The Triumphant Duo: Misty May and Kerri Walsh

After Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings defeated the other American team in the 2012 Olympic games.
After Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings defeated the other American team in the 2012 Olympic games.

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 

Image result for kerri walsh and misty may
Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor Winning the Grand slam in Moscow. This is only one of their consecutive win | 2011 | Moscow

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.

  1. Ellen Aim, Misty May/Kerri Walsh: Dynamic Duo (Whittier, CA: Creative Media Publishing, 2016), 4-5.
  2. Ellen Aim, Misty May/Kerri Walsh: Dynamic Duo (Whittier, CA: Creative Media Publishing, 2016), 15-20.
  3. Ellen Aim, Misty May/Kerri Walsh: Dynamic Duo (Whittier, CA: Creative Media Publishing, 2016), 21-16.
  4. Ellen Aim, Misty May/Kerri Walsh: Dynamic Duo (Whittier, CA: Creative Media Publishing, 2016), 22-27.
  5. Ellen Aim, Misty May/Kerri Walsh: Dynamic Duo (Whittier, CA: Creative Media Publishing, 2016), 28-34.
  6. Carol Schram, “Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh: History of Their Beach Volleyball Dominance,” Bleacher Report. October 01, 2017. Accessed September 12, 2018.
  7. Jim Caple, ”May-Treanor, Walsh Jennings perfect,” ESPN, August 8, 2012.
  8. Ellen Aim, Misty May/Kerri Walsh: Dynamic Duo (Whittier, CA: Creative Media Publishing, 2016), 4-5.

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This Post Has 50 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Raul Colunga

    Personally, I am not a fan of volleyball, but growing up and watching the Olympics I would tune in the support the US team. Kerri and Misty were the duo that I would see time after time play for our country and I began to look forward to the games they would play. It was great reading this article and learning about their history with the sport and how they became the faces of US women’s volleyball.

  2. Avatar
    Marco Montes de Oca

    The only time I ever watched beach volleyball in the Olympics was to watch this incredible duo. They made beach volleyball look so easy, winning the gold medal every time is incredible. This article shows how they had to work hard and overcome their own personal challenges in order to compete in their last Olympics. They were able to work hard and come together to win their third gold medal.

  3. Avatar
    Emmanuel Ewuzie

    This dynamic duo is what got me interested in volleyball. Growing up, I used to watch every Olympic sport and look for the U.S.’s representatives. I remember stumbling upon this duo during the 2012 London Olympics watching the gold match was treat and procured my interest in the sport. Personally, I want either create or grow a mens or womens volleyball professional league.

  4. Avatar
    Victoria Davis

    I knew very little about how this sport because it was not the traditional way that people play, but this article changed the significance about the two people on the team. It is impressive how when two people click how they can be so victorious. It was a great article on these two individuals and understand what really happened behind the scene between them.

  5. Avatar
    Alexander Avina

    I remember watching this duo in action during the Olympics. It was an incredible sight to see. This refreshed my memory on the enormous impact that these individuals had on the Olympic Games and the sporting world as a whole. It is amazing to see a pair of people with so much coordination and trust in each other. This article did a great job in showing the magnitude of this event that took place during the Olympics.

  6. Avatar
    Sebastian Azcui

    Back when I was a child I saw a lot of beach volleyball and enjoyed attending these events. These duo between Misty May and Walsh seems unbeatable! It is impressive that they are “old” for their sport but they are still legends and win. No matter their age they are still playing at high competitive levels and are top ranked. They also won many tournaments together and are recognized by many! Inspiring.

  7. Avatar
    Mara Martinez

    As a volleyball fan myself. This article really was interesting to me. How a sport brings people together. While they took time apart they still came together in the end and were solid friends and teammates for years and years. A perfect pair how I see it which lead to all their victories.

  8. Avatar
    Rosa Robledo Martinez

    I never really payed attention to the olympics if it wasn’t soccer then I wouldn’t watch anything else.But I am glad that I read this article because now I am willing to watch volleyball. I learned a lot about the history of the dynamic duo, I never really thought that volleyball can be a hard and respected sport, but i was completely wrong. The article allowed me to understand more about the sport and what happens behind the scenes.

  9. Avatar
    Jake Mares

    When someone thinks of Olympic beach volleyball, they think of this dynamic duo. I have been directly connected to this sport as my sister plays at Tulane University, and the legacy of these two can be compared to someone like Derek Jeter. Everyone involved in the sport knows them and people who do not know the sport still could recognize them. Their Olympic success is kind of the first major success for the U.S. in this sport.

  10. Avatar
    Eloy Cruz

    I learned a lot about these athletes. I have been mainly an Olympic soccer fanatic, but to learn about these volleyball players and their stories are really interesting to read. Aside from that, I think that their stories are inspiring because regardless of the fact that they’ve aged, they defended their title on multiple occasions during the Olympics. I think that this article is a good read for any sports fanatic.

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