2015-07-10 20:24:00 CET
In the biggest show of heart that the Swatch Major Series has ever seen, three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings powered through the agony of a fresh shoulder injury to eliminate powerful new world champions from Brazil in the Gstaad Major Quarter Finals on Friday.
In her Swatch Major Series debut following a dislocated shoulder last May, Walsh Jennings and her partner April Ross were looking strong on Friday, beating another tough team from the deep Brazilian field before facing Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas, the newly crowned FIVB world champions, in the Quarters.
The North Americans stunned the Brazilians with a 21-17 win in the first set and were leading by six points in the second when disaster struck – reaching high, the beach volleyball legend reinjured her still-healing right shoulder. After a medical time out and attention by doctors courtside, an obviously hurting Walsh Jennings returned, playing the ball with her left hand whenever she could and counting on Ross, an Olympic silver medalist in her own right, to step up more than ever.
As crowds in the stands watched breathlessly, the Brazilians inched their way back. Three times they reached striking distance, tying it 19-19, 20-20, and then 21-21. But Walsh Jennings and Ross somehow found a way to take it to another level, and fittingly it was Walsh Jennings who ended the set and the match with a massive block, for a score of 23-21. It was an incredible present for the injured player’s husband Casey Jennings, a beach volleyball player himself who celebrated his wife’s win at home in California with their three children.
“I was feeling really good and really confident. Maybe I was a little cocky, because I just wanted to hit the ball so hard – April was setting me so well. I don’t know if I dislocated on the swing or because I missed the ball, but my shoulder came out a little bit. The physios are amazing, they put it back in,” Walsh Jennings described.
In other Quarter Final action, Brazil’s Larissa França and Talita Antunes, their countrywomen Taiana Lima and Fernanda Alves, and Canadians Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan also advanced to Saturday’s Semifinals ahead of medal rounds and the awards ceremony in the afternoon.
As men’s pool play came to its conclusion on Friday, Austria, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Poland, the United States and two teams from Canada won their pools, earning a bye through the first round of men’s Elimination.
Play at the Gstaad Major resumes at 9:00 am CET Saturday.