Kerri Walsh Jennings, half of the greatest female beach volleyball duo of all time, will make her U.S. debut next month with a new partner.
Though it won't feel the same as her legendary successful partnership with Misty May-Treanor — one that produced Olympic gold medals in 2004, 2008, and 2012 and captured 112 individual championship wins in domestic and international competition — she knows she must move forward.
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Jennings, who gave birth to her third child and first daughter in the spring, will compete at the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball on July 22-28 in Long Beach, Calif., near her home, and will pair with two-time Manhattan Beach Open winner Whitney Pavlik, according to Examiner.com
The first FIVB sanctioned event in the U.S. in 10 years will provide the first look at Walsh without her longtime partner and friend, who retired after the London games.
"It's been Misty and I for so many years," Jennings told USA Today.
"My first day on the beach, she wasn't there and I kind of shed a tear. But that's a beautiful thing. We had something so special that's never going to change. But this new partnership is such an exciting thing because I'm going to grow because of it, I'm going to be better because of
Jennings, 34, decided to play in the 2016 Rio Olympics shortly after the London games. At a Heathrow Airport terminal, she saw a picture of the Cristo Redentor statue, the famous landmark in Rio de Janeiro, and wanted to see it for herself.
She then decided to compete for a fourth gold medal in 2016 — she'll be 38.
"People love talking about age, and I guess it's understandable because I'm playing against mostly 20-year-olds," Jennings told The Los Angeles Times on Monday.
"But I feel the way I feel. I have a lot of passion in my heart and a lot of room for improvement. That's what I look at. I don't ever want to call myself old, because then I'll start feeling old. That's illegal in my sport."
For the Rio Olympics, Jennings will pair with 31-year-old April Ross, who took silver with Jennifer Kessy in London, The Associated Press reports.
Ross will end her partnership with Kessy this year.
"She's a stud," Jennings told USA Today. "I respect her so much. She's been my main competitor for so many years. She's driven me more than any other person so it's going to be so fun to partner up with her. It's kind of a lot like Misty. I had so much respect, but she was on the other side of the net. Then we got together and magic happened. I'm hoping and planning that happens with April."
To prepare, Jennings plays five days a week on the beach, and has been weight training since giving birth 11 weeks ago. It all leads up to a date she likely has circled on her calendar.
"Aug 18, 2016, I want to be winning a gold medal," Jennings told the LA Times. "I know the date, I know where I want to be and I know what I want. All these things are leading up to it."
She already has a fan in her retired partner.
"I think whatever she puts her mind to she does, so gold isn't out of the question," May-Treanor said in an email to the LA Times. "I see her as the heavy favorite going into the Games with all that she has accomplished."
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