Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 4, 2016 – Kerri Walsh Jennings will be ready to write a new chapter in her Olympic history as she chases a fourth Olympic gold at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics Games, but for the first time in tandem with April Ross.
Walsh Jennings and Ross teamed up midway through the 2013 season after playing one another in the London 2012 gold medal match. Walsh Jennings won that clash, as she had all three of her Olympic finals with long-time partner Misty May-Treanor.
The London 2012 final was May-Treanor’s last act before she retired from the sport and after Ross’ partner Jennifer Kessy took a break from the sport in 2013 she and Walsh Jennings played their first tournament together at the Gstaad Grand Slam.
Walsh Jennings underwent shoulder surgery at the end of 2015, but is now back to full fitness and is in confident mood for the challenge ahead.
“If we come out and show that we are the best, then it will take care of itself,” Walsh Jennings said. “It feels so new in so many ways, then energy of the Olympics is something that is so very, very special and is impossible to recreate.”
Brazil’s pairs of Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes and Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas are likely to be their main challengers.
Larissa and Talita go into the tournament as the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour champions, while Agatha and Barbara won the Netherlands 2015, FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships.
“The field is deeper than it’s ever been – Brazil, Germany, Italy, Canada – lots of teams that have really made a breakthrough in the last four years,” Ross said. “A couple of teams that you wouldn’t expect could upset some higher ranked teams.”
Pool A – World Tour champs Larissa and Talita lead the way as number one seeds and they are both veterans of Beijing 2008 and London 2012, where Larissa won bronze with Juliana Felisberta. Poland’s Kinga Kolosinska and Monika Brzostek are one of the up and coming teams on the World Tour and they won silver at the 2016 Rio Grand Slam. Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat fought hard to qualify as the second USA team and have reached the quarter-finals a number of times on the World Tour. Evgenia Ukolova and Ekaterina Birlova from Russia will be out to find the form that helped them win silver at the 2015 European Championships.
Pool B – Agatha and Barbara will be seeking to rediscover the form that took them to World Championships gold, though that was the most recent time that they topped an FIVB podium. Spain’s Elsa Baquerizo Liliana Fernandez have twice reached a World Tour podium in 2016, with silver at the Sochi Open and bronze at the Cincinnati Open. Argentina’s Anna Gallay played at London 2012 and she will play alongside Georgina Klug at Rio 2016 having twice reached World Tour semifinals in 2016. Barbara Hermannova and Marketa Slukova from the Czech Republic booked their place through the Continental Cup and for Slukova it will be her second Olympic Games after she and Krystina Kolocova competed at London 2012. They won their first World Tour gold at the 2015 Antalya Open and added silver at the 2016 European Championships.
Pool C – Walsh Jennings and Ross are in strong form having won three gold and one silver in their last five tournaments and as they showed at London 2012 they both know the way to the gold medal match. Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Verge-Depre (pictured) have established themselves as Switzerland’s leading duo and they won the Fuzhou Open gold earlier this year. China’s Fan Wang and Yuen Yue have been together since 2014 and silver at the 2014 Shanghai Grand Slam was their best result. Mariafe Artacho-Solar and Nicole Laird makes their Olympic debut two years after they won FIVB U23 World Championships gold. They won silver at the 2016 Asian Championships before they qualified for Rio 2016 through the Continental Cup.
Pool D – Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst have forced their way into the top women’s contenders and this year the German pair have already won four World Tour gold and the European Championships title. Marta Menegatti and Laura Giombini play their first senior tournament together after Giombini arrived as a late replacement for Viktoria Orsi Toth. They twice played European U23 Championships together and won silver in their second in 2010. Jamie-Lyn Broder and Kristina Valjas are part of a strong Canada squad, but are waiting for their first medal of 2016 having won their first World Tour gold at the Fuzhou Open in 2015. Egypt’s Doaa Elghobashy and Nada Meawad qualified Rio 2016 for by winning the African Continental Cup.
Pool E – Canada’s Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan have won World Tour silver and bronze in 2016 and will be eyeing the Rio 2016 medals. Britta Buthe and Karla Borger came to prominence at the 2013 World Championships when they came from nowhere to win silver and this season they have won bronze at the Rio Grand Slam and the European Championships. Switzerland’s Joana Heidrich makes her Olympic debut alongside Nadine Zumkehr who competed at London 2012 and they go into the tournament fresh from winning silver at the Klagenfurt Major Series event. Sophie van Gestel and Jantine van der Vlist are part of a four-team Dutch contingent and qualified by winning the European Continental Cup.
Pool F – Dutch duo Marlene van Iersel and Madelein Meppelink are regulars in the latter stages of the World Tour, but have yet to claim gold. Their most recent success was silver at the Maceio Open in February. Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy have been together since the start of 2013 and have established themselves as Australia’s leading pair with Porec Major bronze in 2015 their best result. Costa Rica’s Karen Cope-Charles and Natalia Alfaro qualified by winning the NORCECA Continental Cup Final and the pair are regulars on the NORCECA Tour, where they won Cayman Islands silver in April. Olaya Pazo and Norisbeth Gonzalez will both make their Olympic debuts after they won the South American Continental Cup.