Walsh Jennings: "We need to do our jobs well"
As the calendar turned to the new year, Walsh Jennings was ready with a surgically repaired wing, ready to join up again with April Ross to continue their quest to reach the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Not surprisingly, 'Six feet of sunshine' – as husband Casey Jennings dubbed her – Walsh Jennings is nothing but upbeat as she takes aim at a fourth consecutive gold medal.
“It’s awesome,” she said of her shoulder. “It’s on there securely, I feel strong. Initially it was about getting range of motion back and now it’s about building strength and I’m well on my way. I’m doing everything in practice – the volume and the intensity aren’t where it’s going to be eventually, but I’m really happy with my starting point.”
Walsh Jennings and Ross will begin their chase on the FIVB World Tour in Brazil as they try to pick up the qualifying points that eluded them throughout 2015 because of the shoulder woes. It might not include that all-out assault at the outset that their fans are accustomed to seeing, but Walsh Jennings is keeping a close eye on the physical issues.
“I just listen to my body,” Walsh Jennings said. “My shoulder is such a coper that it just deals with pain really well, so I get my (red) flags really late. I’m just trying to be smarter, be a little more mindful of it. I’m managing it now so I don’t have to later and it will take care of itself.”
From the mental approach, the competitiveness that has helped shape Walsh Jennings as a champion burns as bright as ever. And Ross is coming off her best season, when she teamed with three different partners to win tournaments over the course of the year.
For the second consecutive year, Ross was named the MVP of the Association of Volleyball Professionals tour. She was selected as the MVP of the FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam despite the fact she and Walsh Jennings fell in the final to Brazil’s Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca.
April Ross dives for the ball at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Long Beach Grand Slam 2015
Walsh Jennings believed that the relatively new pairing with Ross was beginning to click when the injury took hold.
“So close and so far,” Walsh Jennings said. “I feel like whatever corner it is we have to turn, and last year dealing with the injury and coming together closer as a team, was part of that journey. We’re literally this close.
“The big picture stuff like the working hard and all these things, that’s easy for us. We’re athletes and that’s what we do. The total gelling, the trust that stuff comes with time and experience and going into battle repeatedly. We haven’t had a great healthy season yet, so I’m excited for this year to be that.”
Walsh Jennings and Ross have seven tournaments on their schedule that will offer the opportunity to earn Olympic qualifying points by the cutoff point in June.
All they want to do is get on the court and get it going.
“That’s a lot of chances,” Walsh Jennings said. “We officially need five (results) and we need to do our jobs well.”