USA’s Kerri Walsh Jennings LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
RIO DE JANEIRO – The benefit of playing beach volleyball at midnight is that it can become your birthday during the match.
U.S. fans at Copacabana Beach serenaded Kerri Walsh Jennings with “Happy Birthday To You” as she and April Ross advanced to the Rio Olympics beach volleyball semifinals, defeating Australia’s Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy, 2-0 (21-14, 21-16) on Sunday night.
At the end of the match, the entire stadium sang it to her as well.
“I’ve had other birthdays during the Olympics, but I don’t think I’ve been serenaded before,” Walsh Jennings said. “So that was a unique experience, and I loved it.”
The match began on Aug, 14, and ended on Walsh Jennings’ birthday of Aug. 15. The three-time gold medalist turned 38.
In case anyone thought for a moment that the U.S.’s top women’s beach volleyball player of all-time might be feeling her age, Walsh turned in another dominant performance – including a sequence where she ran under the net, saved the ball out of bounds and then ended up blocking a shot to win the point later.
Walsh Jennings and Ross improved to 5-0 in the tournament and 4-0 in games played at midnight at Copacabana. They’ve only lost one set in the tournament, which was only the second set Walsh Jennings has ever dropped in the Olympics. She pushed her personal winning streak to 26 games in the Summer Games.
They’ll face Brazil’s duo of Agatha and Barbara on Tuesday in the semifinals.
“The crowd is fully behind them. But what I noticed is that when they’re down, the crowd goes away. So I know what my goal is in two days,” said Walsh Jennings.
The American duo brought out some star power to the beach for the match. USA basketball stars Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler and DeAndre Jordan were leading chants of “USA!” Leslie Jones, ‘SNL’ star turned Olympic superfan, was also in the house to watch Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross to do what they do best: win.
Five games down, two more to go. “Hell yeah,” said Walsh Jennings. “Five matches down, two more to go. Our eyes are clear.”
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