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Brazil beach volleyball shakeup breaks up world champions

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Olympic champions Alison and Bruno‘s breakup was quickly felt throughout the top level of Brazilian beach volleyball. The 2017 World champions are no longer a pair as a result.

Alison, the 6-foot-8 blocker nicknamed “Woolly Mammoth” with a matching rib tattoo, will now partner with Andre, a 2017 World champion with Evandro.

Bruno, a 6-foot-1 defensive standout known as the “Magician,” will play with former partner Pedro. Pedro and Evandro made up the other Brazilian team at the Rio Olympics, getting eliminated in the quarterfinals and then breaking up at the end of 2016 as Evandro began playing with Andre.

Andre and Evandro’s announced breakup came days after they won the most recent FIVB World Tour event in Itapema, Brazil, without dropping a set in six matches.

“I’m very frustrated with [Andre’s] decision,” Evandro said, according to an FIVB translation of a Globo story, “but it happened, and I need to move forward.”

Evandro will be reunited with Vitor Felipe, according to the FIVB. Abrupt changes in Brazilian partnerships, sometimes with federation involvement, are common.

The biggest rival to the top Brazilian pairs the last two seasons has been the U.S. team of 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and his 2016 Olympic partner, Nick Lucena.

Dalhausser and Lucena won the first of three majors this season in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in March. They also won the last major of the 2017 season as well as the World Tour Finals, beating Andre and Evandro in the latter final.

The next major tournament this season is in Gstaad, Switzerland, in July. There are no world championships in even-numbered years.

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Olympic beach volleyball champs Alison, Bruno split

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Brazilians Alison and Bruno ended their beach volleyball partnership, less than two years after taking gold at the Rio Olympics, one of the greatest moments for the host nation.

Neither has announced a new partner.

“I’m really proud of what we built together, of our team being an example for many, but it came to an end now,” Alison said, according to the FIVB. “We talked, and we agreed that it’s time for us to look for new challenges. Besides of the good memories, we keep the respect, the friendship and the admiration for each other.”

Alison and Bruno had been a team since 2014 but struggled since their Olympic title. They haven’t made a final of an event outside of Brazil since September 2016.

They were dominant in 2015 and 2016, winning not only the Olympics, but also the world championships, back-to-back World Tour Finals and three FIVB World Tour Grand Slam events.

Other Brazilian pairs have emerged. Andre and Evandro won the 2017 World title as well as last week’s FIVB World Tour event in Brazil.

The top U.S. pair, 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and his 2016 Olympic partner, Nick Lucena, won the first of three majors this season in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in March. They also won the last major of the 2017 season as well as the World Tour Finals, beating Andre and Evandro in the latter final.

The next major tournament this season is in Gstaad, Switzerland, in July. There are no world championships in even-numbered years.

“It’s early to say something, we’ll start from zero,” Alison said, according to the FIVB. “I’ll talk with my coaching staff and think about my future. Olympic qualification is starting soon, and we need to plan well because the goal is to compete in Tokyo 2020.”

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MORE: April Ross finds new partner for Tokyo 2020 Olympic run

U.S. women into gold-medal match at beach volleyball worlds

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April Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Lauren Fendrick will play for gold at the world beach volleyball championships, less than three months into their new partnership.

The Americans rallied past Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 19-21, 21-16, 15-11 in Friday’s semifinals in Vienna.

Ross and Fendrick, who paired after Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings split three months ago, will play Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany in Saturday’s final.

The last U.S. women’s pair to earn a world medal was Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, who took silver in 2011. Walsh Jennings, 38, is missing worlds after dislocating her five-times surgically repaired right shoulder in a match with new partner Nicole Branagh two weeks ago.

Ross won the 2009 World title and 2012 Olympic silver with former partner Jennifer Kessy and 2016 Olympic bronze with Walsh Jennings.

Beijing Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena lead the men’s teams in Saturday’s quarterfinals. In fact, they are the only team from the Rio Olympic quarterfinals still alive.

Dalhausser and former partner Todd Rogers were the last U.S. men to earn world medals — bronze in 2009 and gold in 2007.

Reigning Olympic and world champions Alison and Bruno were upset by Canadians Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk in the round of 16. That matched the Brazilians’ worst finish since June 2015.

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