Kerri Walsh Jennings

Kerri Walsh Jennings
AP

Kerri Walsh Jennings connects with beach volleyball players with virtual camps

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A longtime evangelist for outdoor and active lifestyles, beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings knew the national stay-at-home orders would be especially hard on young athletes and others trying to stay fit.

With her own quest for a sixth Olympics on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, Walsh Jennings held video chats with dozens of volleyball clubs and teams — more than 4,500 people in all. Part pep talks, part skills clinics, the calls convinced her people are struggling to remain active in a world where it’s much easier to just binge on TV.

“There was a consistent theme to every call: ’Kerri, we are so sad. We don’t want to lose what we’ve earned. We want to stay sharp and inspired,” Walsh Jennings said in announcing the creation of “Virtual Summer Camps” for aspiring volleyball players and others just trying to stay active.

“This is hard on everybody. But there’s so many resources out there,” she told The Associated Press. “There’s no excuse to be a slave to your couch. We all have a little bit of space. We can go outside and be free. And we just want to encourage people to do that.”

Through her volleyball and lifestyle platform p1440, Walsh Jennings put together an online program mixing skills, fitness and mindset training. The four-week pilot called “The Fundamentals” sold out in six days with 250 men, women, boys and girls of all ages, volleyball rookies up to semipro level.

“Imagine this: We have a 13-year-old girl who is going through this and she is just devastated that her season was taken away. And she is thriving and she’s sharing her experience,” Walsh Jennings said. “And then we have a 50-year-old man who’s gained 20 pounds in COVID and just loves volleyball, never played before, but wants to get better. He’s lost 15 pounds and he’s engaged with this program, sharing in the safe community that we created.”

Now, p1440 is gearing up for two “ Virtual Summer Camps ” that offer the chance to “Train with an Olympian” — one focused on fundamentals and a more intense version called “Unleashed.” Campers will have access to Walsh Jennings; her husband, beach volleyball pro Casey Jennings; UCLA beach volleyball coach and 2004 Olympian Stein Metzger; and trainer Tommy Knox.

“The materials were put together fast, but the wisdom and the knowledge is literally 30 years of my life,” Walsh Jennings said.

“The fundamental philosophy is ‘doing things right.’ And it’s going to meet you where you are,” she said. “For me, an athlete working to go to my sixth Olympics, win my fourth gold, this is making me better. A 9-year-old who is just getting started in the game, it’s making her better. And everyone in between.”

The camps are virtual. The workouts are real.

Campers will receive videos by email every weekday with their exercises for the day — they can also log onto Walsh Jennings’ p1440 website. Strength training is twice a week, volleyball is four times a week, and mindfulness training is every day. The workouts are self-guided, and should take about two hours.

“There’s a lot of interaction, and we want people to be felt and heard,” Walsh Jennings said. “Even though this is virtual, it’s very engaging and it’s still very connected. And so we don’t want to minimize that part of it.”

Twelve-year-old Phia Neilson said the Fundamentals camp helped her grow as a volleyball player, but it was the journaling that was a highlight. One entry included a drawing of a girl playing volleyball, a quote from actor Will Smith and “3 ways to Optimize”: “Go to bed earlier, start a food log and raise my energy level.”

“I like that I am learning to be more patient with myself, to stay positive and to never give up,” she wrote.

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MORE: Will Kerri Walsh Jennings qualify for Tokyo Olympics?

Michael Phelps’ eight gold medals at Beijing Olympics air on NBCSN on Monday

Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps‘ eight-gold-medal performance headlines the first of two nights of Return to Beijing Olympic programming on NBCSN on Monday night.

Phelps’ iconic races air at 8:30 p.m. ET as part of eight hours of 2008 Olympic coverage on NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week.

They are preceded by the men’s beach volleyball final (7 p.m.) and followed by the women’s beach volleyball final (10 p.m.), men’s indoor volleyball final (11 p.m.).

LIVE STREAM: NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Monday, 7 p.m.-3 a.m. ET

Phelps began his Beijing Olympics by winning the 400m individual medley in a world record 4:03.84. It’s Phelps’ only individual world record that still stands and the longest-standings world record in any Olympic men’s or women’s event.

From there, Phelps broke world records in six of his next seven events. But there were close calls, starting with his next final. In the 4x100m freestyle relay, the U.S. trailed France by .59 of a second going into Jason Lezak‘s anchor leg against the 100m free world-record holder, Frenchman Alain Bernard.

