Kessy Returns to Make Run at Rio

By BJ Evans | Nov. 20, 2014, 7:06 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Nov. 20, 2014) – U.S. beach volleyball player Jennifer Kessy stepped away from international competition in 2013 after winning the 2012 Olympic silver medal,  an FIVB world championship, nine other gold medals in major FIVB events and 18 domestic titles.

Jennifer Kessy
  Jennifer Kessy, left, jousts at the 2012 Olympic Games.

A lot has changed since then.

When Kessy (San Juan Capistrano, Calif. / Twitter  / Instagram), 37, became pregnant at the end of 2013, she and husband Andy Cès, who had also competed in international beach volleyball for his native France, figured she was done with the international game for good.

“I had always planned to come back to AVP,” Kessy said. “But I was sick of the international travel. It wears on you.”

But after spending some time being “a normal human” and then giving birth to daughter Aïla in August of 2014, Kessy did some thinking.

“I realized I still have some of that fire left,” she said. “I saw an opening for that second spot and I really want it.”

“That second spot,” is a berth on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team. The 2016 Olympic Games will be in Rio de Janeiro and no doubt beach volleyball will be in the spotlight.

One big change is that, after partnering with April Ross (Costa Mesa, Calif.) from 2007-12, Kessy will join Emily Day (Torrance, Calif.) for her Run to Rio. Day and former partner Summer Ross (Carlsbad, Calif.) had worked their way into the No. 2 spot among U.S. women’s beach teams and are No. 20 in the FIVB World Tour rankings. April Ross and partner Kerri Walsh Jennings (Saratoga, Calif.) are the No. 1 ranked U.S. women’s beach team.

“I really, really need someone who can split block with me,” Kessy said of her partnership with Day. “This is looking at my game as of a year ago. My defense is good, but not great. My blocking is good, but not great. I need someone to pick up my slack.

“I’m thinking about playing on the left side just to change things up. It’s something new to learn. I know Emily can play both sides. She’s someone that has a ton to learn but also knows a lot already.”

Along with adjusting to her new partner, Kessy will spend much of the winter getting her post-pregnancy body back into Olympic-caliber shape.

“The majority of people I talked to say breast feeding is where they lost the majority of their (pregnancy) weight,” she said. “I lost weight immediately after giving birth, then I gained another 10 pounds when I started breast feeding. It’s crazy.

“I just started training again a month ago in the gym. It has not been easy, but I’ve enjoyed feeling my body getting back into shape. I haven’t had that since college when I started lifting for the first time.”

What is the biggest difference between the Jennifer Kessy of 2013 and Kessy now?

“Obviously, my baby,” she said. “As an athlete you are so involved in yourself. It’s all about you. Now it’s all about her and all about my family. They come first. That’s something that has changed a lot and I couldn’t be happier.”