Kerri Walsh Jennings

Kerri Walsh Jennings on her Super Bowl commercial, toughest loss and brain games

Leave a comment

Three-time Olympic beach volleyball champion Kerri Walsh Jennings prepared in the last week to begin practicing with partner April Ross for the new season, the year-before-the-Olympics season.

Walsh Jennings, 36, and Ross, 32, performed well in their first full year together in 2014, winning four of 10 FIVB World Tour events that they entered.

Walsh Jennings returned to playing following the retirement of longtime partner, Misty May-Treanor, after the London Olympics, and the birth of her third child, Scout, on April 6, 2013.

In 2014, only one pair bettered Walsh Jennings and Ross’ record. Brazilians Larissa and Talita won four of their six FIVB World Tour events after teaming up midway through the year.

Walsh Jennings and Ross haven’t played Larissa and Talita. The two teams are the early favorites with the World Championships in the Netherlands on the horizon this summer.

Walsh Jennings hopes she’s physically and mentally better prepared this season. She described last year as “playing catch-up,” frustrated by a pelvic stress fracture, a knee injury and other aches and pains.

She also continued her brain training, working with sports psychologist Mike Gervais. She plays games on her iPad while wearing a headset at home, flying an airplane or shooting free throws with her brain.

“It reads your brain frequencies, alpha waves,” Walsh Jennings said of the Versus program, which boasts several athlete users, including MLB outfielder Carlos Quentin, tennis player Mike Bryan and retired swimmer Eric Shanteau. “If I’m focusing too much, [the plane] is going to crash. If I’m too relaxed, it’s going to crash.”

OlympicTalk covered more topics in a phone interview with Walsh Jennings while she was on an Asics photo shoot.

OlympicTalk: In 2004, before your first Olympics with May-Treanor, you said, “We’re a bitch to play.” How close are you to being able to say that with Ross?

Walsh Jennings: We’re definitely getting there. There were some tournaments last year where we were people’s worst nightmares. That’s what we’re working towards. At the beginning of last season, (our coach) Marcio (Sicoli) would say, outlast. Weather the storm. Then he would say, be the storm. Create havoc for the other team. … I can’t say we’re a bitch to play right now.

OlympicTalk: Who is the best team in the world right now?

Walsh Jennings: April and I. Larissa and Talita have been amazing, have a great record.

OlympicTalk: You and April played with keys looped through necklaces last season labeled “breathe” and “dream.” Will you keep playing with them?

Walsh Jennings: Yeah. My husband dipped mine in gold (for my birthday). It’s in my jewelry closet. It will be on the road with us, without a doubt.

I always need breath. When I’m breathing, I’m always doing good. Especially in tough times. Last year, I gave April a dream. I said, April, when you think of us playing and competing and getting to Rio, don’t put any boundaries on us.

(Fellow player) Brittany Hochevar introduced me to (The) Giving Keys. When you meet somebody who means what your key means more than you, you give it to them. So we’re going to graduate from the keys that we have. My husband (fellow player Casey Jennings) has “gratitude.” His partner has “fearless.”

OlympicTalk: You were in a Super Bowl commercial with May-Treanor in 2004. What do you remember about it?

Walsh Jennings: That it was freezing. We shot it first in Malibu with a huge snow machine, surrounded with foam. We were all bloody after the shoot (as the video shows briefly). The next day, we went to Bear Mountain (a California ski resort) a couple hours away, super early in the morning, and it was freezing, literally, like 30 degrees. We wore parkas, ear muffs and hand warmers. We stripped down, played a couple rallies, they got what they wanted, and we dressed back up. Actually, when I was warming my hands up, my gloves caught fire.

OlympicTalk: You’re undefeated in Olympic beach volleyball, but what’s the toughest loss you’ve taken in any sport at any level?

Walsh Jennings: Senior year at Stanford, national championship game. The worst game of my career. We had an amazing season and made it into the finals. All of us fell apart. I certainly did. We played Penn State and got manhandled (15-2, 15-10, 15-7).

(Editor’s addition: “Obviously we were missing all night,” Walsh told the San Jose Mercury News in 1999. “We’ve played like this in the past, but not this bad, and always we snapped back. I just kept waiting for us to snap back tonight, and we didn’t.”)

Another really tough loss was losing the 2011 World Championships, up by two points, had match point and we lost to Larissa and Juliana.

