After winning three straight Olympic gold medals, Kerri Walsh Jennings won’t have the opportunity to extend that streak to four.
Brazil’s tandem of Agatha and Barbara ended the streak, beating the tandem of Walsh Jennings and April Ross in straight sets, 22-20, 21-18 at Copacobana Beach. Prior to Tuesday night Walsh Jennings had a 26-0 record in Olympic beach volleyball matches, but contrary to the expectations that come with said experience it was she who struggled against the Brazilians. Passes were off, and kills that were converted on such a consistent basis were either off the mark or blocked by Agatha and Barbara.
But even with the struggles of the Americans, Agatha and Barbara deserve credit for what happened. Their defensive ability combined with the skill of mixing things up offensively, going with power at some points and placement at others, made it tough for Walsh Jennings and Ross to establish any kind of momentum.
Next up for Agatha and Barbara will be Germany’s Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst, who eliminated Brazil’s Larissa and Talita in Tuesday’s other semifinal. Walsh Jennings and Ross can still win a medal, as they’ll face Larissa and Talita for the bronze medal Wednesday night.
The loss itself isn’t an upset, with Agatha and Barbara being the two-seed in the tournament and an accomplished duo in their own right. But with Walsh Jennings being undefeated in Olympic play going into the match and she and Ross playing good volleyball throughout their time in Rio, this was a result few expected.
In the men’s bracket, Brazil’s Alison and Bruno Schmidt will look to win gold when they take on Italy’s Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo Thursday night. Nicolai and Lupo advanced to the gold medal match with a three-set win over Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Konstantin Semenov of Russia, 15-21, 21-16, 15-13.