FIVB Ostrava defeat ends Olympic hopes for Walsh Jennings, Sweat

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Kerri Walsh Jennings blocks Katja Stam in Ostrava on Wednesday/FIVB-photo

The Olympics run for Kerri Walsh Jennings ended Wednesday when she and Brooke Sweat lost in the second round of the qualifier at the FIVB four-star in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Raisa Schoon and Katja Stam of the Netherlands, the 16th-seeded qualifier, won the match 21-18, 19-21, 15-12, meaning not only are Walsh Jennings and Sweat out of the tournament, it means Walsh Jennings will not make her sixth Olympics.

It also means that Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil have clinched the USA’s second Olympic beach berth, joining Alix Klineman and April Ross in Tokyo.

“It’s a terrible, terrible feeling, really” Walsh Jennings said. “It’s been a really rough year. And to lose in a qualifier, it’s pretty hard right now.”

The 42-year-old Walsh, a four-time All-American indoor All-American at Stanford (1995-99) made her first Olympic team indoors in 2000 when the USA finished fourth in Sydney.

She made the move to the beach and playing with Misty May-Treanor won beach gold medals at the 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, and 2012 Olympics. Walsh Jennings then paired with April Ross and they won bronze in the 2016 Rio Games.

Her last FIVB victory was in May 2019 when she and Sweat won the four-star Jinjiang, China, event. Also in 2019 she and Sweat won gold in NORCECA Bolsa Chica, Dominican Republic. Before that, she hadn’t won an international event since 2016. The list of FIVB and AVP awards she won during her career is unparalleled, including being named the Most Outstanding in 2007, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

She and May-Treanor were the AVP pair of the year in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008, and then she and Ross were the top AVP pair in 2014 and 2016. Walsh Jennings won 112 domestic titles and 151 FIVB.

Walsh Jennings, plagued much of the last few years with shoulder injuries and subsequent surgeries, partnered with Brooke Sweat in October 2018. Sweat, too, has dealt with injuries and this past June had knee surgery. Sweat played in the 2016 Rio Olympics with Lauren Fendrick.

Last week in the FIVB event Sochi, Russia, Walsh Jennings and Sweat, 35, went 0-2 in pool play and could only watch as Claes and Sponcil went on to win the tournament and leap past them into second place in the race for the two USA Olympic berths. KWJ-Sweat needed to finish third or better in Ostrava to keep their Olympic hopes alive.

“We’ll figure out what ahead the rest of the season for us,” Walsh Jennings said. “It’s been a hard day for us, so we’ll feel the pain and think about it.”

We will have more on the FIVB Ostrava in another story later Wednesday.

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