Walsh reflects on May-Treanor retirement, while her career moves ahead
It now looks like Walsh will sit out the rest of 2012, as she has not registered for either of the year's two remaining women's events in Aland, Finland, and Bangsean, Thailand. It remains to be seen what the future holds for her in 2013 and beyond.
Walsh and teammate Misty May-Treanor enjoyed a stellar career as a team since first playing together in 2001. Both players took about two years off between 2008 and 2010, Walsh to have two children and Treanor due to an injury to her achilles' tendon. When they decided to come back as a team in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympics, many doubted their chances. They lost the World Championships to Larissa and Juliana, and didn't look like their old selves.
In the end, they came through and proved they were still great when it mattered most. The London 2012 Olympic Games were their 77th international event and their 63rd final-four appearance together. They earned their 40th career gold medals, to which they've added 14 silvers, six bronze and three fourth-place finishes over the years.
Walsh decided to continue her career after May-Treanor’s retirement immediately following the Olympics. She played another tournament in Stare Jablonki, Poland, August 13 to 18 with new partner Nicole Branagh. This was not a completely unfamiliar pairing - Walsh had played three competitions with Branagh in 2008 and 2010, and they won two of them.
“I love my job and I love winning,” Walsh said. “Even at the Olympics I was already thinking about coming to Poland. It is my job and I want to win, I’m here to win.”
“It is always an honour to play with Kerri,” said Branagh. “I think when we play together we play well and we have had some success. It is fun to play with her, I’m happy to be part of the team and I’m looking forward to a great tournament.”
In Stare Jablonki, the pair finished ninth.
There's no doubt that London was the highlight of 2012. Speaking just after the Olympics, Walsh reflected on how much it meant to have that last run to the gold medal.
“It feels almost like an out-of-body experience. We’ve lived so much of our lives together. This is what we did, 24-7 it seems, for all these years. But after we were apart for nearly two years, our reunion was so special and we were more connected these last two years than the first nine years we were a team.”
“Misty is the best there ever has been in this sport and it’s very sad to end this journey with her, but boy do we have some incredible memories.”
May-Treanor had similar comments about Walsh: “A person could never have a better teammate and friend than Kerri has been to me and I can’t thank her enough for saying ‘yes’ not once, but twice, when we decided to go for a third gold medal.”
Reflecting further on her experience with May-Treanor, Walsh said, “I am so pleased, grateful and overwhelmed. We were really pretty amazing, and I say that with humility and gratefulness for what we have been able to do. It wasn’t been an easy road, with the emotional and mental things and with the major injuries that could have easily stopped us short of our goal.”
“We wanted to go out as a team with a 21-0 record in the Olympic Games and a 42-1 set record is pretty amazing as well. When you consider that you look in the mirror and pinch yourself and ask ‘did I really do that, or did someone else?’ No matter what the future holds in this sport our in our lives, these are accomplishments that we will cherish forever and look forward to showing old videos to our grandkids while sitting in our rocking chairs and having some tea.”
In those final Olympic Games as a team, May-Treanor and Walsh led the tournament in blocks with 25, and digs with 151. Individually, May-Treanor led the tournament in digs with 107 and Walsh led the Olympics in blocks with 24. May-Treanor was also second in points with 125.