The only ones of the eight pairs who stayed warm and dry Sunday at FIVB Olsztyn Open were Kerri Walsh Jennings and Nicole Branagh. That’s because the Americans forfeited their women’s bronze-medal match as Walsh Jennings dealt with her injured right shoulder.
From the FIVB account on a cold and wet day at the four-star event in Poland:
When signing the scoresheet for the bronze medal match, Walsh Jennings told an FIVB official that she and Branagh will be playing in this coming week’s FIVB World Championships in Vienna. Walsh Jennings, who dislocated her right shoulder twice during the 2015 FIVB World Tour season in Moscow and the Swiss Alps village of Gstaad, recovered from her fifth shoulder surgery to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games where she and April Ross defeated Talita and Larissa for the bronze medal on Copacabana.
There was a surprise men’s gold-medal winner as Germans Markus Bockermann and Lars Fluggen, not only the 25th seed but a pair that emerged from the qualifier, beat Americans Ryan Doherty and John Hyden 15-21, 21-18, 15-11.
“This is the biggest win we’ve had so far,” Fluggen said. “We hope there are more.”
The women’s gold went to Brazilians Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca, the top seed who were coming off the World Series of Beach Volleyball title. They had to work hard to beat third-seeded Canadians Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan 20-22, 21-18, 16-14. Talita won the title in Poland in 2015 and lost in the gold-medal match last year.
The bronze winners were Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Lisboa, who didn’t have to take the court, and Mexicans Lombardo Ontiveros and Juan Virgen, who beat Latvians Martins Plavins and Haralds Regza 21-17, 22-20.
In Saturday’s semifinals, Walsh Jennings and Branagh had rallied back from being down 14-12 in the third set to tie the match 14-14. Walsh Jennings then made a big dig but in doing so extended her right arm into the hard sand and she dislocated her right shoulder, one that has undergone five surgeries.
She collected herself and even though the play was not completed, Humana-Paredes and Pavan wouldn’t take the point. They went up 15-14 on a kill by Pavan. Walsh Jennings passed the next serve, but when Branagh set her all she could do was pop the ball over with her left hand.
Walsh Jennings, posting on her Facebook page, wrote, “All is well! Always is & always will be.” There were a lot of emojis, but she added, “Dislocated shoulder for the last time …. time to get tough & hungry & aligned in every way.”
If Walsh Jennings and Branagh compete in the FIVB World tournament that starts Friday, they are scheduled to play their first match on Saturday against Germans Victoria Bieneck and Isabel Schneider. They play Larissa and Talita on Sunday.
Among the other Americans playing in the tournament are Brooke Sweat and Summer Ross, Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, April Ross and Lauren Fendrick, Doherty and Hyden, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, Theo Brunner and Casey Patterson, Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb.