Volleyball in itself is already a competitive sport. Olympic volleyball, however, is on a whole different level. Going to the Olympics even once is considered a lifetime dream that athletes chase. This being considered, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Welsh Jennings went above and beyond throughout their careers to obtain an exceedingly rare opportunity.
Misty May-Treanor first played in a volleyball match at the age of eight. From there her talent just exceeded expectations. Her family were freak athletes as well, so it makes sense that she became the athlete she was. Her father played on the US National Men’s Volleyball Team in 1968, and her mother was a nationally ranked tennis player. Misty May-Treanor played throughout high school and college. In fact, when she was a senior at California State University at Long Beach, she led her team to win the title of NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Champions in 1998. She then continued her volleyball career to play for the United Sates National Indoor team. She was named First Team All-American in 1996 and 1997. After realizing she wanted to try something new, she switched from indoor volleyball to the beach volleyball Olympic team. She first played on the beach team in 2000. Although she did not do as expected, she finished fifth. She came back in 2004 hungry for the gold medal and found a new partner, Kerri Walsh Jennings.1
Kerri Walsh Jennings was an incredible athlete. She played throughout high school and college. In high school, not only did she play volleyball, but she also played basketball. She led her high school team, Archbishop Mitty High School, to three volleyball state championship wins and one championship win in basketball. Kerri Walsh Jennings was a serious athlete. She continued to pursue her volleyball career in college; she committed to play at Stanford University. At this point, she was not only an athlete, but she was a collegiate athlete. She had many recognition as well as many awards throughout her college career. As a team, Stanford won the 1996 and 1997 NCAA Final Four title. After college, Kerri Walsh Jennings went on to seek further achievements. She competed on the Indoor Olympic team in 2000. This was her first Olympic experience. The team finished fourth in Sydney, which was not bad for Kerri Walsh Jennings’s first Olympic training. She then shortly met with Misty May-Treanor and switched to beach volleyball. She trained hard since she was a little late to the game, but they both paired up and were headed for the 2004 Olympics.2
Since they were both fairly new to the competition of Olympic beach volleyball, they had youth and athleticism on their side. They were amateurs when it came to the game of Olympic beach volleyball and it was new to them when it came to playing doubles together. They were determined, and dedicated to improving their skills from the indoor court to the sand court. With all the hard work they put in to be great they deserved nothing less than a gold Olympic metal. In 2004, they came to Athens with the goal of winning the gold medal. They started out strong, winning their first couple of matches. In fact, they were on a winning streak throughout the whole tournament, not dropping a single set. This was their first Gold Olympic medal.3
Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor continued to play in tournaments before going out to defend their title in the 2008 Olympic Games. After four years of training and tournaments, they had a winning streak of 112 matches and 18 tournament wins before stepping foot into the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. They defended their title for the second consecutive year. They were unstoppable and everyone was excited to see if they would stick around for the next games. 4
After their second win, both Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor decided to take a break from volleyball for a while. They wanted to just play for fun and no longer compete. Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor decided to go separate ways with their lives.
Misty May-Treanor was preparing to be on Dancing with the Stars after the 2008 Olympics, however, when she was practicing for the show, she tore her Achilles tendon. This required a long recovery as well as surgery. This injury caused Misty May-Treanor to be out for a little over a year and miss competing in the 2009 season. While she was overcoming this obstacle, Walsh Jennings had two children, Joseph (2009) and Sundace (2010). During the off-season, she endured two pregnancies and came out stronger.5
Although both Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor had struggles to overcome, they decided to come back together and compete in the 2012 Olympic Games. They took 2009 off for May-Treanor’s injury and Walsh Jennings was off for two years due to her pregnancies. They came back a little rusty, but persevered and trained even harder than before. They went through the Olympics not dropping a match. Before they knew it, they were playing for gold in the finals. They were faced with Jen Kessy and April Ross, a fellow American team. Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor came out on top winning both sets, 21-16 and 21-16. This was their third consecutive win. They went down in history for the first three-year consecutive gold metals for Olympic beach volleyball.6
“The first two gold medals it was more about volleyball. The friendship we had was there, but it was volleyball, volleyball, volleyball. This was so much more about the friendship, the togetherness, the journey — and volleyball was just a small part of it.” -May-Treanor.7
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings are the best duo in volleyball history. They did the unbelievable and will be remembered forever.
After the 2012 Olympics, May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings split paths and continued to do their own thing. May-Treanor retired the Olympic life. She went to get a degree in coaching and Athletic Administration. She now coaches and plays for fun occasionally. May-Treanor also welcomed a new member to her family, Malia Barbara, her daughter. Walsh Jennings continued to play in the following Olympics. Although she had to find a new partner, April Ross, They received the bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics. After her 2016 win , this made Kerri Walsh Jennings is the most decorative Olympian in beach volleyball.8
Athletes dream to have the experience to get one Olympic gold medal, but Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings did the unbelievable of achieving three Olympic gold medals in the span of nine years. Their dedication and commitment to the sport of beach volleyball made everyone love and support them, no matter where in the world they were competing.