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New generation of US Olympic beach volleyball with Walsh Jennings out

Even though there are a lot of familiar names, the field for Olympic beach volleyball has an entirely new look.

London Olympics organizers erected a 25-foot statue of two-time defending champion Kerri Walsh Jennings in St. James’ Park, just a short stroll from the venue where she would win her third beach volleyball title.

Four years later in Rio de Janeiro, Walsh Jennings again climbed onto the podium to claim her fourth Olympic medal — this one bronze.

For two decades, no one loomed larger in the sport than the five-time Olympian known as “Six Feet of Sunshine.” But when the Summer Games begin in Tokyo this month, the 42-year-old Californian won’t be there.

“This is the first Olympics she hasn’t been to in the 21st Century, which is just crazy to think about,” said Sarah Sponcil, who with her partner Kelly Claes won the final two qualifying events to snatch the last U.S. spot in Tokyo from Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat.

“She’s such an amazing player, an icon for the sport,” said Sponcil, who taped pictures of Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, her partner for three Olympic titles, on the wall while growing up. “To be able to knock her out — it’s not just a random opponent. I’m honored to have eliminated her. She’s going to go down as one of the best in history.”

Rivals at Southern California and UCLA, Claes and Sponcil each won back-to-back NCAA beach volleyball titles before teaming up on the international tour in 2018. They were winless in their first 20 events, leaving them third in the points race for the maximum two American women’s spots in the Olympics.

Then they won the Sochi Open, the second-to-last tournament in the qualifying period. Walsh Jennings and Sweat needed a strong finish in the finale to retake the lead, but they were eliminated in an early round match.

Claes and Sponcil won again.

“It’s crazy the end of the race for the Olympic spot. No one, I think, saw it coming,” said April Ross, who was Walsh Jennings’ partner in Rio but will return to the Olympics with Alix Klineman. “For the longest time, I just assumed Kerri was going to be there.”

Claes, 25, and Sponcil, 24, are the youngest U.S. beach volleyball team ever to qualify for the Olympics and the first NCAA beach volleyball products to reach the Summer Games. (Tina Graudina, who will compete for Latvia in Tokyo, also played at USC.)

Claes resisted the title of “Giant Killer” that has been bestowed on her and Sponcil. “The passing of the baton, or however you want to say that, feels more right.”

“It’s Kerri. She’s an amazing athlete,” Claes said. “I looked up to her and Misty so much. They’ve done so many things for the sport, really paved the way and inspired so many people, me included.

“Kerri’s incredible,” she said. “But I think it’s really cool to have some new, young blood at the Olympics.”

The older generation isn’t ready to give up just yet.

Ross, who won silver in London and bronze in Rio, is 39 and heading to her third Olympics. The U.S. men’s teams feature 45-year-old Jake Gibb, the oldest volleyball player in Olympic history — beach or indoor — and Beijing gold medalist Phil Dalhausser, 41.

“I never expected at the end of my career to be pushed this hard to compete,” Ross said. “At the same time, I’m really excited for our sport, and what they’re doing for our sport.”

BEACH PARTY

Five years after the beach volleyball venue bounced to a samba beat at Copacabana Beach, it’s spiritual home, the event moves to Shiokaze Park in Tokyo Bay.

There’s no Olympic sport that relies more on a party atmosphere than beach volleyball, and there’s some doubt about what the sport will lose without a full house and a disc jockey to keep them dancing.

“It’s the Olympics, and you want that party atmosphere,” Ross said. “Japanese fans are awesome, so if those are the fans we’re going to have, I think it’s going to be a great atmosphere.”

Beach volleyball has traditionally been one of the prime attractions at the Summer Games. In London, Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates made sure to check it out; in Rio, the U.S. men’s basketball team came to see Walsh Jennings and Ross play.

Ross said fans often come for the party but fall in love with the sport itself.

“I really want people to see and focus on is how tough the sport is, and how athletic the players are,” she said. “That’s still going to be showcased. Hopefully, we reach a lot of people, and for them there’s no distractions.”

Olympic first-timers Claes and Sponcil said they don’t really know any better.

“I think the only bright side in all of this is the idea that ignorance is bliss,” Claes said. “It’s not like it’s our second one, where we got to experience the opening ceremonies and the Olympic village and our families being there.

“Yes, it sucks that all those things won’t be there. But also we won’t be distracted by all the things that come with the Olympics. And I think we’ll be that much more prepared for the next one.”

PARTNER SWAPS

Even though there are a lot of familiar names, the field has an entirely new look.

Only two women’s teams return from Rio intact, with Spain’s Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernández the only pair to make the Round of 16 in 2016 and qualify for Tokyo. On the men’s side, six partnerships survived, including silver medalists Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai of Italy, and bronze winners Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands.