Lezak trailed by .82 going into the last 50 meters. Then, with a magic surge, he caught and passed Bernard, touching .08 ahead with the fastest relay leg in history by a whopping .57.

Phelps had one more major challenge — the 100m butterfly. Serbian Milorad Cavic broke the Olympic record in the heats and was again faster than Phelps in the semifinals, where Phelps was coming off the 200m individual medley final.

In the final, Phelps was seventh at the turn. He still trailed Cavic going into the final stroke. Cavic took a long stroke, gliding into the wall. Phelps took an extra half-stroke, smashing the wall. He won by .01. The following morning, Phelps finished off the eight-for-eight effort in the medley relay, breaking Mark Spitz‘s record for golds at a single Games.

In NBCSN’s other Return to Beijing programs Monday, the U.S. swept the beach volleyball finals.

Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers became the third different U.S. men’s pair to take Olympic gold. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings repeated as Olympic champions, extending their international win streak to 69 matches.

The U.S. men’s indoor volleyball team endured tragedy — the death of coach Hugh McCutcheon‘s father-in-law in a random attack in Beijing — en route to triumph. McCutcheon missed the first three matches. The U.S. won them all, plus five more, including a comeback final over Brazil.

MORE: Full Olympic Games Week TV, live stream schedule

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NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Monday, April 20

Time (ET) Program Events Live Stream
7 p.m. Return to Beijing Men’s Beach Volleyball Final STREAM LINK
8:30 p.m. Return to Beijing Michael Phelps STREAM LINK
10 p.m. Return to Beijing Women’s Beach Volleyball Final STREAM LINK
11 p.m. Return to Beijing Men’s Indoor Volleyball Final STREAM LINK
1 a.m. Return to Beijing Michael Phelps STREAM LINK
2:30 a.m. Return to Beijing Beijing Olympic Stories STREAM LINK

NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week: What to watch on Friday

Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte
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Four titans of U.S. swimming — Missy FranklinKatie LedeckyMichael Phelps and Ryan Lochte — highlight NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week programming on Friday night.

Coverage starts at 8 p.m. ET with four hours of 2012 London Olympic swimming events. At those Games, Franklin, Ledecky, Phelps and Lochte combined for 17 medals, including six individual titles.

LIVE STREAM: NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Friday, 8 p.m.-3 a.m. ET

The 17-year-old Franklin swept the backstrokes, including breaking the 200m back world record. The rising Colorado high school senior delivered on the hype placed on her as the most talked-about U.S. female swimmer going into the Games.

Ledecky, the youngest U.S. Olympian across all sports at 15, did not have gold-medal expectations. But she shocked home favorite and defending Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington to win the 800m freestyle, the first of many gold medals in her career. Ledecky hasn’t lost an 800m free since.

The Phelps-Lochte rivalry was a key storyline throughout that Olympic cycle. Lochte had supplanted Phelps as the world’s top all-around swimmer a year earlier.

On the first night of competition, Lochte won the 400m individual medley, while a gassed Phelps was fourth. But by the end of the Olympics, Phelps had the better medal tally, including a win over Lochte in the 200m IM.

Phelps retired after those Games, only to return to the pool a year later with unfinished business after being defeated by South African Chad le Clos in his trademark 200m fly in London.

Later Thursday, catch the 2012 Olympic women’s soccer semifinal epic between the U.S. and Canada. In injury time of extra time, Alex Morgan headed in the latest goal scored in U.S. soccer and Olympic soccer history. It ended a 4-3 thriller that included three U.S. comebacks from a goal down and a hat trick from Canadian Christine Sinclair, who went on to become the greatest scorer in international history.

Then in the 2012 Olympic women’s beach volleyball final, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings dispatched countrywomen April Ross and Jen Kessy for a third straight gold medal. It marked the end of May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings’ partnership, as the former retired.

At the net post-match, Walsh Jennings whispered to Ross, let’s go win gold in Rio. They soon became partners, culminating in a bronze medal in 2016.

MORE: Full Olympic Games Week TV, live stream schedule

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NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Friday, April 17

Time (ET) Program Events Live Stream
8 p.m. Return to London Women’s Swimming STREAM LINK
10 p.m. Return to London Men’s Swimming STREAM LINK
12 a.m. Return to London Women’s Soccer: USA-Canada STREAM LINK
2 a.m. Return to London Women’s Beach Volleyball Final STREAM LINK