April Ross, Olympic beach volleyball champion, announces pregnancy

April Ross

April Ross, who won an Olympic beach volleyball medal of every color over the last three Games, announced she is pregnant with her first child and due in October.

Ross, who won gold in Tokyo with Alix Klineman, last played a tournament in March 2022 and since delved into coaching, though she has not announced a retirement.

“I’d like to come back and play at some point,” she said, according to VolleyballMag.com “I would just start on the AVP. I don’t have like a huge drive to come back and chase the Olympics at the moment, but if I come back, and it’s a good situation, and I feel like I’m playing well on the AVP, I wouldn’t rule it out.

“I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do in my career so if I play from now on, I just want it to be a fun, good journey and play with somebody I enjoy playing with. I have no idea who I might play with or any of that. It’s just how it develops.”

Ross, 40, also took Olympic silver in 2012 with Jennifer Kessy and bronze in 2016 with Kerri Walsh Jennings.

Klineman, 33, is due with her first child this summer and has said she might return from childbirth for a late bid for a 2024 Paris Olympic spot.

The window to earn qualifying points for the Paris Games began in February and runs into June 2024.

Two U.S. women’s teams will qualify. The top teams thus far are Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes and Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss.

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Kerri Walsh Jennings’ comeback delayed by surgery

Kerri Walsh Jennings

Kerri Walsh Jennings said her return to top-level beach volleyball, originally set to be this month, has been pushed to August after ankle surgery.

Walsh Jennings, 44 years old and a three-time Olympic champion, also said on a podcast with retired Nebraska indoor coach Terry Pettit that she will not play with four-time indoor Olympian Logan Tom, a 41-year-old with whom Walsh Jennings trained over the winter.

“I started this dream, this vision of going back to the Olympics with Logan in my heart,” Walsh Jennings said on the podcast. “I would not have gotten to this point unless it was for Logan, who I love so much and respect so much.

“We went through the paces, and we lived it so sincerely. It just turned out that it wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t the right fit for many different reasons. Mostly life reasons rather than volleyball reasons.”

Walsh Jennings said she now plans to partner with Zana Muno, a 26-year-old former UCLA indoor standout. They did play together in early March at the Queen of the Court in Miami, which is not an event on the FIVB Beach Pro Tour.

It was Walsh Jennings’ first competition of any kind since June 2021, when she and Brooke Sweat were passed for the second and final U.S. Olympic spot for Tokyo.

Walsh Jennings is still thinking about trying to make it to a sixth Olympics, though the qualifying window has already started, and it is not her primary goal.

“Pure and simple, I’d love to go to Paris and win, period,” she said. “However, what I’m truly after is just I want to get back to being a high-level, elite athlete, and I want to be playing freely within my body physically and within my mind and my spirit emotionally and mentally, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been there.”

The U.S. can qualify no more than two women’s teams to the Olympics, and the U.S. already has two teams that have won an international tournament this season in Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes and Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss.

A team counts its top 12 results over the qualifying window that runs to June 2024.

If she returns in August, Walsh Jennings said that she and Muno could play seven international events the remainder of 2023, including October’s world championships (if given a wild card), plus presumably more in early 2024.

Walsh Jennings said she is also open to playing on the domestic AVP tour for the first time since a split following the 2016 Olympics.

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Kerri Walsh Jennings, with new partner, sets first beach volleyball event in nearly 2 years

Kerri Walsh Jennings

Kerri Walsh Jennings is entered to compete in her first beach volleyball events in 21 months, signing up with a new partner, Zana Muno.

Walsh Jennings, 44 and the most successful Olympic beach player with three golds and one bronze, and Muno, a 26-year-old former UCLA indoor standout, are entered in the Queen and King of the Court event in Miami next week, organizers announced last week.

They are also entered in an FIVB international tournament in Itapema, Brazil, in early April.

Walsh Jennings is still expected to play with 41-year-old former Stanford teammate Logan Tom, her previously announced new partner, later this year. For now, Walsh Jennings said that she and Muno paired to earn ranking points for their respective teams.

Walsh Jennings and Tom are limited in what events they can enter given their lack of points since Walsh Jennings last played in June 2021 and Tom last played on the beach in 2007.

Muno played four FIVB events last year, with three different partners, with a best finish of third.

“Logan and I are committed,” Walsh Jennings said Monday through a representative. “Zana is incredible and I’m excited to come back to competition with such a fiery and hungry competitor.”

Walsh Jennings, who missed qualifying for the Tokyo Games with partner Brooke Sweat by one spot, said last month that she is not yet committing to a 2024 Olympic bid.

“Paris is in the background, right?” Walsh Jennings said then. “That’s obviously out there. That would be the ultimate goal, but we’re really taking this one phase at a time.”

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