Instead, retirement, injury, childbirth and just plain strategy led to a reshuffling of partnerships that is common — though not usually so extensive. Germany’s Laura Ludwig, who paired with Kira Walkenhorst to win gold in Brazil, is paired with Margareta Kozuch. Silver medalist Ágatha Bednarczuk is with Duda Santos Lisboa instead of Bárbara Seixas. Bronze winner Ross is back with Klineman instead of Walsh Jennings.

Reigning men’s champions Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Alison Cerutti are both back — but with new partners. Bruno is teamed with Evandro Oliveira and Alison will try to repeat with Álvaro Filho.

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Author: JIMMY GOLEN AP Sports Writer
This post originally appeared on CBS8 – Sports

US beach volleyball icon fails to qualify for Tokyo Olympics

Kerri Walsh Jennings had competed for the United States at every summer Olympics since the 2000 Sydney games.

Three-time beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings was defeated in her bid to reach a sixth Olympics when she and partner Brooke Sweat lost in a qualifying match Wednesday in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

The early-round loss to the Netherlands means the U.S. pair could not overtake fellow Americans Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil on the international tour point list. Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and her partner, Alix Klineman, have already clinched a berth in Tokyo, and there is a quota of two teams for each country in each of the women’s and men’s fields.

“It’s a terrible, terrible feeling,” Walsh Jennings said after the match. “It’s been a really rough year, and to lose in a qualifier, it feels really hard right now.”

Walsh Jennings, who won gold in Athens, Beijing and London with Misty May-Treanor and bronze in Rio de Janeiro with Ross, also played on the U.S. indoor team at the Sydney Games in 2000. She and Sweat had been in position to qualify for Tokyo during most of the pandemic-extended qualifying period before Claes and Sponcil won an FIVB event in Sochi, Russia, last week — their first international gold medal.

To retake the lead, Walsh Jennings and Sweat would have needed to at least get to the bronze medal match this weekend in Ostrava and hope that Claes and Sponcil didn’t reach the semifinals.

“Not this time,” Walsh Jennings said. “It’s a really hard day for us, so I think we’ll feel the pain.”

Claes, 25, and Sponcil, 24, will be the youngest team to represent the United States in the Olympic beach volleyball tournament.

The two U.S. men’s Olympic berths are still in contention in Ostrava, with three-time Olympian Jake Gibb and his partner, Taylor Crabb, in the lead and 2008 gold medalist Phil Dalhausser holding down the second spot with his partner, Nick Lucena.

Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabbe need a strong showing — and some help — to pass one of the two leading teams.

Author:
This post originally appeared on CBS8 – Sports

Kim Kardashian & Kendall Jenner Lunge & Fall While Facing Off In Sister Volleyball Game — Watch

Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, and their sisters got super competitive in a new clip from ‘KUWTK.’

The Kardashian and Jenner sisters are incredibly competitive, and that was clear in the latest clip from the final season[1] of Keeping Up With The Kardashians[2]. In the latest preview clip for the reality TV series, Kim[3] and Khloe Kardashian[4] teamed up against Kendall[5] and Kylie Jenner[6] for a sisterly game of volleyball. However, there’d already been some intense smack-talking. “Like, I actually know how to play volleyball,” Kendall could be heard saying under her breath to sister Kylie, as Kim and Khloe got warmed up.

“This is very hard to watch,” Kylie agreed. Kendall kept going, telling her two big sisters that watching them play volleyball was “embarrassing.” The tension between the four sisters[7] became a lot clearer when Kim and Khloe opened up in their own confessional. “As siblings, we’re always competitive,” Kim told the camera. “But Kendall has been talking a lot about how the Jenners are genetically gifted and this is something that makes my blood boil,” she admitted.

Kendall and Kylie Jenner talk strategy in a new clip from ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ [E!].

A flashback featured Kendall telling Khloe that after getting a “blood test” she was told that she’s “super athletic[8].” Khloe tried to tell her little sister that she was also pretty gifted when it comes to fitness and athleticism as well, to which Kendall questioned her, “are you though?” As such, Khloe and Kim were ready to bring it. “We are the true athletes here,” Kim said.
As Kendall and Kylie got their game plan ready, the clip cut to footage of the two sisters doing cheerleading, snowboarding, and more. They even gushed about Caitlyn Jenner[9], whom they credited for their athleticism. “My dad just always had so much faith in Kylie and I when it came to being athletic,” Kendall said. “We grew up daddy’s girls with those Olympic genes. The Jenners, we just have it in us.”

Kim Kardashian lunges for a volleyball in a new clip from ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ [E!].

