FIVB Moscow Four-Star

Moscow Four-Star: Kerri Walsh Jennings Goes Undefeated on 41st Birthday

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Photo: FIVB 

Kerri Walsh Jennings almost seemed surprised, as most of us do, when, on Thursday, she announced her new age.

“I’m 41!” she said, a note of disbelief in her tone. “Holy cow.”

Forty-one and still, still, still winning. Always winning. She was winning at 21, when she was bringing home National Championships indoors at Stanford. She was winning at 31, when her and Misty May-Treanor were architecting the most dominant run in beach volleyball history. And she is still winning at 41, as Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat went undefeated in pool play at the Moscow Four-Star, beating Russia and fellow Americans Emily Stockman and Kelley Larsen.

“I gotta win on my birthday,” she said from Moscow.

She did, as did the U.S. in general. Also winning their pool was Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, who also beat a Russian team before following it up with a convincing 21-12, 21-13 win over Germans Sandra Ittlinger and Chantal Laboureur.

The only American team to take a loss on the women’s side was Larsen and Stockman, and even that damage was fairly minimal, as they had won their first, assuring that every American team will break pool.

Though Thursday was not Jake Gibb’s birthday, like Walsh Jennings, the 43-year-old veteran, alongside Taylor Crabb, swept his pool. The magnitude of that is hard to overstate at this stage in the Olympic race. Crabb and Gibb have uncharacteristically struggled on the World Tour, taking 17th and 19th in back-to-back tournaments. In winning pool – which included a victory over Germans Clemens Wickler and Julius Thole — they guarantee at least a ninth-place finish, which would tie for their second-best of the Olympic race.

The only other American men’s team in the field, Billy Allen and Stafford Slick, will have its work cut out for it. A 21-11, 21-15 loss in the first round to Swiss Mirco Gerson and Adrian Heidrich puts them in a must-win situation against Brazilians Evandro and Bruno, who were upset by Polish qualifiers Marciej Rudol and Jakub Szalankiewicz.

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