Kerri Walsh Jennings in action at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Itapema on May 18, 2018 in Itapema, Brazil.
Kerri Walsh Jennings has a new partner, but gold-medal expectations remain the same.
The three-time Olympic gold medalist announced Tuesday that she will team with Olympian Brooke Sweat as she seeks to qualify for her sixth Olympic Games. Walsh Jennings, 40, won her three gold medals with Misty May-Treanor, then earned a bronze medal in 2016 with April Ross. Walsh Jennings sees a little reminder of May-Treanor in Sweat’s game.
“Brooke really sits in the same vein as Misty,” Walsh Jennings told NBC OlympicTalk. “Brooke is her own athlete and has her own assets and strengths, but largely what Misty and Brooke share in common is their inherent knowledge in the game and the fact it’s in her blood. You can just tell she gets it.”
Sweat, 32, made her Olympic debut in Rio with teammate Lauren Fendrick. She has played in 55 international competitions with her best finish coming as a runner-up in Moscow in 2017. Walsh Jennings has more international titles, 58, than competitions Sweat has played — but Walsh Jennings believes the partnership will be a great fit.
Walsh Jennings is scheduled to play with Kelly Claes at an event this weekend in China, then she and Sweat will play together at Olympic qualifying events in Las Vegas and Mexico. Sweat has been sidelined since May after having surgery on her right shoulder, something Walsh Jennings knows well, having had five surgeries on the same shoulder in her career.
The team has work ahead of them to catch up to their U.S. teammates. April Ross and Alix Klineman are in top form as the top team on the AVP Tour this year, and the always formidable Sara Hughes and Summer Ross won their first FIVB gold medal this season at the Moscow Open.