Kerri Walsh Jennings, Brooke Sweat eliminated from beach volleyball worlds

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Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat were eliminated from the world beach volleyball championships in the round of 32 on Wednesday in Hamburg, Germany, hurting their chances of qualifying next June for the Tokyo Olympics.

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion, and her new partner, Rio Olympian Sweat, were swept by formidable Brazilians Agatha and Duda 21-18, 21-16 on the first day of elimination rounds.

It’s Walsh Jennings’ worst result in seven career world championships. They went 1-2 in pool play, the lone win a 21-2, 21-2 rout of an inexperienced team from Mauritius.

Walsh Jennings said it was the worst that she and Sweat have played since pairing in October.

“This is the most disappointing event I’ve ever had, and I think Brooke would probably feel the same,” Walsh Jennings told media in Hamburg in audio provided by NBC Sports’ Seth Rubinroit. “This is a horrific thing to say, but it’s almost a relief it’s over.”

Walsh Jennings and Sweat and Agatha and Duda split matches at the Americans’ last two international events in May and June.

Agatha and former partner Barbara handed Walsh Jennings her only Olympic beach defeat in the Rio semifinals, when Walsh Jennings played with April Ross.

The world championships carry the most points of any tournament in the two-year Olympic qualifying window.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat came to worlds ranked second among Americans in average points, behind Ross and Alix Klineman, and gained no ground in Hamburg.

Both Klineman and Ross and the other top U.S. pair, Sara Hughes and Summer Ross (no relation), won Wednesday matches to reach the round of 16.

The top two U.S. teams in qualifying points come next June are in line to go to Tokyo.

Walsh Jennings, a 40-year-old mother of three, is in line to become the oldest Olympic beach volleyball player in history, should she and Sweat hold off younger U.S. pairs over the next year.

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MORE: Beach Volleyball Worlds TV/Stream Schedule

Canadian ice dancers overcome hair-raising wardrobe malfunction

Piper Gilles, Paul Poirier
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Ice dancer Piper Gilles‘ hair got caught in partner Paul Poirier‘s costume during the Canadian Championships rhythm dance, but the couple still posted the top score in Mississauga, Ontario, on Friday.

As they spun together, Gilles’ hair appeared to catch on one of Poirier’s shirt buttons. It stayed that way for about five seconds as the couple nearly came to a stop before Poirier untangled it. What was Gilles thinking?

“Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap,” she said later. “It’s probably more swear words to that, but crap at that moment.

“It was like one of those pure panic moments, like, what do I do? Do we stop? Do we keep going? Paul’s like, just keep moving.”

Gilles and Poirier scored 88.86 points, taking an 11.6-point lead into the free dance.

The couple eyes their first national title after finishing second or third seven times in the last eight years behind Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

Gilles and Poirier rank fifth in the world this season.

The panicky moment Friday was reminiscent of the PyeongChang Olympics, where French ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis‘ dress strap broke, exposing her breast. Papadakis and partner Guillaume Cizeron took silver and have been undefeated since.

MORE: Figure skating season TV schedule

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Allison Schmitt opens 2020 in fast form, bidding to join U.S. Olympic legends

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Allison Schmitt, after failing to qualify for world championships teams, revealing a battle with depression and taking nearly two years off competition post-Rio, has a chance to swim at her fourth Olympics this summer. And to do it in an individual event for the first time since 2012.

Schmitt won the 200m freestyle in 1:56.01 at the Tyr Pro Swim Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday night.

The time would have ranked second among Americans in 2019 behind Katie Ledecky. Ledecky is not swimming in Knoxville, but the 2012 Olympic champion and American record holder Schmitt beat Simone Manuel by 1.24 seconds.

“Wish I could say I was tapered, would make it feel a lot easier,” Schmitt said on NBCSN. “Getting better every time I jump in the water and swim in finals.”

Schmitt’s time marked her fastest outside of a major summer meet since the 2012 London Games. She’s bidding to become the third U.S. woman in her 30s to swim an individual event at an Olympics, joining 12-time medalists Dara Torres (who swam in her 40s) and Jenny Thompson.

Full Knoxville results are here. Broadcast coverage of the meet continues Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Swimmers are preparing for June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event qualify for the Tokyo Games, plus extra 100m and 200m free swimmers for relays.

In other events Friday, 18-year-old Carson Foster took the men’s 200m free in 1:47.74, beating the U.S.’ top 400m freestyler, Zane Grothe, by 1.33 seconds.

Foster, younger than any U.S. Olympic male swimmer since a group including Michael Phelps in 2000, is better known for his individual medleys. But the 200m free offers up to six Olympic spots when including the 4x200m free relay.

“Any event where there’s more spots on the line this summer is an event I want to train for,” said Foster, who ranked outside the top 10 in the U.S. in the 200m free in 2019 and beat a field Friday that included none of the six fastest.

Annie Lazor won the 100m breaststroke in 1:06.68, a time congruent with her No. 2 ranking in the U.S. last year behind Olympic champion and world-record holder Lilly King. King, who trains with Lazor, is not competing in Knoxville.

In the 100m butterfly, 29-year-old Amanda Kendall upset top-ranked American Kelsi Dahlia in 57.65 seconds. Regan Smith, the fastest backstroker in history, was second in a personal-best 57.86, followed by Dahlia.

MORE: Australian swim star issues plea after hometown hit by fires

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