Kerri Walsh Jennings and partner Brooke Sweat were eliminated from Olympic contention on Wednesday, losing in a qualifying round of the final qualifier in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
“It’s a terrible, terrible feeling,” Walsh Jennings said. “It’s been a really rough year, and to lose in a qualifier, it feels really hard right now.”
Walsh Jennings, a 42-year-old, triple Olympic champion, and Sweat needed to finish third or better in Ostrava to have any chance of passing Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil for the second and final U.S. Olympic beach volleyball spot.
Instead, they did not reach the main draw of 32 teams, losing a qualifying match to a young Dutch team that hasn’t made it past the round of 16 in five top-level events this year.
“Not this time,” Walsh Jennings said. “It’s a really hard day for us, so I think we’ll feel the pain.”
Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career may be over after five Games, three gold medals and one bronze medal.
Claes, 25, and Sponcil, 24, join April Ross and Alix Klineman as the U.S. Olympic women’s beach volleyball pairs for Tokyo. Claes, from USC, and Sponcil, from UCLA, are set to become the youngest U.S. Olympic beach volleyball team in history. More on their partnership here.
Claes and Sponcil won the penultimate Olympic qualifier last week in Sochi, Russia, to pass Walsh Jennings and Sweat for the second U.S. spot. Walsh Jennings and Sweat were in second place in the standings since 2019.
Walsh Jennings endured a difficult Olympic cycle. She had three different partners, underwent a sixth right shoulder surgery and had to work through qualifying rounds after teaming with Sweat, a Rio Olympian with Lauren Fendrick. Sweat underwent knee surgery last spring.
Walsh Jennings and Sweat last made the semifinals of a top-level tournament in August 2019.
Walsh Jennings was eliminated in qualifying of an international tournament for the second time in her 21-year career on Wednesday, according to BVBInfo.com.
Walsh Jennings and Sweat lost both of their main-draw matches last week in Sochi, marking the first time Walsh Jennings finished 25th (tied for last place in the main draw) in 151 international events dating to her start in 2001, according to BVBinfo.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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