Walsh Jennings hadn't considered retiring before Tokyo

Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States celebrates a point during the Beach Volleyball Women's Bronze medal match against Larissa Franca Maestrini and Talita Rocha of Brazil at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States celebrates a point during the Beach Volleyball Women's Bronze medal match against Larissa Franca Maestrini and Talita Rocha of Brazil at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Five-time Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings never considered retiring before the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The American beach volleyball athlete, who will be 41 when the rescheduled Games take place next summer, is aiming for her sixth Olympics.

''I haven't considered retiring before Tokyo," she told Olympic Channel.

"I love the Olympics so much, its been such a big part of my life and my career and I really do love it. A one year delay isn't an issue for my partner Brooke [Sweat] and I. It gives us another year to get better.''

Walsh Jennings is the most decorated beach volleyball player in the history of the sport. And the three-time Olympic gold medallist and one-time bronze medallist is hungrier than ever to add to her list of accolades.

She has been playing alongside partner Brooke since October 2018, although they haven't seen each other since mid-March. The pair are quite the combo too, with five medals (1 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze) from the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.

''Brooke is an incredible team mate. I miss seeing her, so much."

"We've realised that we both take things seriously and that we need to relax more because that's when we play free, and when we play free we play our best. We both want to be better and actually the Olympics moving to 2021 is great for us because we have more time to improve.''

Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States in action during the match against Nadezda Makroguzova and Svetlana Kholomina of Russia during the FIVB World Tour 2019 (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States in action during the match against Nadezda Makroguzova and Svetlana Kholomina of Russia during the FIVB World Tour 2019 (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
2019 Getty Images

Finding mental strength

Walsh Jennings is known for her charisma, high energy and positivity both on and off the court but the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough.

It's the longest time in her career that she hasn't played the sport she loves. In the state of California, where Walsh Jennings was born and continues to live, the nets have been put up and pulled down a number of times.

''Everyday is a roller coaster and I'm constantly feeling so many different emotions, but I'm doing my best to stay positive," the Rio 2016 bronze medallist said.

"I tell myself to act like I chose it. I don't want want to be a victim of this so I take responsibility for how I turn up and approach every day."

While the beach volleyball star has always put emphasis on nurturing her health and wellness, she also feels now more than ever, mental health needs to be prioritised.

''I'm mostly focusing on my mind."

"I am weight training as well but the most important thing to me right now is my mental health and what's going on in my head.

"I'm also doing things that I really love, like reading and journaling. Sleep is also really important to me. I prioritise sleep and make sure that I get 6/7 hours.''

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S L O W L Y 🐢 B U T 🐢 S U R E L Y 🐢 We are creating playful, meaningful & productive schedules for our days. As my hubby says, the days are long but the weeks fly by. We’re really striving to live our 1440 in ever better ways 🎨 WE are the creators, after all. This has been the hardest week yet for me personally. The freedom loving American in me has been majorly resisting these confines. I’m realizing that this signifies that I’m framing things poorly. There is beauty to be seen & much love to be felt throughout all of this. Duh 🙄! And so ... I’m sharing some of the bright spots of the past days. Every day we volley, we engage, we laugh, we play, we argue, we irritate, we make up & the love shines bright through it all. My love & deep breaths go out to the world 🌎 My love & appreciation to the heroes in the medical field who are serving so courageously & with such devotion. My love & appreciation to the First Responders who are serving so valiantly. My love & appreciation to those spreading love, light & understanding in these unusual times.

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One more year to go

This week would've seen the Olympians checking into the Athletes' Village and the Opening Ceremony take place. However, the milestone this Thursday (23 July), has slowly crept up Walsh Jennings.

''I hadn't really thought about that because right now I'm sitting here in the States, in a hotel room," she said. "...I can't wait to be there in a year and to be moving into the Athlete Village.''

The extra year and time away from playing has also allowed Walsh Jennings to reconnect with the sport she loves.

''I'm more excited to play than ever before. This time has given me a chance to be revitalised and remember how much I love the game of beach volleyball."

"When you've been playing as long as I have, the shininess of it all can wear off. But I have so much energy and passion and love for the game and this time to pause has really reminded me of all that.''