Kerri Walsh wants her mom.
Walsh might be the most dominant beach volleyball player of all time and shooting for an Olympic three-peat this summer in London, but she isn't afraid to say how much her mother means to her success.
"The older I get, the more I want my mom here at all times," Walsh says. "I want her right with me."
Walsh, 33, says her relationship with her mom grew even deeper after becoming a mother herself in the past two years. "Even though I've always been a daddy's girl," Walsh says, "I always had so much respect and love for my mom and we've always been close. But it's mom and daughter so you butt heads. Now we'll still butt heads, but I don't want her to leave me: 'Stay here, I need you.' "
Walsh and partner Misty May-Treanor won the second of their gold medals in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics. The following spring, Walsh and her husband, pro volleyball player Casey Jennings, welcomed the arrival of son Joseph. A year later, they had a second boy Sundance.
Now as she gears up for the London Olympics, Walsh is thrilled that one of her corporate sponsors, P&G, reflects both sides of the motherhood dynamic. The company has a Thank You, Mom campaign that raises money for youth sport organizations across the country. This makes it personal as much as business, which isn't always the case in sports.
"I can remember playing tee ball and AYSO soccer," she says. "I hit the ground running with sports. My parents were pretty big athletes. My whole childhood, I just remember going to our sporting events and then going to watch them compete in softball or golf or bowling. My life is beautiful because of it, so I'm really really proud to be part of it. It makes so much sense to me. Happier, healthier families ... which obviously really resonates with me."
This will be the first time Walsh is training for the Olympics as a mother, which presents new training obstacles. For example, most kids get sick a lot when they start attending school and swap germs with their classmates. That's what happened with Walsh's sons, so for the past three months, she hasn't gotten much sleep. So much for the recovery aspect of her workouts.
"That's been the biggest challenge, but my body seems to have adapted," she says. "A lot of it is mental."
Walsh is 33, but she isn't viewing London as a last hurrah, even if May-Treanor decides to retire.
"I think after these Olympics, she might be done," Walsh says. "But I can never say that. I love it too much. I want it. Winning a gold medal in Brazil would be amazing."
The only possible stumbling block to prevent her from making a run at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro would be family considerations.
"We want more children after London, and traveling with two is crazy enough that I can't imagine three or four," she says. "But if you want it, it's all possible."
Walsh is one of four siblings, with an older brother and two younger sisters, so she's familiar with having a large family. But as most mothers will tell you, nothing can quite prepare you for motherhood.
"I thought I knew how wonderful it would be, but it just floored me with how amazing it is," she says. "It's just a whole new world, and it hits me more every day how challenging it is. You don't know until you know. But I wouldn't trade it for the world.
"I love the focus isn't on me anymore. I have to take care of myself so I can be a great mommy, and I take pride in that. It's a huge crazy challenge. It makes me respect my parents a billion times more, and I'd already held them pretty high."
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