American beach volleyball legend Kerri Walsh Jennings, a Santa Clara native and Stanford graduate, has experienced a lot in her Olympic career, winning the last three gold medals.
But there was one thing she never went through, until Tuesday: losing.
Walsh Jennings and new partner April Ross lost in straight sets to Brazil's Agatha and Barbara in the Rio Olympics semifinals, in a game full of back-and-forth rallies and last-ditch digs.
The home team won the first set 22-20, then pulled out to a big lead at the start of the second set, which they won 21-18. After the final point, Agatha and Barbara jumped for joy as the crowd at the Copacabana Olympic beach volleyball venue roared.
It's only the third and fourth lost sets of Walsh Jennings' storied Olympic career. Dating back to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the 38-year-old has 26 wins and, now, one loss,.
The Brazilian duo, ranked No. 2, was looking to avenge another home team, Talita and Larissa, that was eliminated earlier in the day to Germany.
Walsh Jennings and Ross will face that Brazilian team, which went into the tournament in Rio as the first seed, for the bronze medal Wednesday, while Agatha and Barbara will play the Germans for gold.
A pair of Brazilian men had improved the mood at the beach volleyball venue before the marquee women's matchup. The 6-foot-8 Brazilian Alison, known as "Mammoth," waved his arms and clapped his hands to encourage the hometown fans cheering their favorites into the gold medal match with a three-set victory over the Netherlands on Tuesday.
Taking the court after the Brazilian women lost their semifinal to Germany, Alison and Bruno beat Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen 21-17, 21-23, 16-14. Alison had a beastly 12 blocks in the match — five in the third set alone, including one to give Brazil a match point at 14-13.
When it was over, he dropped face-first into the sand, then stepped over the 3-foot-high courtside boundary like it was a street curb to high-five his supporters. Bruno slapped alternately at a television camera and his own chest in celebration.
"The fans are the third player. They make us try our best, make us do better," Alison said. "All the focus is to get the gold medal for Brazil."
Alison and Bruno will play the winner of the night semifinal between Russia and Italy. The Dutch will play the loser for the bronze.
The day started poorly for the hometown fans. With their 21-18, 21-12 victory over Brazil's first-ranked pair, Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst clinched Germany's first-ever Olympic medal in women's beach volleyball.
"I think it will take some time to realize what we did here," Ludwig said. "We had some tough times, and now we're in the final!"
The German men won the gold medal in London. But to match the feat in Rio, the women will have to beat the defending world champions — or a three-time gold medalist in Walsh Jennings.
Brazil still has a chance to match its 2004 Olympic haul of three medals. Despite failing to make the final, Talita said she would never forget playing in front of the hometown crowd on the iconic beach.
"I am so proud of my people, the Brazilian people," Talita said.