(Editor’s addition: Walsh Jennings said in 2012 that loss “is under my skin,” while May-Treanor remembered watching the Brazilians’ celebratory screams, group hugs and autographing video cameras like tennis players, calling it “over the top.”)

OlympicTalk: After switching from indoor to beach following the Sydney Olympics, have you ever considered playing indoor again?

Walsh Jennings: There were times early in my beach career where I didn’t know if I could do it. But once I determined I was up for the challenge, I never thought about going back (to indoor).

I left indoor with a broken heart. I was so happy to find something that I loved. If I loved it (indoor), I think I would be great at it. I think I probably would have retired before now though. I’ve had four shoulder surgeries.

(Editor’s addition: Walsh Jennings’ “broken heart” from indoor was the result of a nightmare Sydney 2000 Olympic experience. She was notified of a failed drug test before her first match and had to sit out until being able to prove that it was a false positive. Walsh Jennings returned to play, but the U.S. lost in the bronze-medal match. Walsh Jennings believes her parents still have the letter she received informing her of the positive test.)

Football must spread to join Olympics, IOC president says

Anna van der Breggen is first cyclist to sweep road world titles in 25 years

Anna van der Breggen
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen added the road race crown to her time trial victory at the world road cycling championships, becoming the second rider in history to win both events at the same edition.

“This is, for me, pretty good so far,” she said.

Van der Breggen, the Rio Olympic road race champion, won after a solo attack with more than 25 miles left of an 89-mile course in Imola, Italy, on Saturday.

She prevailed after more than four hours of racing by 80 seconds over countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, the 2019 champion. Van Vleuten raced nine days after breaking her left wrist in a Giro Rosa crash.

Italian Elisa Longo Borghini took bronze in the same time as van Vleuten after losing a photo-finish sprint. Lauren Stephens was the top American in 11th.

Full results are here.

The race lacked American standout Chloé Dygert, who crashed out of the time trial while leading on Thursday and required leg surgery.

Van der Breggen joined Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo as the only male or female cyclists to sweep the time trial and road race at a single worlds. Longo did so in 1995 at age 36.

Van der Breggen, 30, said in May that she will retire after the 2021 Olympic season.

It will be the end of one of the great cycling careers. She is now a three-time world champion and nine-time world medalist to go along with her road race gold and time trial bronze in her Olympic debut in Rio.

Worlds conclude Sunday with the men’s road race. A TV and stream schedule is here.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: A more equal future for women’s cycling? Lizzie Deignan has high hopes

2020 French Open TV, live stream schedule

Leave a comment

Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams can each tie Grand Slam singles titles records at the French Open, with daily live coverage among NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel.

NBC coverage starts Sunday with first-round action at Roland Garros, its 38th straight year covering the event. Tennis Channel airs the majority of weekday coverage. Peacock, NBC Universal’s new streaming service, has middle weekend broadcasts.

All NBC TV coverage alo streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Nadal is the primary men’s storyline, favored to tie Roger Federer‘s male record of 20 major titles and extend his own record of 12 French Open crowns. Federer is absent after knee operations earlier this year.

The Spaniard’s primary competition is top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the 2016 French Open champion whose only defeat in 2020 was a U.S. Open default for hitting a ball that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Williams bids again to match the overall Grand Slam singles mark of 24 held by Australian Margaret Court. Williams, a three-time French Open champion, lost in the third and fourth round the last two years and is coming off a U.S. Open semifinal exit.

The women’s field is led by 2018 champion Simona Halep but lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: How Jay-Z, Beyonce helped Naomi Osaka come out of her shell

French Open TV Schedule

Date Time (ET) Network Round
Sunday, Sept. 27 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. NBC
Monday, Sept. 28 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Tuesday, Sept. 29 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Wednesday, Sept. 30 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Thursday, Oct. 1 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Friday, Oct. 2 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
Saturday, Oct. 3 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Sunday, Oct. 4 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Monday, Oct. 5 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Tuesday, Oct. 6 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Oct. 7 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Thursday, Oct. 8 5 a.m.-2 p.m. Tennis Channel Women’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Friday, Oct. 9 5 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis Channel Men’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Saturday, Oct. 10 9 a.m. NBC Women’s Final
Sunday, Oct. 11 9 a.m. NBC Men’s Final