Walsh-Jennings falls short in bid for 6th Olympics; American duo Claes/Sponcil clinches Tokyo berth

The three-time Olympic champion and her partner Brooke Sweat lost a qualifying match, securing Claes/Sponcil as No.2 U.S. team behind Klineman/Ross.

By Nick McCarvel

American beach volleyball legend Kerri Walsh-Jennings, a three-time Olympic gold medallist, fell short in her bid for a sixth career appearance at the Olympics at Tokyo 2020, losing in a final qualifying event on Wednesday (2 June) with partner Brooke Sweat.

Their loss means the No.2 American spot goes to Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, who had a surprise victory at a penultimate qualifying stop last weekend in Sochi, Russia.

Americans Alix Klineman and April Ross had previously clinched their spot for the coming Summer Games.

Walsh-Jennings, now 42, was Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 champion with longtime partner Misty May-Treanor, before teaming up with Ross to capture bronze at Rio 2016.

She paired up with Sweat in 2018 for a push at Tokyo, but the team never hit their stride after Sweat suffered from a knee injury in mid-2020. Many consider Walsh-Jennings to be the greatest beach volleyball player of all time. She told Olympics.com in July 2020 that she wasn't ruling Paris 2024 out.

"I truly don't know when I'll retire but I hope to keep playing forever. Maybe not at Olympic level, but still playing," Walsh-Jennings said. "I haven't ruled out Paris 2024."