April Ross, Alix Klineman into beach volleyball worlds final

April Ross, Alix Klineman
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross reached her third world beach volleyball championships final with a third different partner.

Ross, 37, and Alix Klineman, 29, swept Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar 21-15, 21-18 in Friday’s semifinals, advancing to Saturday’s final (9:15 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA).

They will face Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, looking to become the first Americans to win a world title since Ross and Jennifer Kessy in 2009.

A decade ago, Ross was in her fourth pro season and her third with Kessy.

“I was new on the beach,” Ross told media at worlds in Hamburg. “It was just kind of like ignorance is bliss. We were firing on all cylinders and doing the best we can. Now I feel like there’s a method to the madness a little bit.”

Kessy, who earned Olympic silver with Ross in 2012, now coaches Ross and Klineman, who paired after Ross split from Rio Olympic bronze-medal partner Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017. Ross earned world silver in 2017 with Lauren Fendrick before partnering with Klineman later that year.

Klineman, the 2007 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year out of high school, is in just her second international season. The 6-foot-5 Klineman said that this season has brought “a wave of improvement.”

Earlier Friday, Ross and Klineman eliminated the other remaining U.S. women’s team of Sara Hughes and Summer Ross 21-18, 21-14 in the quarterfinals. Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, were eliminated in the round of 32 for Walsh Jennings’ earliest career exit at an Olympics or worlds.

All these results are key in Olympic qualifying, which is near the midpoint. Worlds carry the most Olympic qualifying points of any tournament in the two-year window, and only two pairs per country maximum go to Tokyo.

Ross and Klineman are in best position of the U.S. pairs. Walsh Jennings and Sweat and Hughes and Ross are among the teams also in the mix with nearly a year left in the qualifying window.

Two U.S. men’s teams are still alive at worlds — 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena and Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb. The men’s quarterfinals and semifinals are Saturday.

NBC Sports’ Seth Rubinroit contributed to this report from Hamburg.

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MORE: Beach Volleyball Worlds TV/Stream Schedule

Asher Hong leads U.S. men’s gymnastics world team selection camp after first day

Asher Hong
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Asher Hong, 18, posted the highest all-around score on the first of two days of competition at the U.S. men’s gymnastics selection camp to determine the last three spots on the team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Hong, bidding to become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009, totaled 84.6 points in Colorado Springs. He edged Colt Walker by one tenth. Tokyo Olympians Shane Wiskus (84.15) and Yul Moldauer (83.95) were next. Full apparatus-by-apparatus scores are here.

Brody Malone, who repeated as U.S. all-around champion at August’s national championships, and runner-up Donnell Whittenburg already clinched spots on the five-man team for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. They did not compete Monday, though their results from the first day of nationals are shown in the official scores.

The three remaining team spots will not necessarily go to the top three all-arounders at this week’s camp, which is supposed to be weighed equally with results from August’s nationals. Hong was third at nationals, but if excluding difficulty bonus points from that meet that will not be considered by the committee, would have finished behind Walker and Moldauer in August.

A selection committee is expected to announce the team soon after the second and final day of selection camp competition on Wednesday evening. The committee will look at overall scoring potential for the world team final, where three men go per apparatus, and medal potential in individual events.

Stephen Nedoroscik, who last year became the first American to win a world title on the pommel horse, is trying to make the team solely on that apparatus. He wasn’t at his best at nationals and struggled again on Monday, hurting his chances of displacing an all-arounder for one of the last three spots.

The U.S. has reason to emphasize the team event over individual medals at this year’s worlds. It will clinch an Olympic berth by finishing in the top three, and its medal hopes are boosted by the absence of the Russians who won the Olympic team title. All gymnasts from Belarus and Russia are banned indefinitely from international competition due to the war in Ukraine.

In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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