Kerri Walsh Jennings, Brooke Sweat win first tournament title together

Kerri Walsh Jennings, Brooke Sweat
FIVB World Tour
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Kerri Walsh Jennings‘ 56th international tournament title was among the most special. It marked her first in nearly three years (her longest drought), and the first ever for her new partner, Brooke Sweat. At 40, she became the oldest woman to win an FIVB World Tour event.

“It’s been so long,” Walsh Jennings said after the Americans doused Australians Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy 21-17, 21-19 in Sunday’s final of a four-star event in Jinjiang, China.

For Walsh Jennings, who has the same number of kids as Olympic golds, and the Rio Olympian Sweat, it means they are closer to, if not in the driver’s seat for one of two U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo. Walsh Jennings is bidding to become the oldest Olympic beach volleyball player in history in 2020.

The U.S. Olympic qualifying standings, which will count each pair’s 12 best results together, with still more than a year to go:

1. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,900 (8 events played)
2. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,500 (6 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,240 (5 events)
5. Sponcil/Claes — 2,080 (4 events, have a higher per-event average than Walsh Jennings/Sweat)
6. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)

Walsh Jennings and Sweat’s breakthrough win came earlier Sunday, when they dispatched Brazilians Agatha and Duda 21-19, 19-21, 15-13 in the semifinals. Agatha and her previous partner, Barbara, handed Walsh Jennings her lone Olympic beach volleyball defeat in the semifinals in Rio. Duda, 20, is a world champion at the U19, U21 and Youth Olympic level.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat announced their partnership Oct. 9, after a tumultuous two years for Walsh Jennings and nearly 15 years after Sweat first saw Walsh Jennings at a Toyota dealership exhibition in her freshman year at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Walsh Jennings’ 2017 season, after she and Rio Olympic bronze-medal partner April Ross split, ended prematurely with her sixth right shoulder surgery (followed by an ankle surgery). She said before the 2018 season that the 2020 Olympics would be her last, assuming she qualifies.

Walsh Jennings paired with 2008 Olympian Nicole Branagh. They had a best 2018 finish of fifth in six FIVB World Tour events before splitting.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who went winless in Rio with Lauren Fendrick and then had her second shoulder surgery, have a pair of thirds, a runner-up and now a win in eight events together.

“Looking forward to more,” Sweat, after her first career gold in more than 60 international events, said Sunday.

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VIDEO: Beach volleyball Olympian surprises her team with baby announcement

Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi
Getty
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Diana Taurasi’s USA Basketball career isn’t done just yet.

The five-time Olympic gold medalist will take part in a national team training camp in Minnesota next month. Taurasi told The Associated Press last summer that she would consider playing with USA Basketball if she was healthy enough. She injured her quad shortly after and didn’t participate in the FIBA World Cup that the Americans won in Australia.

While Taurasi will be at the camp, Brittney Griner won’t. She is still part of the pool that the 2024 Olympic team will be chosen from, but Griner hasn’t been out in public much since a prisoner swap in December brought her home from Russia after a 10-month ordeal that captivated world attention. Griner said she plans on playing in the WNBA this year.

Taurasi is a free agent right now, but is expected to return to the Phoenix Mercury — the only team she’s played for in her WNBA career. She turns 41 in June and would be 42 at the time of the Paris Olympics in 2024. The WNBA’s all-time leading scorer and her good friend Sue Bird hold the record with five Olympic gold medals. The pair helped the U.S. win a seventh consecutive gold at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Bird retired from playing at the end of last season.

Other players expected at the training camp that will run from Feb. 7-9 include former Olympic or World Cup gold medalists: Ariel Atkins and Elena Delle Donne of Washington; Napheesa Collier of Minnesota; Allisha Gray of Dallas; Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney of New York; Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young of Las Vegas; Kahleah Copper of Chicago and free agent Angel McCoughtry.

Natasha Howard, Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale of Dallas will also be at the camp as well as Phoenix’s Brianna Turner.

National team head coach Cheryl Reeve will run the three-day camp with Curt Miller of Los Angeles, Mike Thibault of Washington and James Wade of Chicago helping out.

Mo Farah likely to retire this year

Mo Farah
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British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

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