It’s a safe bet that no U.S. Olympic champion is undergoing a bigger adjustment from 2012 to 2016 than Kerri Walsh Jennings, the three-time gold medalist in beach volleyball.
Walsh Jennings’s partner on the beach, Misty May-Treanor, retired after the London Olympics, leaving her to team with April Ross. Ross won a silver medal with Jennifer Kessy in London, but beach volleyball duos are sort of like old married couples. They are at their best when they can finish each other’s sentences and read each other’s minds.
“This game is all about rhythm,” Walsh Jennings said this week from Long Beach, Calif., where she and Ross are playing in the Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball competition. “That rhythm, it isn’t there yet.”
Listening to Walsh Jennings, one might think she and Ross are floundering on the beach volleyball world tour. She says their honeymoon period is over, that they are thinking too much and are wildly inconsistent.
However, Walsh Jennings and Ross, currently ranked fourth in the world, have achieved better results in their 10 world tour tournaments together than Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor did in the 10 tournaments leading up to the 2012 Olympics. Walsh Jennings and Ross have achieved an average finish of 4.2 during their run compared with 4.1 for Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor ahead of London. Walsh Jennings and Ross also have five first-place finishes compared with just two for Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor.
Despite the titles, it’s the three ninth place finishes that get Walsh Jennings’s goat. During one stretch from 2006-08, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor won 13 out of 15 tournaments, and took third place in the two they “lost.”