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Five-time world champion figure skater to develop U.S. pairs training center

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Robin Szolkowy, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist and five-time world champion figure skater, plans to come to the United States in the spring to develop a pairs training center. He will join coaches Jenni Meno and Todd Sand in Los Angeles.

Meno and Sand were three-time national champions and currently coach 2018 Olympic team bronze medalists Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim.

In September, the Knierims moved to Oberstdorf, Germany to under with Szolkowy’s former partner, Aliona Savchenko. She won an Olympic gold medal with Bruno Massot in 2018, her fifth Olympic appearance.

The Knierims split with Savchenko later in the fall and moved to California.

“There’s certain things that we learned [in Germany] that we’re going to continue to incorporate on a daily basis,” Scimeca Knierim said of the split in a recent media teleconference ahead of the national championships later this month.

“It’s quite simple. It just didn’t work out. Chris and I knew when we decided to part ways that there would be no regrets leaving there because we took everything we could. We just felt like if we had stayed, there would’ve been more of a downward slope in some terms of things than others. We kind of felt like we needed to save ourselves in the moment which is why we made the switch [to Jenni and Todd] so quickly.”

Scimeca Knierim seemed surprised by the news that her coaching team was growing:

According to a German report, Szolkowy chose Los Angeles after visiting several pairs hot spots in the U.S. and discussions with U.S. Figure Skating. The new school has plans to include both U.S. and international teams. The report also suggested this could be a long-term arrangement, through the Winter Olympics in 2022 and beyond.

This won’t be Szolkowy’s first venture as a coach. He joined the coaching team behind Russian pair Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who won silver at the 2018 World Championships and two European titles.

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I am thrilled to announce that I will be coaching soon at the newly built, state of the art Great Park Ice Rinks in Irvine, California, USA. After evaluating several opportunities within the U.S., in cooperation with USFSA, I will be moving to Irvine to partner with Jenni Meno Sand, Todd Sand and Christine Binder who are currently focused on the training and final preparations of their pair teams for the U.S. Championships at this fantastic 4-rink facility including two-time US National Champions Alexa and Chris Knierim. As we all will work together we are forming a team to establish an international pairs program. Needless to say that Romy and I are excited about the new opportunities which this project brings to justmove. More information to come … 😉⛸💪🏽🍀 #newchallenges #movingwest #teamwork #irvine #greatparkice #california #usa #family #lovewhatyoudo #justmovegmbh @justmove.withe.szolkowys

A post shared by Robin Szolkowy (@robin_szolkowy) on

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As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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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.

MORE: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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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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