Kerri Walsh-Jennings, a 6’2” olympian and decorated beach volleyball player was expected to bring home the gold for America for the fourth time in her career at the 2016 Olympics. Unfortunately, America’s expectations felt a crushing blow when USA lost to Brazil in the semi-finals. After collecting three gold medals throughout her career, her winning streak came to an unexpected end.
Walsh-Jennings has been a part of the Olympic games for the past twelve years, compiling three gold medals from 2004 to 2012 with her former partner Misty May-Treanor. Walsh-Jennings began her Olympic career in 1999 with indoor volleyball, but by 2001 transitioned to play beach with May-Treanor. After winning gold in Beijing, May-Treanor decided to retire from the game in 2012.
Many believed in 2016, Ross and Walsh-Jennings would play as strong as May-Treanor and Walsh-Jennings had once played together. However, many seem to forget this took years of practice, and didn’t just happen within a short period of time.
Walsh-Jennings was so confident she would continue her gold-winning streak that America had no reason to worry. The new duo went undefeated throughout the tournament, until they played the home team Brazil: Ágatha Bednarczuk and Bárbara Seixas. At this point, sports enthusiasts would usually claim Ross and Walsh-Jennings were defeated due to home-court advantage nerves or being unprepared.
However, observing the match and comparing it to their past games, Brazil was just a stronger team. USA has not had the home advantage for over two decades, yet they still managed to come home with multiple gold medals.
Walsh-Jennings and Ross are two phenomenal players, but they are not the same duo May-Treanor and Walsh-Jennings once were. Ross had major shoes to fill after May-Treanor-- she had to prove that Walsh-Jennings made the right choice in choosing her for a partner.
This tournament was only Ross and Walsh-Jenning’s first time playing together in such a large event, and they were able to go far. Brazil was just a stronger unit and was able to finish on top.
This experience was not a total loss. It was heartbreaking to watch, but it should be taken as a learning experience. This defeat showed just how resilient of an olympian Walsh-Jennings is.
Watching her passion and aggression during a match is inspiring to athletes. At that moment, the only thing that matters to her is that game. As a fan, her intensity is what makes the contest so exhilarating. This defeat was disappointing to watch, but there is faith USA beach volleyball will bring back gold in Tokyo 2020. Overall, USA had a strong experience at the Olympics, bringing back 46 gold medals, 37 silver medals, and 38 bronze medals.