Walsh Jennings, Sweat making progress

Kerri Walsh Jennings, Brooke Sweat Take Fifth, And Progress, in Gstaad


Kerri Walsh Jennings knows how this goes. It’s a long game, not a short one. It lasts nearly two years, not just two tournaments. To get caught up in the results of one, or two, or even three or four or five tournaments would be myopic. But to see the steps taken from one, or two, or three or four or five tournaments would be exactly what her and Brooke Sweat are looking for in this Olympic journey, one that began, for them, in Las Vegas in October and will conclude, one way or the other, next summer.

Were they disappointed with a loss to Americans April Ross and Alix Klineman in the quarterfinals of the Gstaad Major? Of course.

Were they also ecstatic at the bounce-back they made from Hamburg, where they finished 17th, to Gstaad, where they didn’t lose a set until those quarterfinals? Also yes.

“The hugest takeaway, for me, is that we have it, man,” Walsh Jennings said afterwards. “Our energy is getting so good. We are growing together, every single step of this journey. From day one we understood that this is going to be a process, that we’re not going to just snap our fingers and be there. The world is too good. Every loss, every win, is a stepping stone. We got leaps and bounds better from Hamburg and we got our asses kicked today but we got fifth, and we’re going to take this momentum into Espinho, we’re going to fight for gold.”

Already, they have played 12 tournaments in the Olympic qualification calendar, tied for the most of any team in the world. They’ve hit the maximum number of finishes a team can count towards qualifying, meaning that, literally, their points can only go up. They’ve set the baseline. Every time they pick up a finish above a previous one, it’ll be out with the old, in with the new.

Not that they’d be satisfied simply swapping fifths for ninths, either.

“To win,” Walsh Jennings said when asked of her goals as a team with Sweat. “A lot. We believe that if we keep progressing the way we’re progressing we can be the best team in the world.”

In terms of rankings, both Olympic and FIVB, which are a bit different, they already are.

Currently, Walsh Jennings and Sweat are fourth in the world in the Olympic race and second among Americans, behind only Ross and Klineman. On the FIVB, they’re 12th and only climbing.  

“I’m not happy to lose,” Walsh Jennings said. “Not at all. But I’m happy with our progress as a team. There’s no doubt we’re one of the top teams in the world. This is just part of the process. I’m not worried at all.”

So now they’re onto Espinho, Portugal. Another four-star stone upon which to step. Another opportunity for gold, yes, but more importantly, in the 18-month marathon that is Olympic qualification, another potential teaching moment, where progress can, and will, be had.

“We’re going to learn from this, just like we did from last week,” Sweat said of Gstaad. “This is a good place to be.”