More: You just got a third Olympic gold medal. Oh my God!
Kerri Walsh Jennings: I know, right? I have been delirious ever since that last ball went down. It was so surreal, much more so than the first time. My feet still have not touched the ground, the numbness still has not left my body, and I am still feeling every emotion but I can’t express any.
More: But you have been on the top before. You should be used to the spotlight.
KWJ: Yeah but this was different for a lot of reasons. This was my last time doing this with Misty. There is a lot of weight and gravity tied to that. We were going for something that was never done before and might not ever happen again. We poured our hearts and souls into this every single day we were out there. Before it was more work. Now it was a sheer labor of love, friendship and much more than just a game of volleyball.
More: And as you just touched upon, very emotional.
KWJ: So much so I can’t shed a tear, which is so weird because I am a crier. When I have time to process what we just did, I am sure I will start bawling because my next stage in volleyball will be without Misty. However, we are girlfriends for life. How fun is that?
More: Were you surprised by Misty’s decision to retire?
KWJ: I was surprised she came back to the sport. She told me she was done back in 2010 and that she was out. She told me there was a zero percent chance she was coming back. Then a few months later she called me, and that call completely changed my life. My reuniting with Misty was the biggest blessing I have had in my career. We took two years away from each other and came back more appreciative, more faithful and more understanding that we have done amazing things together and we still have more to accomplish.
More: Sounds as if Misty has had a real impact on you.
KWJ: That woman has changed my life in so many ways, you have no idea.
More: When you look ahead, does it scare you that you might not have the same chemistry with your new partner the way you do with Misty?
KWJ: As of today, I can’t imagine doing this with anyone other than Misty. Misty is that big, important and special to me. She has helped create this life for me that is so beautiful. Look, I will have to find a new partner; that is a fact. However, the one thing I will never do is let anyone compare my new partner to Misty. Nothing can touch Misty and me. It is sacred, special and something I cherish.
More: So you are OK with moving on and closing this chapter?
KWJ: I have to. I might not find chemistry right away, but we can build it. If I am playing I am playing to win, and I want a gold medal in Rio. Misty will still be a part of the process, whether she is a coach or supporter. She will always be with me. It is going to be different; that is for sure.
More: Aside from your award-winning career, you are a mom to two small children. How do your boys deal with Mommy being away for so long?
KWJ: It takes a village. I fully understand that phrase now and 100% agree with it. Although my family is very close knit, I need to be a working mom. My mom was a working mom, and I had a great life. Even though both of my parents worked, they were always present. It is important to teach my boys about having goals, dreams and having the courage to face them.
More: How do they handle the distance when you travel for work?
KWJ: They come with me. My husband, Casey [Jennings], is a beach-volleyball player too, so when it comes to our lifestyle, we do this crazy circus thing. My sister is our nanny on the road. I could not do what I do if my kids were at home the whole time. My kids are my heart. I can’t breathe very well or sleep very well without them. I have to be close to my kids because they are also a part of this team. I feel I have better focus, determination and desire because of them.
More: We talked about Misty’s retirement. Is that something you have thought about?
KWJ: I think I will be ready to go by Rio. I am not ready as of yet. After Beijing I was pregnant for two years, and I think in that time away from my sport, I redeveloped this love and appreciation for my job. Before I had kids, I kept putting having a family on hold because of my job. When I realized that, it started to feel really wrong to me. After my boys came, it reaffirmed my love and desire to keep going.
More: Keep going on the volleyball court or keep going to expand your family?
KWJ: I wish I was pregnant right now. I want to go for number three and then get back to work. Family is what life is all about. I love the juggling act.
More: Maybe a little girl this time?
KWJ: That would be amazing. I would love a little girl, and I want my husband to have a daddy’s little girl.
More: What is so great about being in your midthirties?
KWJ: I am me. I am finally me. I like who I am, and I was never really satisfied with myself until now. For the first time I accept me. I love the transition of worrying about me to worrying about someone else such as my boys. I love putting my heart and soul into them. This has allowed me to get closer to who I am in my essence.
More: Why does getting older have its benefits?
KWJ: My twenties were crazy. I thought I knew everything. It turns out I knew nothing. Now it is getting better and better.
More: How so?
KWJ: Age is never a con; in fact, we should embrace it. Age is a weird thing people like to focus on. For me, the older I get, the more aware of my body I become. I have a lot more skills now, and for the first time I rely more on my skills than my physicality. Those strengths are empowering. I also feel now that I am a mom, I can handle anything.
Don’t miss out on MORE great articles like this one. Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter!