This will be a different kind of year for Kerri Walsh Jennings.
After a couple of intense, driven years leading up to the London 2012 Olympic Games, 2013 is a time for hitting the reset button.
|Kerri Walsh Jennings at the London 2012 Olympic Games at
Horse Guards Parade on August 8, 2012 in London, England.
After winning a third consecutive Olympic gold medal at London with her longtime partner Misty May-Treanor, Walsh Jennings, 34, has taken a hiatus from the sport as she gets ready to give birth to her third child, a girl, in April. She has two sons, Joseph and Sundance.
She’s also looking for a new partner after May-Treanor’s retirement following the London Games, while also trying to control her urge to rush back into competition and start driving toward the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. May-Treanor, who is married to Major League Baseball catcher Matt Treanor, said after the Games that she wants to start a family.
Walsh Jennings, meanwhile, made simpler new year’s resolutions than they have been in a long time.
“Usually I set a million of them, and I definitely didn’t want to do that this year,” she said recently from her home in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
She has only three: take time to pause and reflect, especially during times of stress; take better care of herself, which, she said, “means sleeping and eating better”; and focus more on her role as a woman in her family and her business with her husband, beach volleyball standout Casey Jennings.
“I’ve resolved to do the best I can do on all those fronts,” she said.
She calls this year “a gift,” in that it’s a perfect transition.
|Gold medalists Misty May-Treanor (L) and Kerri Walsh Jennings
celebrate on the podium during the medal ceremony for the
women's beach volleyball at the London 2012 Olympic Games on
August 8, 2012 in London, England.
“I feel like I put my heart and soul into 2011 and 2012, and those truly were two of the best years of my life as far as just the way I lived every day of those two years with people I love the most and what we were able to accomplish together,” she said.
"And 2013, I guess I want to keep up with the same momentum and the same thoughtful, mindful, heart-fueled approach, but the focus is different, obviously. It’s definitely refreshing. I want to give my body and my mind time to refresh from the battles we went through leading up to London.”
She said she’s still working out, lifting weights twice a week, doing Pilates, playing a little volleyball and taking long walks — “that’s my sanity,” she said — and hopes to get back into competition later this year at some point after her daughter arrives.
Of course the big question is, who will be her partner?
So far, she hasn’t made any decisions or extended any invitations. She knew for quite a while that May-Treanor would be retiring, so she has had plenty of time to think about it. But she isn’t being hasty. She paired with Nicole Branagh for a while after London, but hasn’t committed to anyone yet.
“To tell you the truth, I definitely have a short list and I think those girls know very well who I would have a conversation with,” she said. “But this baby has bought me some time and everyone I’m thinking of is partnered right now, and I don’t want to cause any premature drama.
“So really, once I find that person and once I have that conversation, I’m (going to be) just real excited to go to war with her and learn about her and grow with her. However sad — and it truly will be sad and bittersweet to move on from Misty — I’m really looking forward to the journey with someone new.”
The decision, she said, will be made some time in 2013.
“The conversations will be ongoing, but I don’t know when it will happen,” she said. “When I feel ready, when I feel confident enough to pick up the phone and say, ‘Look, I’m ready to win a gold medal. Will you do this with me?’”
|Kerri Walsh Jennings (R) and Misty May-Treanor celebrate winning
the gold medal in the women's beach volleyball gold medal match
at the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 8, 2012 in London,
That’s the one thing she knows for certain: She wants to compete for another gold medal in Rio.
“It sounds so crazy to say that at this point when I’m 25 pounds overweight and about to have a baby, but I want that really badly and I know in order to do that I need to be fully in it,” she said.
With the AVP Tour reorganized and returning to action this September, she said it’s possible she could play an event or two, not only for herself, but because the tour is important to her.
But September is a long way away. For now, she’s staying active, spending time with her two young boys and waiting for her little girl. And, occasionally, she’s talking to May-Treanor.
Just recently, they got together and, like always, it was special. Though they were tremendous teammates, they remain even better friends.
Partners for 12 years, they won three consecutive Olympic championships and had a 21-0 record (with only one lost set) in Olympic play. They’ll always have that, even if they’ve never really sat down, looked at each other and rejoiced at what they accomplished.
“We kind of held on to each other last week when we gave each other a hug, and we’re not particularly a huggy group, even though if you watch us on TV, you’d think the opposite,” Walsh Jennings said. “But it’s just you look at each other and there’s like a spark, there’s something so special and it’s hard to put into words.
“I can’t wait to re-live the stuff with her as we have our kids and keep hanging out until we’re 99. It’s going to be really fun remembering how good we were.”