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Walsh Jennings playing with April Ross at FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States has returned to the sand with a new teammate, competing in this week's FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam with April Ross, a silver medalist last year in London.

São Paulo, Brazil, October 10, 2013 – Three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States has officially begun her return to the FIVB World Tour with new teammate April Ross, the veteran player who won the silver medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games, here at the at the $440,000 FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam double-gender tournament which marks the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour’s return to Brazil for the 27th consecutive year.

With the retirement of her long-time teammate Misty May-Treanor following last year’s Olympics, Walsh Jennings took six months off while she give birth to her third child with husband Casey Jennings, who is playing this week in São Paulo with Olympian Phil Dalhausser. The opportunity for a Walsh Jennings/Ross partnership on the sand became an option when Ross’ long-time teammate Jennifer Kessy with whom she won the London silver medal, decided to reduce her travel schedule and announced that she would not pursue a return to the Olympic Games in 2016.

With the third and final round of women’s pool play Thursday, the men will play their final pool play matches to determine the 24 teams in each gender who advance to Friday’s start of single elimination. For the women on Wednesday, four of the five top-seeded teams all won their opening matches, four in two sets as the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour resumed in South America this week. Following the completion of Pool Play on Thursday, the single-elimination bracket for the final 24 teams in each gender begins on Friday morning.

Following Thursday’s conclusion of pool play, Friday will see the round of 24, round of 16 and quarterfinal matches in each gender as the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour has resumed in South America after a six-week respite. With the event being held for the first time in São Paulo the purpose-built site is located on the expansive grounds of Parque Villa Lobos on the west side of the massive city. The list of undefeated women’s teams grew to 14 when the final whistle blew after the final matches of the day were played under the lights on two courts.

Not necessarily a surprise, but winning both their matches to lead their pool on Wednesday, USA’s 10th-seeded new-team of Ross/Walsh Jennings are playing in just their second FIVB World Tour Grand Slam event after Olympic careers with different teammates. Walsh Jennings won the gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2012 London Olympic Games with former teammate Misty May-Treanor.

In their opening pool play match Wednesday, Ross/Walsh Jennings defeated Kazakhstan’s 23rd-seeded Tatyana Mashkova/Irina Tsimbalova, 21-19, 21-8 in just 31 minutes in their first match in the morning.  In their afternoon match, Ross/Walsh Jennings were sent to three sets before earning the victory over Netherlands’ 26th-seeded Rimke Braakman/Jantine van der Vlist, 21-7, 18-21, 15-11 in 44 minutes.

Commented Walsh Jennings after her first match Wednesday, “I feel really great. It’s been six months since I had my baby (third of three). I feel ready to be on the FIVB World Tour right now. I’m with April (Ross) full time and it just feels right. I do feel more motivated. I took a long time off and it makes me really hungry to play and get better. My whole situation is new now. I left my children at home with other family members, the game I’m playing is different, I have a different body, I have a different brain. We’re learning a lot of things right now and that’s really refreshing.”

Here is a link to an FIVB you tube video with Walsh Jennings from São Paulo:

The 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour is comprised of 10 Grand Slam events and the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships. Not part of the World Tour but counting towards FIVB points/earnings are five Open events (four double-gender tournaments and one women-only). The last of 10 FIVB World Tour Grand Slams will be the 2013 Grand Slam schedule will now end in China Oct. 22-27 at the double-gender $440,000 FIVB Xiamen Grand Slam.

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