Three-time Olympic beach volleyball champion Kerri Walsh Jennings will miss at least one month after dislocating her right shoulder in a match for the second time in two months and may need season-ending surgery that could greatly impact her chances of making the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Walsh Jennings is meeting with doctors and collecting information this week after she dislocated her right shoulder at an FIVB World Tour event in Gstaad, Switzerland, on Friday.
Walsh Jennings, a 36-year-old mother of three, previously dislocated the shoulder in a match in Moscow on May 27 and rushed back to play in the World Championships one month later.
“In one scenario, I’m back next year. In one scenario, I’m back in five or six weeks,” Walsh Jennings said in a phone interview Tuesday, adding she really needs surgery, but she’s just not sure when it’ll happen. “I’m still trying to flush out all the details.”
Walsh Jennings, who had four previous right shoulder surgeries, finished Friday’s match after a medical timeout — a sweep with partner April Ross over Brazilian World champions Agatha and Barbara — and pulled out of the tournament before the next day’s semifinals.
Walsh Jennings said the earliest she could return, if she doesn’t have surgery right away, would be at the World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, Calif., the week of Aug. 18. The final FIVB World Tour event this season is in South Africa in December.
If Walsh Jennings has immediate surgery and misses the rest of the season, she and Ross, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, might have a hard time qualifying for the Rio Olympics.
The main path to Olympic qualifying is through FIVB results from the start of 2015 through June 12, 2016. In that path, pairs must play at least 12 tournaments to be eligible.
Walsh Jennings and Ross have played four events this season. The FIVB 2016 schedule hasn’t been released, but if it’s the same as 2015, it will include six events by mid-June. That would give Walsh Jennings and Ross a maximum of 10 events played, two shy of the minimum requirement.
Even if Walsh Jennings and Ross get to 12, the U.S. may not qualify two pairs for the Olympics through FIVB results. The top 15 pairs, no more than two spots per nation and not including already qualified Brazil, qualify spots for the Rio Olympics in the FIVB results path.
The U.S. currently has no pairs ranked higher than 10th this season (when excluding Brazilian pairs), depending on which FIVB ranking is used.
There will be later qualifying tournaments to round out the Olympic field of 24 pairs (maximum two per nation) in June and July 2016. The U.S. can enter no more than two pairs in those last-chance qualifying tournaments.
Ross is playing this week with Jennifer Fopma at the AVP Kingston NYC Open, the first time the domestic tour has been to Manhattan in 33 years.