When you’re an Olympian, injury is always a concern. But in the grand scheme of strained Achilles, torn meniscus and broken bones, an unusual hindrance is threatening to take down beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh-Jennings.
Walsh-Jennings has contracted conjunctivitis in her left eye. Also known as “pinkeye,” the condition is as unpleasant as it is somewhat comical (for evidence, look no further than the classic “South Park” episode about zombies with pinkeye from the first season). But the fact is, an Olympic volleyball player requires both eyes to perform at an elite level, so this pink is threatening to take away Kerri’s chances at gold.
According to the Albany Democrat-Herald, in Walsh’s early matches with partner Misty May-Treanor, the conjunctivitis caused a thick mucus buildup that had be constantly wiped clean with a damp cloth. Walsh’s husband Casey Jennings, who traveled to London with the pair’s children, has a more advanced case and is in truly rough shape – indicating that Walsh’s pinkeye may get far worse before it gets better.
“His eyeballs look like they got their butts kicked,” she says of her husband. “[but mine] looks worse than it is.”
Walsh-Jennings and May-Treanor have spent the last decade as a seemingly invincible duo who have thoroughly dominated women’s beach volleyball. But the two-time defending gold medalists lost the first Olympic set of their careers to Austria on Wednesday night, leading to speculation that the eye infection – expected to remain with Walsh throughout the Olympics – is hampering their play.
“We can stop talking about it,” Walsh says of their undefeated streak, speaking with Long Island Newsday. “I woke up this morning looking like Rocky Balboa, but it’s better now.”
The volleyball star was overheard Wednesday telling team officials that she needed to see a doctor as soon as possible after the match.
For now, the Americans have won their pool and will be the number one seed as they advance to the knockout round. It remains to be seen whether Walsh’s dreaded pinkeye will ultimately bring the duo down, but this much appears certain: win or lose, chances are their opponents won’t want to shake hands after the match.