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Kerri Walsh Jennings’ comeback delayed by surgery

Kerri Walsh Jennings

Roman Kruchinin

Kerri Walsh Jennings said her return to top-level beach volleyball, originally set to be this month, has been pushed to August after ankle surgery.

Walsh Jennings, 44 years old and a three-time Olympic champion, also said on a podcast with retired Nebraska indoor coach Terry Pettit that she will not play with four-time indoor Olympian Logan Tom, a 41-year-old with whom Walsh Jennings trained over the winter.

“I started this dream, this vision of going back to the Olympics with Logan in my heart,” Walsh Jennings said on the podcast. “I would not have gotten to this point unless it was for Logan, who I love so much and respect so much.

“We went through the paces, and we lived it so sincerely. It just turned out that it wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t the right fit for many different reasons. Mostly life reasons rather than volleyball reasons.”

Walsh Jennings said she now plans to partner with Zana Muno, a 26-year-old former UCLA indoor standout. They did play together in early March at the Queen of the Court in Miami, which is not an event on the FIVB Beach Pro Tour.

It was Walsh Jennings’ first competition of any kind since June 2021, when she and Brooke Sweat were passed for the second and final U.S. Olympic spot for Tokyo.

Walsh Jennings is still thinking about trying to make it to a sixth Olympics, though the qualifying window has already started, and it is not her primary goal.

“Pure and simple, I’d love to go to Paris and win, period,” she said. “However, what I’m truly after is just I want to get back to being a high-level, elite athlete, and I want to be playing freely within my body physically and within my mind and my spirit emotionally and mentally, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been there.”

The U.S. can qualify no more than two women’s teams to the Olympics, and the U.S. already has two teams that have won an international tournament this season in Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes and Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss.

A team counts its top 12 results over the qualifying window that runs to June 2024.

If she returns in August, Walsh Jennings said that she and Muno could play seven international events the remainder of 2023, including October’s world championships (if given a wild card), plus presumably more in early 2024.

Walsh Jennings said she is also open to playing on the domestic AVP tour for the first time since a split following the 2016 Olympics.

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