For the first time in her Olympic career as a Beach Volleyball player, Kerri Walsh Jennings wasn’t playing for a gold medal in the final night of the Olympic tournament. That’s because she and April Ross were upset on Tuesday night in their semifinals match against Brazil’s Ágatha Bednarczuk and Bárbara Seixas. It was the first time Walsh Jennings, who won three consecutive gold medals with Misty May-Treanor, had lost a match in Olympic play.
Despite the loss, Walsh Jennings is still one of the best players in beach volleyball and the face of the sport in the U.S. She and Ross still have a chance to win bronze on Wednesday night.
Here’s a look at Walsh Jennings’ life, career and her reaction to her first Olympic loss.
1. Walsh Jennings Took Complete Responsibility for the Loss, Saying the Team ‘Didn’t Get Their Mojo On’
In her post-match interview with the press, Walsh Jennings took responsibility for their shocking loss to Bednarczuk and Seixas, who moved on to play Germany’s Kira Walkenhorst and Laura Ludwig. Walsh Jennigns and Ross played another Brazilian team – Larissa França and
Talita Antunes – for the bronze and won.
“You have to pass the ball to win matches and I don’t know how many aces they got. Four per game maybe, on me? That’s unacceptable and inexcusable,” Walsh Jennings said after the loss, notes Yahoo Sports. “I’ve been served aggressively this whole tournament. And you can’t do anything without a pass. That’s what set the tone, and we didn’t get our mojo on anything else.”
Walsh Jennings admitted that her weakness was “passing the ball. And then we never gave ourselves breathing room.” She added that their opponents “outplayed us pretty much in every way.”
When asked if she plans on playing at the 2020 Olympics, Walsh Jennigns said she could, but “I don’t know if I will.”
When she appeared in ESPN The Magazine‘s 2013 “Body Issue,” she did say that Rio would be her last Olympics.
2. She Played on the Indoor Volleyball Team in 2000, Making Rio Her Fifth Olympic Games
Like Michael Phelps, Walsh Jennings also made her Olympic debut at the 2000 Sydney Games. At that time, the then-21-year-old Walsh Jennings was on the Team USA Women’s Indoor Volleyball team. That team failed to medal, but it was an important step in Walsh Jennings’ career.
“When I think about the journey, I get even more grateful,” Walsh Jennings told the San Francisco Chronicle in June. “I think about the lead-up to Sydney, overcoming injury, overcoming fear, overcoming setbacks. It was just as dramatic as it is now.”
Coincidentally, one of the players Walsh Jennings faced when the team played Australia was Louise Bawden, who was then 19. Bawden also plays beach volleyball now and also made it to the Rio Olympics. And who knocked Bawden and partner Taliqua Clancy out of the tournament? Walsh Jennings and Ross, of course.
3. Walsh Jennings Says Her Three Children Have Made Her a Better Volleyball Player
Walsh Jennings and her husband, Casey Jennings, have three children – sons Joey and Sundance and daughter Scout. Walsh Jennings famously revealed that she was 11-weeks pregnant with Scout during the London Games.
Before I had more kids, I was like, this feels trivial… I’d been playing for so long, and I was like I need balance. All my eggs are in this one basket and it’s very self-centered and self-focused. They gave me that perspective and balance I thought I was missing. It took my game and my desire and my passion for life to the next level. I am hugely indebted to my children.
4. She’s Earned Over $2.5 Million From Beach Volleyball
While many athletes who don’t play in the four major sports rely on endorsement deals to earn millions, Walsh Jennings has been so good for so long that she has earned over $2.5 million from winning beach volleyball tournaments. According to her Beach Volleyball Database profile, the Stanford grad has earned $2,514,135 in her 15-year career.
In her career, she’s racked up 113 overall victories, the most ever, according to her Association of Volleyball Professionals profile. She and May-Treanor both have the most AVP tour victories with 66 each. Between 2003 and 2008, May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings were the AVP Team of the Year. Ross and Walsh Jennings were named Team of the Year in 2014.
Walsh Jennings told Sports Illustrated in May that her favorite Olympic run was London. She said:
That journey I had with Misty to play in the Olympics with her and to have won all three. To have won our last one together, and to do it as a mommy, compounded to make it a very meaningful tournament. To win when my daughter was in my tummy just makes the story even that much more cute.
In that same interview, she explained that she loves the sport “with all my heart, so the motivation comes very naturally.”
5. Walsh Jennings Always Defends Beach Volleyball Bikinis & Says They Are Worm for Better Performance
While women beach volleyball players don’t have to wear bikinis any longer, many still do and Walsh Jennings has always been ready to defend the practice. Indeed, she had to do so on Twitter on August 14, when someone suggested that NBC only focused on beach volleyball to show off Walsh Jennings’ sideboob. Here’s Walsh Jennings’ response:
“The original way to play beach volleyball was in a bikini and board shorts, and I don’t know what else they want us to wear,” Walsh Jennings said in a July interview with the Huffington Post. She said that bikinis aren’t worn by players so they look “sexy.” It’s all about performance.
“I think we’ve just gotta educate the public, take it with a grain of salt and make sure that we’re working hard and not playing up the sex appeal because it’s inherent anyway,” she told the Huffington Post.
Walsh Jennings takes the bikinis so seriously that she and Ross designed their own suits and sent drawings to Mizuno.
“It was Kerri’s idea originally to design our own suits,” Ross told the Associated Press. “She brought it up, and I liked the idea a lot. It’s so cool. It just gives you more ownership of the whole thing.”