LONDON – Beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh-Jennings' bid to win a third straight Olympic gold medal has been disrupted after she contracted pinkeye in her left eye.
The condition has left the defending champion's eye inflamed and irritated and has even prevented her from holding her infant sons at London 2012. But the Games legend insists nothing will stand in the way of her and partner Misty May-Treanor clinching another title.
[Photos: Olympic beach volleyball]
"It looks worse than it is," said Walsh, when quizzed by reporters who noticed her blinking heavily and in obvious discomfort on Wednesday. Walsh also has noticeable redness around her eye.
Walsh has been prescribed drops by U.S. team doctors but has been warned that her pinkeye has little chance of clearing up completely until after the Games are over.
During her opening matches with May-Treanor, Walsh admitted the conjunctivitis had caused a heavy mucus buildup that she was forced to repeatedly wipe away with a damp cloth. Walsh's husband Casey Jennings has traveled to London with the pair's children and has been even more seriously affected.
"His eyeballs look like they got their butts kicked," Walsh-Jennings said.
Walsh-Jennings and May-Treanor have dominated women's beach volleyball for most of the past decade, but have suffered some indifferent form this season. Regardless, Walsh-Jennings insists the pair is firmly focused on clinching yet another gold – pinkeye or no pinkeye.
"We want it badly," she said. "There is no point going to an Olympics unless you are going to win. There are some great teams and some tough competition, but we are ready for it. That is the kind of thing we thrive upon."
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The Americans lost the first set of their clash with Austrian pair Stefanie and Doris Schwaiger on Wednesday, but responded strongly and are still seen as the team to beat by most of their opponents.
Walsh-Jennings was heard telling team officials that she would need to see a doctor as soon as possible after her match and there are concerns that her problematic eye will continue to be an issue.
This year's favorites for gold are Brazilian team Juliana Felisberta and Larissa Franca, but Franca insisted that despite the patchy form of Walsh-Jennings and May-Treanor, the defending champions could not be discounted.
"We have a lot of respect for them and what they have achieved in this sport," Franca said. "They are champions and champions never give anything away without a fight. There are a lot of good teams we have to be aware of and, absolutely, they are one of them.
"We believe we have a good chance to win a gold medal and that is our target. If we do not, of course it would be disappointing, but we have to prove we are good enough. Every other match, every other tournament that you have won before doesn't matter when you get to the Olympics."
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