Thelma and Louise. Oprah and Gayle. Misty May and Kerri Walsh.
The beach volleyball team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings stands firmly among the greatest female power duos of all time. So when the two parted ways last year following a spectacular victory in London and May-Treanor’s retirement, it was a sad day for fans.
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Things looked up this week, though. The three-time Olympic gold medalist (and mother of three) Walsh Jennings, 34, announced she’d be teaming up with yet another superstar of the sand: former foe April Ross, 31, who nabbed a silver medal in 2012 with then partner Jennifer Kessy.
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Neither player’s agent immediately returned calls for comment from Yahoo! Shine Thursday. But Walsh Jennings told People about her new partner, "She's a stud and has been working her butt off for the past couple years. I want to be with a winner and that's why I asked her."
May-Treanor will be a hard act to follow. So who is the 6-foot-1, California-native Ross, and what does she bring to what’s sure to become the team to watch at Rio 2016? Here’s what we’ve gathered so far:
She’s got game. Ross was an indoor volleyball star in high school before heading off to the University of Southern California, where she continued to hone her skills by playing at the Orange County Volleyball Club. “It was grueling, I hated it while I was there because it was so physically and mentally draining,” she wrote in her bio on the Kessy-Ross team website. “But I'm so glad I stuck with it because it made me a better player than I could have been if no one had really pushed me.”
She’s got heart. After the 2012 Olympics, Ross and Kessy teamed up with sports apparel brand 4Point4 to teach volleyball to poor children in Haiti and Thailand. "Having the chance to play sports growing up teaches you all kinds of life lessons,” she told People at the time. “It gives young people confidence and instills in them motivation and drive to be the best one can be. It's absolutely invaluable.”
She has it all in perspective. In an eerie similarity with May-Treanor, Ross lost her mother to cancer; mom Margie, died in 2001 of breast cancer (May-Treanor lost her mom to cancer in 2002, two years before winning her first gold). “I believe she's still watching over me,” Ross shared on her website. “If you see me tap my chest twice and point to the sky after a lucky play, one's for her and one's for God for helping us win the point.” She’s also a bit of a newlywed, having married pro beach-volleyball player Brad Keenan in 2010. (Walsh Jennings’s husband, Casey Jennings, is a pro beach-volleyball player too, so they should all have plenty to talk about on double dates.)
She’s well rounded. The Costa Mesa resident has some eclectic interests beyond beach volleyball, with camping, snowboarding, and sewing on her list of favorite pastimes — along with shopping (“It’s more of a talent,” she writes on her website) and scrapbooking (“Yes, I’m a dork”).
She takes great care of herself — but knows how to live it up, too. Ross wears sunscreen from “head to toe” while she plays, estimating she goes through about 100 ounces a year. As far as eating to maintain her athlete’s physique, she says she’s tried her share of fad diets before settling on a routine that works for her. “At breakfast I eat the most carbs for the day,” she said on the website of the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) in a recent Q&A with fans. “I have an omelet with a slice of bread or two, and each meal after that I try to eat mainly protein and veggies. If I feel like I'm depriving myself too much though, I don't hesitate to eat something really yummy even if there are too many carbs in it, especially since sampling local fare [while on the road] is one of my favorite things to do.”
She’s a woman of the world. Ross is always globetrotting, on her way to one tournament or another. Just since April, according to her Facebook page, she’s been to China, Argentina, Brazil, Rome, the Hague and Poland. Staying game ready while traveling is something she’s gotten better at, she said on the AVP site. “You might be deathly tired, but if you can stay awake until it's time to go to sleep in that time zone you will be much better off,” she said. “I sometimes go on runs, it's a great way to see a new place. You just have to make sure you don't get lost!” Phuket, Thailand is her favorite beach venue for a game — but playing under the Eiffel Tower or at Horse Guards Parade in London ain’t too shabby either. “Both those venues beat the beach hands down,” she said.
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