What ensued after Kendall’s confessional was a montage of the sisters[10] running, lunging, and receiving the volleyball over the net. Each time, however, it looked as though Kim and Khloe somehow had the upper hand on the play! It looks like this will be a fun-filled episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. So, are you team Kim and Khloe, or team Kylie and Kendall?
Watch the next episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians on Thursdays at 8:00pm ET/PT on E!.

References

  1. ^ the final season (hollywoodlife.com)
  2. ^ Keeping Up With The Kardashians (hollywoodlife.com)
  3. ^ Kim (hollywoodlife.com)
  4. ^ Khloe Kardashian (hollywoodlife.com)
  5. ^ Kendall (hollywoodlife.com)
  6. ^ Kylie Jenner (hollywoodlife.com)
  7. ^ the four sisters (hollywoodlife.com)
  8. ^ super athletic (hollywoodlife.com)
  9. ^ Caitlyn Jenner (hollywoodlife.com)
  10. ^ a montage of the sisters (hollywoodlife.com)

Julia Teti

WATCH: Volleyball players start ‘casual game’ in front of erupting volcano in Iceland

A group of Icelandic volleyball players got together for a knock around this weekend, with the formidable backdrop of a volcano spewing out lava.

As the group was filmed playing at a location near their country’s capital Reykjavik, the volcano could be seen erupting in the background. 

Naturally, footage of the incident has gone viral on social media. 

Rut Einarsdottir was the lucky capturer of the eruption, which has already been seen by more than 1 million users. 

“People casually playing volleyball at the volcano in Fagradalsfjall,” read her caption, before she followed the post up with more to share. 

In one clip, she clinks coffee cups with an acquaintance while wrapped up in -12C (10.4F) conditions, before the camera swerves sideways to the historic goings-on.

The volcano had reportedly been dormant for 6,000 years, and is the first eruption in the local area for 800. 

These developments are such an important event in Iceland that there is now a live stream from the site. 
Also on rt.com WATCH: Mesmerizing drone footage captures close-up of Fagradalsfjall volcano eruption in Iceland
“The volcano itself was a spectacular and mesmerizing sight,” said Einarsdottir, and it is impossible to disagree. 

Not everyone was bowled over, though. 

“’Casually playing’”? Rather, [a] very planned location to play volleyball in order to make a viral video,” scoffed one Twitter user.

“Haha love the skepticism,” Einarsdottir coolly replied. “But I was just hiking with my friend (seen in other videos in thread) when we saw these people playing. I never imagined it’d blow up like this. 

“It’s very Icelandic to play some outside activity like this close to magnificent nature.”

“Virtually other-worldly,” remarked a more impressed onlooker, as one individual wise-cracked that soon someone will come and put a “No Ball Games” sign up.

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Debate breaks out after Indonesian women’s volleyball star confirmed to be a MAN

One of Indonesia’s top female volleyball players, Aprilia Manganang, has been confirmed as biologically male, sparking debate online over what that meant for her team’s previous performances.

The news was announced last week after the 28-year-old underwent surgery in Jakarta.

READ MORE: ‘It sends a clear message that our daughters’ rights are worth fighting for’: New rules on transgender athletes passed in US state

During a press conference held by the Chief of Army Staff (KSAD) General Andika Perkasa, the former athlete admitted he was happy to be legally recognized as male.

This is a moment that I have been waiting for, very happy. Praise the Lord Jesus, I can pass this and I am grateful that God used you and my mother to meet me,” he said.

Previously, the Army Chief  explained that Aprilia was not transgender, as he was male since birth, but experienced a medical disorder called hypospadias, which is a genital deformity experienced by male babies.

He also said that Aprilia’s condition was only recently discovered, when he was summoned to undergo a medical examination at the Gatot Subroto Army Hospital where urological and hormonal tests confirmed that he was a man.

The former volleyball pro underwent corrective surgery and will also have his documents changed regarding his new gender status.

The former player had represented Indonesia on its female volleyball team before retiring in 2020 and joining the army.

Aprilia’s gender status has long been the topic of debate, as the player’s masculine body often stood out from other female players, with opponents constantly questioning the athlete’s sex.

At the 2015 SEA Games the Philippines’ team called on the organizers to conduct a gender test, but their appeal was rejected, with Aprilia insisting he was female.

The revelation triggered debate on social media, with some users even calling on international volleyball authorities to ban the Indonesian squad, who had supposedly benefitted from an unfair advantage over the years with a biological man competing against women.

Others, however, dismissed those suggestions. One person wrote: “It’s a rare body condition he’s been suffering since he was born. Really? a ban for a country from International volleyball? I know it’s unfair, but penalizing or nullification is more suited in this case.” 

RT

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