Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat celebrate their bronze victory at the FIVB 4-star event on Aug. 18, 2019 in Moscow.
Five-time Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings and still-new partner Brooke Sweat continued to solidify their collaboration with a third-place finish at the FIVB 4-star event in Moscow on Sunday.
Walsh Jennings, who celebrated her 41st birthday three days ago, and Sweat, 33, dropped their first set against Germany’s Julia Sude and Karla Borger in the bronze medal match in the Russian capital but rebounded in their final two to clinch a 2-1 (24-26, 21-18, 15-10) victory.
The duo was edged in Saturday’s semifinal by Brazil’s Taiana Lima and Talita Antunes in two sets (23-21, 23-21), while Sude and Borger were defeated by Switzerland’s Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré, who played for gold Sunday.
For Walsh Jennings, Antunes is a familiar face on the other side of the net: Walsh Jennings and April Ross faced her and Larissa Franca in the bronze medal match at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, which was won by the Americans.
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The Swiss eliminated Team USA’s Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Saturday’s quarterfinal, where Walsh Jennings and Sweat faced off against Brazil’s Ana Patricia Silva Ramos and Rebecca Cavalcanti Barbosa Silva, winning 24-22, 21-16.
With four Olympic medals, three of them gold, Walsh Jennings is the most decorated beach volleyball player in history, a legacy she hopes to extend next summer in Tokyo. Walsh Jennings and Sweat paired up last fall and have been slowly building toward potential Olympic qualification, which would be Sweat’s second appearance at a Games. Sweat played in Rio with Lauren Fendrick, who sat out this year’s World Championships on maternity leave.
A pair’s best 12 finishes on the international circuit earn them qualification points, and the top two U.S. women’s pairs will qualify for Tokyo.
Walsh Jennings and Sweat have already posted good results, including a win at the FIVB 4-star event in Jinjiang, China, and second at an FIVB 3-star event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, both in May. Moscow is their third third-place finish, after events in Mexico last October and Australia this March.
Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.