After several months spent pushing hard with her new volleyball partner, three-time Olympic Gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings has missed out on qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.
"The journey to becoming is hard, whether you're talking about your country or ourselves, or being a mommy or an athlete," the beach volleyball icon told NBC4 before the development. "It's gnarly, and it's supposed to be gnarly."
Walsh Jennings, along with partner and 2016 Olympian Brooke Sweat, had a slight lead for the second and final United States spot for Tokyo.
But last weekend, Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes passed Walsh Jennings and Sweat in the standings -- leaving them with their backs against the wall. Sponcil and Claes are the youngest U.S. Olympic beach volleyball duo in history.
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“It’s a terrible, terrible feeling,” Walsh Jennings said after the match. “It’s been a really rough year, and to lose in a qualifier, it feels really hard right now.”
Walsh Jennings, a 42-year-old volleyball superstar who won her first Olympic Gold medal in Athens in 2004, sees the struggle as part of her pursuit for greatness.
"I love going through hard times that I know are going to shape me to become the person capable of achieving my dreams," she added. "And so, I'm literally living heaven on earth, and it's so hard. So sad sometimes, and it's so powerful and wonderful.
"It's just been a really powerful rollercoaster, that has given me a lot of clarity, a lot of humility, and just a lot of fortification, because I'm going through a lot of hard stuff. And it's all preparing me for something."
She said the support of others is what kept her going through the struggles.
"The only reason I'm still going is truly because of love," Walsh Jennings said. "That drives me more than anything."
Seemingly an end of an era, Walsh Jennings would not say if Tokyo was it, adding Paris, the location of the Olympics in 2024, is one of her favorite cities. She also pointed out that it's only three years away.