Jordan Larson preps for her last Olympics, one year later than expected

Jordan Larson
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Whether the Tokyo Olympics would have been this summer or in 2021, Jordan Larson knew this: It will mark her final tournament with the U.S. volleyball team, should she make the roster.

“I’m just not getting any younger,” said Larson, a 33-year-old outside hitter. “I’ve been playing consistently overseas for 12 years straight with no real offseason.

“I also have other endeavors in my life that I want to see. Getting married, having children, those kinds of things. The older I get, the more challenging those become.”

Larson, who debuted on the national team in 2009, has been a leader the last two Olympic cycles. She succeeded Christa Harmotto Dietzen as captain after the Rio Games. Larson started every match at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

As long as Larson was in the building, the U.S. never had to worry about the outside hitter position, said two-time Olympian and NBC Olympics volleyball analyst Kevin Barnett.

“She played as if she belonged from the start,” he said. “They will miss her all-around capability. They’ll miss her ability to make everyone around her better. She’s almost like having a libero who can hit.”

Karch Kiraly, the Olympic indoor and beach champion who took over as head coach after the 2012 Olympics, gushed about her court vision.

“It’s a little dated now, but somebody like Wayne Gretzky just saw things that other people didn’t see on the hockey rink,” Kiraly said in 2018. “And I remember reading about him one time, and the quote from an opposing goalie was, oh my god, here he comes, what does he see that I don’t see right now? She sees things sooner than most people.”

Larson grew up in Hooper, Neb., (population 830) and starred at the University of Nebraska. She was a three-time All-American who helped the team win a national title as a sophomore. She had the opportunity to leave Nebraska and try out for the Olympics in 2008 but chose to remain at school for her final season.

She earned the nickname “Governor” as a Cornhusker State sports icon.

Larson helped the U.S. win its first major international title at the 2014 World Championship. She was also part of the program’s two stingers — defeats in the 2012 Olympic final and 2016 Olympic semifinals, both matches where the U.S. won the first set (and convincingly in 2012).

“It just gives me chills thinking about it now,” Larson said of the Rio Olympic semifinals, where Serbia beat the U.S. 15-13 in the fifth. “That team, we put in so much. Not just on the court but off the court working on culture and working on how are we best for each other. How can we be the best team? How can we out-team people? Certain teams have a better one player that’s a standout that we maybe didn’t have or don’t have. So how can we out-team the other teams? We had just put in so much work that was just heartbreaking.”

Larson and the Americans rebounded to win the bronze-medal match two days later.

“I don’t know anybody that didn’t have their heart ripped out. It was just a soul-crusher of a match,” Kiraly said of the semifinal. “More meaningful was what a great response everybody, including Jordan, mounted to the disappointment of that loss.”

The U.S. took fifth at worlds in 2018 and is now ranked second in the world behind China.

Larson spent the past club season in Shanghai. The campaign ended in mid-January. She hadn’t heard anything about the coronavirus when she took her scheduled flight back to California, learning days later that LAX started screening for it. Now, she’s working out from her garage.

Larson is in line to become the fifth-oldest U.S. Olympic women’s volleyball player in history, according to Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

Her decade of experience could go a long way to help the next generation of outside hitters, led by three-time NCAA champion and Sullivan Award winner Kathryn Plummer.

“If you’re coming into the USA program as an outside hitter, in the next year or the quad or the quad after that,” Barnett said, “the measuring stick is going to be Jordan Larson.”

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

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2022 London Marathon Results

2022 London Marathon
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2022 London Marathon top-10 results and notable finishers from men’s and women’s elite and wheelchair races. Full searchable results are here. ..

Men’s Elite
1. Amos Kipruto (KEN) — 2:04:39
2. Leul Gebresilase (ETH) — 2:05:12
3. Bashir Abdi (BEL) — 2:05:19
4. Kinde Atanaw (ETH) — 2:05:27
5. Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) — 2:05:53
6. Birhanu Legese (ETH) — 2:06:11
7. Sisay Lemma (ETH) — 2:07:26
8. Brett Robinson (AUS) — 2:09:52
9. Weynay Ghebresilasie (GBR) — 2:11:57
10. Philip Sesemann (GBR) — 2:12:10
DNS. Mo Farah (GBR)

Women’s Elite
1. Yalemzerf Yehualaw (ETH) — 2:17:26
2. Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) — 2:18:07
3. Alemu Megertu (ETH) — 2:18:32
4. Judith Korir (KEN) — 2:18:43
5. Joan Melly (ROU) — 2:19:27
6. Ashete Bekere (ETH) — 2:19:30
7. Mary Ngugi (KEN) — 2:20:22
8. Sutume Kebede (ETH) — 2:20:44
9. Ai Hosoda (JPN) — 2:21:42
10. Rose Harvey (GBR) — 2:27:59
Joan Benoit Samuelson (USA, 1984 Olympic champion) — 3:20:20
DNS. Brigid Kosgei (KEN)

Men’s Wheelchair
1. Marcel Hug (SUI) — 1:24:38
2. Daniel Romanchuk (USA) — 1:24:40
3. David Weir (GBR) — 1:30:41
4. Tomoki Suzuki (JPN) — 1:30:41
5. Jetze Plat (NED) — 1:30:44
6. Aaron Pike (USA) — 1:33:05
7. Sho Watanabe (JPN) — 1:34:16
8. Jake Lappin (USA) — 1:34:16
9. Patrick Monahan (IRL) — 1:34:16
10. Johnboy Smith (GBR) — 1:34:17

Women’s Wheelchair
1. Catherine Debrunner (SUI) — 1:38:24
2. Susannah Scaroni (USA) — 1:42:21
3. Eden Rainbow-Cooper (GBR) — 1:47:27
4. Merle Menje (GER) — 1:47:28
5. Jenna Fesemyer (USA) — 1:47:28
6. Wakako Tsuchida (JPN) — 1:47:28
7. Vanessa De Souza (BRA) — 1:47:29
8. Yen Hoang (USA) — 1:47:29
9. Aline Rocha (BRA) — 1:47:32
10. Christie Dawes (GBR) — 1:47:33

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