Kerri Walsh Jennings suffers first ever Olympic loss in beach volleyball semifinals

Aug 14, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Kerri Walsh Jennings (USA) during the game against Australia during the women
Aug 14, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Kerri Walsh Jennings (USA) during the game against Australia during the women /

Kerri Walsh Jennings experienced something she never had during her previous visits to the Olympics, and it wasn’t because of her partner.

Nothing lasts forever. Not even if you’re the greatest performer in the history of your Olympic sport.

Kerri Walsh Jennings doesn’t know anything but winning gold medals. Heading into the Rio Olympics, she had never lost a match in Olympic competition, dropping only a single set.

That changed Tuesday night at Copacabana Beach, as Walsh Jennings and partner April Ross fell in the quarterfinals to the No. 2 seeded team from Brazil, Agatha and Barbara. The Brazilians will go on to face the German team of Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst for the gold medal on Wednesday.

The Americans, meanwhile, will do what for Walsh Jennings was previously unthinkable, playing another Brazilian team for the bronze.

Walsh Jennings and Ross hung around despite being out-served in the first set, getting the score to 20-20 before the Brazilians scored two straight points to close it out. The second set saw Agatha and Barbara lead the whole way, befuddling the U.S. side with a combination of tricky offense and dazzling defense.

Down 18-15, the Americans needed to find a run to get back into it, but it never came. Just like that, in straight sets, the previously invincible Walsh Jennings was bounced from the tournament.

Much will be made about her switch in partners, as her previous Olympic successes all came while playing with Misty May-Traenor. But it was mostly Walsh Jennings, not Ross, who looked nervous and uncertain. She didn’t pass as well as she needed to, and while that might be understandable playing a different role than she did before, it was difficult to watch for U.S. fans.

Can Walsh Jennings and Ross rebound for the bronze, even though the world knows that was something the senior member of the team never honestly considered? Or will they fall to another home team in what’s certain to be another raucous atmosphere at Copacabana Beach?

We’ll know in just about 24 hours, but one thing’s for certain: Even though it was always possible the story may end like this, it didn’t make it any less shocking to watch as it happened.