April Ross, Alix Klineman win in first international beach volleyball event since 2019

April Ross, Alix Klineman
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April Ross and Alix Klineman took the title in their first international beach volleyball tournament since 2019, furthering the argument that they are the Olympic favorites.

In Friday’s final in Doha, the Americans swept world champions Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan of Canada 22-20, 21-18, running their win streak to 18 matches since returning to competition during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We still feel like there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Ross said.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman, her new partner for this Olympic cycle, dropped one set in six matches this week.

They have beaten Humana-Paredes and Pavan, the only team ranked ahead of them when sports halted last March, in all three head-to-heads since tournaments resumed last summer with domestic AVP events.

Internationally, Ross and Klineman won four of their five meetings with the Canadians since the start of 2019 — the only defeat coming in the biggest event, the 2019 World Championships final — according to BVBInfo.com.

Ross and Klineman have all but wrapped up one of the two U.S. Olympic women’s beach volleyball spots.

Triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat lead the standings for the second and final spot, which could be up for grabs into June before the Olympic qualifying deadline.

Walsh Jennings, a 42-year-old who took bronze with Ross in Rio, and Sweat were the only team to take a set off Ross and Klineman this week. But they were upset by countrywomen Kelley Kolinske and Emily Stockman in the round of 16.

Kolinske and Stockman finished fourth in Doha, their best result in an international event of this caliber. The third U.S. team in contention for the last Olympic spot is Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, who lost in the quarterfinals.

U.S. Olympic men’s qualifying remains a three-team fight for two spots among 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb and Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb.

Taylor Crabb and Gibb beat Dalhausser and Lucena in the third-place match in Doha. Those placements helped both teams in Olympic qualifying. Trevor Crabb and Bourne, now third in U.S. Olympic qualifying, didn’t get into the Doha main draw after losing in a domestic qualifier.

There are five more international tournaments with significant Olympic qualifying points — back-to-back-to-back events in Cancun, Mexico, from April 16-May 2, in Sochi, Russia, from May 26-30 and Ostrava, Czech Republic, from June 2-6.

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Peter Sagan to retire from road cycling, eyes mountain bike at 2024 Paris Olympics

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Peter Sagan said 2023 will be his final year as a professional road cyclist and that he will target the 2024 Olympics in mountain bike.

The Slovakian made the announcement on his 33rd birthday in a social media video. He said he made the decision “quite some time ago.”

“I always said I would like to finish my career on the mountain bike, because I started my career on the mountain bike,” Sagan said in a press conference, according to Cyclingnews.com. “It gives me some pleasure at the end of my career because I’m doing something I really enjoy.

“It’s important for me to spend time with my son Marlon and to see life from different angles, and not just as a cyclist. It was never my dream to race or to be a professional rider until 40 or 50. I think it’s time now. And if I am going to be able to finish my career in Paris at the Olympics Games, that’s going to be something nice for me.”

Sagan is a record seven-time Tour de France green jersey champion as best sprinter. He has 12 individual stage wins (the last in 2019), second-most among active riders behind Mark Cavendish‘s record-tying 34.

At the Olympics, Sagan was 34th in the road race in 2012 and 35th in the mountain bike in 2016. He missed the Tokyo Games after surgery to treat an infection in his right knee stemming from a 2021 Tour de France crash.

Sagan won the world junior title in mountain biking at age 18 in 2008 before his road racing career, which included three consecutive world road race titles from 2015-17.

Of qualifying for Paris in the mountain bike, he said, “We’ll see whether it is even possible, but I think it can be another nice adventure.”

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

U.S. Figure Skating Championships
U.S. Figure Skating
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The U.S. Figure Skating Championships, in some ways marking a new era in the sport, air live from San Jose, California, on NBC Sports, USA Network and Peacock.

After last February’s Olympics, U.S. figure skating saw its greatest turnover from one season to the next in more than 20 years.

Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, the top two men last season, are not competing this season and may be done altogether. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell, the top two women, retired. As did the top ice dance couple of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, last year’s national pairs’ champions, also left the sport.

So, for the first time since 1993, the U.S. Championships feature a reigning national champion in just one of the four disciplines.

Amid all that, U.S. skaters performed well in the fall Grand Prix Series and made the podium in all four disciplines at December’s Grand Prix Final for the first time. Note the absence of Russian skaters, banned from international events due to the war in Ukraine.

At nationals, skaters are vying for spots on the team — three per discipline — for March’s world championships in Japan.

Ilia Malinin, an 18-year-old from Virginia, is the headliner after becoming the first skater to land a quadruple Axel, doing so at all four of his events this season. He ranks second in the world by best total score, a whopping 38.28 points ahead of the next American (Camden Pulkinen).

Jason Brown is the lone Olympian in the men’s field, competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Games.

Isabeau Levito, 15 and a reigning world junior champion like Malinin, took silver at the Grand Prix Final against the world’s other top skaters. She enters nationals with a best score this season 18.13 points better than the next American, Amber Glenn. Bradie Tennell, a 2018 Olympian coming back from foot and ankle injuries, is also a threat to gain one of the three women’s spots at worlds.

Ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates are the lone defending national champions and will likely make the podium for an 11th consecutive year, which would be one shy of the record.

Bates, who last year at 32 became the oldest U.S. champion in any discipline in decades, has made 12 career senior nationals podiums with Chock and former partner Emily Samuelson. It is believed that a 13th finish in the top three would break the U.S. record for a single discipline he currently shares with Michelle Kwan, Nathaniel Niles and Theresa Weld Blanchard.

In pairs, Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier return after missing nationals last year due to Frazier contracting COVID-19 the week of the event. Since, they posted the best U.S. pairs’ finish at an Olympics in 20 years, the first world title for a U.S. pair in 43 years and the first Grand Prix Final medal ever for a U.S. pair.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships Live Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Thursday Pairs’ Short Program 3:30-5:45 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 6:30-9 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 7-9 p.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Women’s Short Program 9:10 p.m.-12 a.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Women’s Short Program 10 p.m.-12 a.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Friday Men’s Short Program 4:10-7 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Men’s Short Program 5-7 p.m. USA Network
Women’s Free Skate 7:45-11 p.m. Peacock
Women’s Free Skate 8-11 p.m. NBC
Saturday Free Dance 1:45-4:30 p.m. Peacock
Free Dance 2:30-4:30 p.m. NBC
Pairs’ Free Skate 7:30-10 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Pairs’ Free Skate 8-10 p.m. USA Network
Sunday Men’s Free Skate 2:30-6 p.m. Peacock
Men’s Free Skate 3-6 p.m. NBC

*All NBC and USA Network broadcasts also stream on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.