Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat were eliminated from the world beach volleyball championships in the round of 32 on Wednesday in Hamburg, Germany, hurting their chances of qualifying next June for the Tokyo Olympics.
Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion, and her new partner, Rio Olympian Sweat, were swept by formidable Brazilians Agatha and Duda 21-18, 21-16 on the first day of elimination rounds.
It’s Walsh Jennings’ worst result in seven career world championships. They went 1-2 in pool play, the lone win a 21-2, 21-2 rout of an inexperienced team from Mauritius.
Walsh Jennings said it was the worst that she and Sweat have played since pairing in October.
“This is the most disappointing event I’ve ever had, and I think Brooke would probably feel the same,” Walsh Jennings told media in Hamburg in audio provided by NBC Sports’ Seth Rubinroit. “This is a horrific thing to say, but it’s almost a relief it’s over.”
Walsh Jennings and Sweat and Agatha and Duda split matches at the Americans’ last two international events in May and June.
Agatha and former partner Barbara handed Walsh Jennings her only Olympic beach defeat in the Rio semifinals, when Walsh Jennings played with April Ross.
The world championships carry the most points of any tournament in the two-year Olympic qualifying window.
Walsh Jennings and Sweat came to worlds ranked second among Americans in average points, behind Ross and Alix Klineman, and gained no ground in Hamburg.
Both Klineman and Ross and the other top U.S. pair, Sara Hughes and Summer Ross (no relation), won Wednesday matches to reach the round of 16.
The top two U.S. teams in qualifying points come next June are in line to go to Tokyo.
Walsh Jennings, a 40-year-old mother of three, is in line to become the oldest Olympic beach volleyball player in history, should she and Sweat hold off younger U.S. pairs over the next year.
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