quadrennial tournament that wrapped Sunday.

The Americans, after losing to eventual world champ Poland in the semifinals, came back to beat Serbia 23-25, 25-17, 32-30, 25-19 in the bronze-medal game, its first world medal since 1994.

The U.S. played Serbia 17 hours after its five-set semifinal loss that ended at 11:53 p.m. in Torino.

“It’s really hard to play bronze-medal matches; we unfortunately know that,” said U.S. coach John Speraw, referencing the Rio Olympics, where the U.S. blew a two sets-to-one semifinal lead over Italy but overcame a 2-0 deficit to down Russia for bronze. “I didn’t get to sleep until 4 in the morning.”

The U.S. roster of 14 included eight Rio Olympic bronze medalists. Micah Christenson was named best setter of the tournament. Matt Anderson was best opposite.

Later Sunday, Poland repeated as world champion, sweeping Olympic gold medalist Brazil in the final. The Brazilians reached the final of the last five worlds and the last four Olympics.

In 2014, Poland had an epic run to gold, claiming its first title since 1974 and becoming the first host nation since Czechoslovakia in 1966 to prevail. Poland was fifth at the 2012 Olympics and ranked fifth in the world before that tournament.

More than 12,000 spectators watched that gold-medal final inside Spodek Hall, including the Polish president. More than 15,000 followed it outside the arena on big screens, according to the FIVB.

This Olympic cycle is the first for the U.S. men without any ties to its 2008 Olympic champion team (so far). The two gold medalists who made the Rio roster — David Lee and Reid Priddy — spent the summer playing beach volleyball on the AVP tour.

The U.S. last earned a world title in 1986.

MORE: U.S. volleyball’s ‘Slugger’ goes from coaching to MVP

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Watch Danell Leyva splash out of American Ninja Warrior

Danell Leyva
NBC
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Triple Olympic medalist Danell Leyva became the latest gymnast to appear on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” splashing out of the “Leaps of Faith” in the latter portion of the course in the Los Angeles City Finals that aired Monday.

Leyva’s full run can be seen at the 44-minute mark here.

Leyva, a 27-year-old who took all-around bronze at the 2012 London Games and then retired with parallel bars and high bar silver in Rio, was cheered on by 2012 Olympic teammates Jonathan Horton and John Orozco. He previously completed the course at the Los Angeles City qualifier.

Horton has tackled ANW five times, according to the broadcast. Other gymnasts to appear on the show included Olympic all-around champions Nastia Liukin and Paul Hamm and, perhaps the show’s most famous competitor, former Towson University athlete Kacy Catanzaro.

Leyva could still make the Las Vegas finals, according to the broadcast.

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MORE: Japan’s gymnastics team for worlds lacks its superstars

Chinese 13-year-olds go 1-2 at diving worlds; U.S. medal drought ends

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Reminiscent of one of its legendary divers, Chinese 13-year-olds took gold and silver in the women’s platform at the world diving championships on Wednesday. Delaney Schnell rallied for bronze, ending a 14-year U.S. medal drought.

Chen Yuxi and Lu Wei, both born in 2005, tallied 439 and 377.8 points, respectively, in Gwangju, South Korea. China is nine for nine in gold medals with four finals left this week. Schnell, who was in fifth place and 1.2 points back of third going into the last dive, ended up with 364.2.

No U.S. woman had earned an individual world platform medal since Laura Wilkinson‘s gold in 2005. Schnell, 20, was sixth at the 2016 Olympic trials and second at the 2017 World trials before placing 27th at her world debut two years ago.

Back in 1991, Chinese 12-year-old Fu Mingxia captured the world title on the platform. A year later, Fu took platform gold in Barcelona and remains the youngest Summer Olympic champion since 1960. Fu went on to win a Chinese record four individual Olympic diving titles.

Lu and Chen represent the next generation of Chinese female divers following the post-Rio retirements of their role model, Chen Ruolin, and Wu Minxia.

China is such a diving factory that it took gold and silver without the Rio Olympic platform champion, Ren Qian, who is not on this year’s world team. Ren, then 15 in Rio, became the youngest Olympic diving gold medalist since Fu.

China, two years after its least successful diving worlds since 2005, is moving closer to sweeping every gold medal at these worlds. They last accomplished the feat in 2011.

Earlier Wednesday, Chinese Xie Siyi (reigning world champion) and Cao Yuan (reigning Olympic champion) qualified first and second into Thursday’s men’s springboard final.

David Boudia, the 2012 U.S. Olympic platform champion, was a strong fourth in his first major international meet since Rio and switching to the springboard. Rio Olympian Michael Hixon also advanced in the 12th and last spot.

NBC Olympic Researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report from Gwangju.

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