Kerri Walsh Jennings’ reign of beach volleyball dominance ended late Tuesday night in Rio de Janeiro, concluding one of the modern Olympics’ most memorable runs.
The second-seeded Brazilian team of Barbara and Agatha eliminated the third-seeded American duo of Walsh Jennings and April Ross in a semifinal matchup 2-0 (22-20, 21-18). The Barbara-Agatha tandem — one that entered as the tournament’s second-best Brazil team — will now move into the finals, where No. 5-seeded Germany awaits. The Germans defeated the other Brazilian tandem, No. 1 overall, earlier in the day.
For the USA, it will be the first time since the Sydney Games in 2000 that the nation will not celebrate a beach volleyball gold medal. For Walsh Jennings, this ends the 38-year-old’s championship run that extends farther back than either Usain Bolt’s or Michael Phelps’.
Walsh Jennings lost her first Olympic match Tuesday, entering the night at 26-0 — including a 5-0 mark in these games with her new partner. She and Ross will attempt to face another Brazilian duo, Larissa and Talita, and claim her fourth Olympic medal and Ross’ first.
Walsh Jennings and previous partner Misty May-Treanor resided as the Olympics’ greatest-ever beach volleyball dynasty, claiming gold in Athens, Beijing and London. Treanor retired from the team after the London Games.
The 34-year-old Ross witnessed her new teammate’s dominance firsthand, doing so initially as a silver medalist — along with Jennifer Kessy — in London. Joining up with Walsh Jennings in Rio, the pair skated to five straight victories before running into the Agatha-Barbara duo.
After the Americans tied the second set at 11 midway through, the agile Brazilian tandem, backed by probably the Games’ most raucous atmosphere among major competitions, surged ahead and didn’t allow the de facto visitors to tie them again.
Brazil won the first women’s beach volleyball Olympic competition in 1996 in Atlanta but hasn’t claimed gold since.