Beach volleyball legend Kerri Walsh-Jennings has returned to the Olympics scene with a new partner, April Ross. Ross is a two-time national title winner in indoor collegiate volleyball at USC, and has also played professional indoor volleyball in Puerto Rico for three seasons.
Before her retirement, Misty May-Treanor and Walsh-Jennings were the powerhouse duo that dominated the beach volleyball world. They achieved three consecutive Olympic gold medals, three world titles, and claimed worldwide fame.
Avid beach volleyball fans, or even those who merely knew the names of these players were anxious about how the new Walsh-Jennings and Ross team would perform at the Rio Olympics. The lesser known Ross was placed in a difficult situation where she would have to establish her own identity as a player while also living up to the reputation of May-Treanor.
Ross and Walsh-Jennings played against one another in the London 2012 Olympics. At the time Ross was with her former partner Jennifer Kessy and Walsh-Jennings with May-Treanor. Despite the rivalry on the London court, Walsh-Jennings had intended to begin a partnership with Ross since both of their respective parties would be leaving the sport at the end of 2012.
Immediately after Walsh-Jennings defeated Ross in the match for gold in London, Walsh-Jennings said “Let’s go win gold in Rio,” to Ross.
Although commentators were concerned with how Ross will follow May-Treanor’s reputation, neither Ross nor Walsh-Jennings share that worry.
“It’s a nonissue,” Jennings said to John Branch of the New York Times. “It’s a nonissue for her; it’s a nonissue for me. Never once did she or I think she was replacing anybody. We became an entirely new team. I was not replacing Jennifer Kessy, and she was not replacing Misty. It would be limiting ourselves if we tried to do that. There is greatness in April and I that the world has never seen. Every partnership is so unique.”
Ross is in agreement with her partner. The matter of having to live up to May-Treanor is simply not a concern.
“’We’re a new team. We have our own expectations, so even if that’s what other people think, I don’t really care,” said Ross.