Fort Lauderdale, Fla., September 23, 2015 - When Lauren Fendrick starts competing here Tuesday with April Ross in the US$500,000 SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, it will be "bittersweet" (or bitter “Sweat”) for one American Olympic hopeful since the international event will be played in her "backyard" and she is not participating.
Fendrick and Ross will be playing together in the inaugural SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals for only the second-time in their Beach Volleyball careers as shoulder injuries sidelined their regular partners, including Florida native Brooke Sweat.
“That would be a hard one to sit and watch,” the 29-year old Sweat was quoted in an article in the Fort Myers News-Press about watching current partner Fendrick play in the FIVB World Tour event where the winning teams will share the $100,000 first-place prizes. “Being from Florida and playing so many tournaments on that beach in Fort Lauderdale, I just want to be on that beach playing. I think it’ll be easier for me not being there.”
Competing on the FIVB World Tour the past two seasons with Fendrick, Sweat played the last three international events in Japan (Yokohama), the United States (Long Beach) and Poland (Olsztyn) this summer with a torn rotator cuff. A Florida Gulf Coast University graduate, Sweat underwent surgery two weeks ago to end her season.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” said Sweat in the Fort Myers newspaper and web site article. “I was unable to spike and was forced to serve underhand after tearing my rotator cuff when diving for a ball in practice in late July.”
With the 15th women’s qualifying event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games being played this week in China (Xiamen), Sweat and Fendrick need to play in two more FIVB World Tour events to fulfill the requirement of playing in 12 international events together prior to the end of the process this coming June.
Entering the Xiamen Open, Sweat and Fendrick were the top-ranked women’s team from the United States on the provisional Olympic list with 3,520 points for 10 events to be listed 12th. The top 15 teams on the ranking list qualify for the Rio Summer Games with a maximum of two pairs per country. Teams from Beach Volleyball power Brazil will not be counted as the South American country has already netted two spots for the 2016 Copacabana competition due to their host country role and by winning the FIVB “senior” World Championships this past July in The Hague.
Ross, who will be playing with her fourth different partner this season in Fort Lauderdale, is currently in the 15th and last spot on the Rio provisional list with 3,140 points for seven events with Kerri Walsh Jennings, the three-time Olympic champion. Walsh Jennings has dislocated her right shoulder twice this season at FIVB stops in Russia and Switzerland and had surgery in the past weeks.
Emily Day and Jen Kessy, who are competing in Xiamen this week, are the third-ranked American pair on the provisional Olympic list with 2,960 points for nine events. A ninth-place or better finish could move Day and Kessy into the second spot among American teams. Kessy teamed with Ross to capture the silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games where Misty May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings won the All-American finale.
Despite her shoulder problems, Sweat is optimistic about her return to competition next year. In fact, the Fort Myers newspaper article said Sweat and Fendrick’s chances might be “better to reach the beach in Rio. I actually used that term the other day. We had to dig deep and kind of figure things out at a faster rate than we were before my injury. I feel like we were almost peaking at the end of the season. If we can come back next year and start off where we ended, we’ll be in a really good spot. It’s going to take a lot of work.”
So, the American “shoulder saga” continues with Sweat happy for her partner as she won an AVP domestic event two weeks ago in southern California. But, she is disappointed that she will not be playing with Fendrick next week at the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale.