Norway, Brazil win beach volleyball world titles; bronze match stopped due to injury

Anders Mol, Christian Sorum
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Norwegians Anders Mol and Christian Sorum became the first men to follow an Olympic beach volleyball title with a world title the next year.

The Volley Vikings beat Brazilians Renato and Vitor Felipe 21-15, 21-16 in Sunday’s final in Rome to complete their collection of major titles — Olympics, world championships, European championships and World Tour Finals.

“We’re living a dream right now, and we’ve been dreaming about winning the world championship since we were little kids watching Stavanger [in 2009] for the first time,” Mol said, according to the FIVB. “Our partnership is still kind of recent. But now we have some titles under our belts and it’s still really hard to realize for us what it is that we’re living, because this is just a dream.”

In the women’s final, Duda and Ana Patricia beat Canadians Sophie Bukovec and Brandie Wilkerson 21-17, 21-19 to put Brazil back on the top step of the podium in one of its national sports after its worst Olympic showing ever.

Duda and Ana Patricia and Mol and Sorum each dropped one set in eight matches en route to gold medals.

In a bronze-medal match in Rome, Swiss Olympic bronze medalist Joana Heidrich screamed in pain after a serve, suffering a dislocated shoulder that caused her and partner Anouk Verge-Depre to forfeit while up 21-16, 10-7 over Germans Svenja Muller and Cinja Tillmann.

“After long clarifications in the hospital, the shoulder is back in,” Heidrich posted on social media. “I will report to you when I have recovered.”

Americans Chaim Schalk and Theo Brunner dropped their bronze-medal match 15-21, 21-17, 15-11 to Brazilians Andre and George.

The U.S. won zero medals for the fourth time in 13 biennial world championships. The U.S. won at least one medal in all seven Olympics with beach volleyball.

April Ross and Alix Klineman, who took gold in Tokyo, did not compete at worlds. Klineman has been sidelined since January shoulder surgery. Ross originally entered worlds with Emily Day, then was replaced two weeks before the tournament began due to injury.

Brazil, the other longtime beach power, reasserted itself at these world championships by taking half of the available medals.

In Tokyo, the nation didn’t put a team in one of the Olympic beach volleyball finals for the first time in history. It didn’t put a team in a semifinal, either. At the last worlds in 2019, Brazil went medal-less at the biennial championships for the first time in history.

Brazil, known to change its teams to from Olympics to Olympics, did so again after Tokyo.

Duda, who played with 2016 Olympic silver medalist Agatha in Tokyo, teamed at worlds with Ana Patricia, who paired with Rebecca in Tokyo. Ana Patricia and Rebecca blew a one-set lead over Heidrich and Verge-Depre in the Olympic quarterfinals.

“I decided to have this ‘Believe’ tattoo on my arm after the Olympics last year because it was a difficult moment for me,” Ana Patricia said Sunday, according to the FIVB. “I wanted to have something that would always remind me that we need to believe in ourselves before anyone else does. Today, it couldn’t make any more sense.”

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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