Walsh Jennings, Sweat finish fourth

Kerri Walsh Jennings, Brooke Sweat, Finish First Leg of Globetrotting Olympic Push

Kerri Walsh Jennings-Ostrava-Brooke Sweat-p1440

Photo credit: FIVB

Nineteen days. Three countries. Twenty-four matches. Three single-elimination country quotas, four more of the same format in qualifiers.

One gold medal, another shot at a bronze. Two tournaments finishing as, critically, the best Americans in the field.

Alas, the first leg of Kerri Walsh Jennings’ and Brooke Sweat’s gogogo globetrotting, time zone blurring Olympic push is finished. It didn’t end how either would have preferred, on another podium, yet there is no mistaking that immense progress was made, enormous swaths of ground made up in an Olympic race that is going to be as competitive on the women’s side as any in recent memory.

Their run came to a close with consecutive losses in Ostrava, for a four-star in the Czech Republic at one of the most unique venues in sport. A 16-21, 14-21 loss to Brazilians Agatha and Duda – whom Walsh Jennings and Sweat beat in the semifinals a week before, in Jinjiang – in the semifinals was followed by a 23-25, 17-21 loss to Dutch Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink for bronze.

And now, with their first gold medal as a team in hand, earned in Jinjiang, they’ll return home. Sort of.

Sweat will be headed to New York, competing in an AVP alongside Canadian Brandie Wilkerson, who was named the FIVB’s best blocker a year ago and was the very same blocker whom Sweat and Walsh Jennings had to beat in the quarterfinals in Ostrava to advance to the semifinals.

Walsh Jennings, in the meantime, will return home, a small breather, a readjustment to the usual time zone, the usual appetite, the usual exercise regimen, a chance to see her kids, her husband, her life as she knows it.

And then, as it goes with the Olympic push that both Walsh Jennings and Sweat are quite familiar with, it’s back on the road. They’ll be off to Warsaw, Poland, for another four-star, which precedes the 10-day festival that is the FIVB World Championships, held in Hamburg, Germany. There, having received a wild card, Walsh Jennings and Sweat won’t need to worry about country quotas or qualifiers, which should be the norm moving forward.

FIVB points take 21 days to be awarded to the players – entry lists are published 21 days prior to the event, and seeding, once posted, is final, hence the delay – and after Poland, Walsh Jennings and Sweat will have all of their recent finishes to their names. Rarely, if ever, will they see “Q” next to their seed, or “CQ” alongside their matches.

They’ll be straight to main draw.

The first leg – the brutal one, directly uphill and into the wind, it seemed – is over. A quick breather, and a new one begins.