The path to a fifth Olympics – at which she aspires to claim a fourth consecutive beach volleyball gold medal – has been the roughest of all for Kerri Walsh Jennings. And she has the documentary to prove it.
“Kerri Walsh Jennings: Gold Within” is set to air July 31 at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT on NBC, five days before the Rio Games Opening Ceremony. It’s a 45-minute film that followed Walsh Jennings around at home, on the beach and in doctors’ offices as she endured a serious shoulder surgery that threatened to keep her from Rio. The film was directed by three-time Emmy winner Gabe Spitzer and produced by DICK’S Sporting Goods Films and Tribeca Digital Studios.
“I hope what they capture most is that there are so many people who help me to chase my dreams,” Walsh Jennings told the Associated Press. “No one behind you gets the appreciation they deserve.”
The documentary covers life at home with three children, as well as the struggles of a new partnership. Walsh Jennings’ longtime teammate, Misty May-Treanor, retired after their third gold medal in London (Walsh Jennings also competed in the 2000 Games in indoor volleyball). So Walsh Jennings teamed up with April Ross.
The new duo’s Olympic qualifying process was more difficult than most. Walsh Jennings and Ross excelled in 2014, but Walsh Jennings twice separated her shoulder in 2015, the first year of Olympic qualifying. She underwent a fifth shoulder surgery in September.
Her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. William Schobert, said six months was the standard recovery time.
“I know,” Walsh Jennings told him in the film. “But we are not standard people.”
Her goal was to begin training again in four months. Her first competition back came in March, a FIVB World Tour event in Rio, which she and Ross won. They’ve advanced to at least the semifinals in each of their seven international tournaments since, winning three more times.
Walsh Jennings and Ross enter Rio as strong medal contenders, and likely will battle the two Brazilian teams with their home crowd for gold.
And the Americans’ season won’t end with the Olympics. They’ve already committed to the World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, Aug. 23 to 28. The women’s medal matches in Rio will be played Aug. 17.