Find out what other volleyball greats, including Karch Kiraly, Sinjin Smith, Holly McPeak, Matt Anderson and Danielle Scott, had to say about May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings’ legacy. Read the complete story here.
Sometimes it’s not any one individual feat that defines “greatness” as much as it is the culmination of many accomplishments. Three-peat Olympic beach volleyball gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings are worldwide icons that exemplify this very scenario.
One year ago this month, this sand-loving, goal-achieving duo were not only crowned Olympic champions in London, but also became the first women’s team in Olympic history to win three consecutive golds in any sport while maintaining the same team. Earning one Olympic gold medal is an exceptional accomplishment. To win three in three consecutive Olympic Games is historic.
Since that incredible accomplishment, much has changed for the two athletes. May-Treanor announced her retirement from international competition, graduated with a Master's Degree in Coaching and Athletic Administration from Concordia University, Irvine, and started Dream In Gold Clinics, a series of indoor and outdoor clinics nationwide.
Walsh Jennings and husband Casey Jennings welcomed their third child and first daughter, Scout, on April 6, 2013. Barely two months later, Walsh Jennings hit the sand to compete with April Ross in Switzerland, filling in for Jennifer Kessy who had to withdraw from the tournament. Walsh Jennings is looking forward to competing alongside Whitney Pavlik in the 2013 AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour starting Friday (Aug. 16) and plans to train full time with Ross near the end of the year. They hope to compete for gold together at the 2016 Olympic in Rio.
The May-Walsh team is no longer competing together, but they took time to reflect on the one-year anniversary of earning their third gold medal as well as their extraordinary 12-year journey to get there.
London Moment of Glory
It is worth re-watching the 2012 Olympic gold-medal match for several reasons. First, it was a fantastic display of beach volleyball. Second, it was an all-American matchup between May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings and first-time Olympians Jennifer Kessy and April Ross. Last but not least, the emotional moment when May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings capture their third gold has a spine-shivering effect.
“I think of everything we have both gone through over the years and that we still did it,” May-Treanor said. “I remember all the people that have followed my career and have been supporting our team there in the crowd and the raising of the American flag once again.”
Walsh Jennings agreed and noted that her final two years playing alongside May-Treanor were career highlights.
“When I think of the moment we won our third [gold medal],” Walsh Jennings said, “the whole journey is what flashes back when I think about that one moment. Misty and I got back together in 2011 after a couple years apart and those (last) two years with her were my most favorite years by far. We got so much closer and grew so much as women and partners and friends. ”
One Though Three – Comparing Victories
While the 2012 London victory was a standout, the team never fails to remember their Olympic debut as a team.
“Winning our first gold, I felt like such a kid,” Walsh Jennings said. “It felt like it was Christmas morning. We worked so hard, we won and it was great. It was nothing but pure joy.
“By the time we got to London and we won it was more of a profound win; simply because I certainly understood how rare of a partnership we had and the success that went along with that partnership. So, the third gold was the best for me by the count of a million.”
May-Treanor cherishes every single feat, but London came with more significance because she planned to retire after the Olympics.
“[The three golds] are equally special except the third one held a little more feeling as I knew it would be my last Games, where the first gold was the beginning,” she said.
Yin and Yang
One key to the success of the May-Walsh partnership was that their differences balanced and their similarities meshed. Casey Jennings, beach pro and Kerri’s husband, described the May-Walsh team as “Yin and Yang.”
“On the court, Misty was the smaller fast one behind me,” Walsh Jennings said. “I was the big girl at the net. I am very physical and Misty has a lot of finesse. When she was very quiet and focused, I was loud and a cheerleader. We fit really, really well on the court.
“Personality wise, she’s an introvert; I’m an extrovert to a certain extent. We have so many similarities that I think the yang is definitely what made us a great team. But our similarities, including our values and goals, allowed us to connect and do as well as we did.”
Contributing to the Sport
The May-Walsh package has undoubtedly contributed to all areas of the sport of volleyball – beach, indoor and grassroots. Throughout their 12-year extravaganza, May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings have inspired youngsters to begin their careers, encouraged current players to continue and remind past players why they loved this sport.
“I believe by our success and through the coverage on TV, more girls and young kids are playing beach volleyball,” May-Treanor said. “Also, sand volleyball has been introduced into some universities and will most likely become an NCAA sport. I feel we have been great ambassadors for the sport, but we only took the torch from the women that came before us and continued the run. There were many players before us that opened the door for us to be able to play the sport and a career doing what we love.”
Walsh Jennings agreed.
“I think the love that we have for the game [contributed to the sport],” she said. “We translate that when we do camps and clinics and when give back to the grassroots area. I think people really appreciate that and it feeds the momentum of the sport..”
What the Future Holds
No doubt about it, Walsh Jennings knows what she wants to come next.
“I know I want to win a gold medal on August 18, 2016 with April Ross,” she said without hesitation.
Walsh Jennings knows that switching partners is not an easy task, but she is also very familiar with the word “perseverance.”
“I think change is hard,” she said. “No matter how excited you are or how great you are as individuals, there are going to be some bumps in the road. I think it’s important to allow time for the teams to build chemistry and to stay positive through the bumps.”
Ross said she is looking forward to pairing with Walsh Jennings and is embracing the opportunity to grow as a player.
“I think pairing with Kerri will be an amazing opportunity to take my game to the next level, to learn from her and with her, and I also look forward to battling on the court together against the rest of the world,” Ross said.
Since retiring from international competition, May-Treanor has spent her free time, with loved ones or on the golf course. But she has not left volleyball behind entirely as she gets back on the court for the occasional tournament or drills. She looks forward to having an impact with her volleyball clinics while Walsh Jennings continues to wow people on the court.
“I just want to continue to inspire others to do great things or to achieve their goals,” May-Treanor said. “I would like to go down as the best team in the world and the best team there ever was.”