Last time Kerri Walsh Jennings won an Olympic gold medal, she had two children. Well, two and change.
Walsh Jennings was pregnant with her third child, Scout Margery, while she and partner Misty May-Treanor won their third gold medal in 2012. Her daughter was born in April 2013.
"She knows she's golden," Walsh Jennings says of Scout. "I don't know if she knows how big of a part she played in that. My boys certainly do."
Walsh Jennings' first Olympics were in 2000 as part of the U.S. indoor team. She was 22 and single.
In 2005, she married Casey Jennings, also a beach volleyball star. After winning gold in 2004 and 2008, she gave birth to her first child, Joey, in May 2009. A year later, she had her second son, Sundance.
Since winning in 2012 in London, in addition to having another kid, Walsh Jennings connected with a new playing partner. May-Treanor, her primary partner since 2001, retired after the London Games. Walsh Jennings, who will turn 38 during this year's Olympics, now teams with 2012 silver medalist April Ross. She and Ross are currently No. 3 in the world rankings despite Walsh Jennings' shoulder rehab. It is all a big balancing act.
"I'm making this choice," Walsh Jennings says of traveling around the world to prepare for the Olympics. "My family and I made it together, that we're going to go win a gold medal together and we're not going to be together the whole time. I'm focusing on the positives because there's way more positives than any negatives. Life is hard. You've got to accept it and make it rad in spite of that.
"That's why Rio is so wonderful. The whole journey is the most important part. Then once we get to Rio, it'll be press play, kick butt. I want [Scout] to see it and to remember it. She was in my belly. She was just bouncing around in there. Now, she'll be officially a part of it and it just warms my heart."
Walsh Jennings credits her children for giving her a career second wind.
"Before I had more kids, I was like, this feels trivial," she says. "I'd been playing for so long, and I was like I need balance. All my eggs are in this one basket and it's very self-centered and self-focused. They gave me that perspective and balance I thought I was missing. It took my game and my desire and my passion for life to the next level. I am hugely indebted to my children."
Walsh Jennings was a volleyball prodigy. In high school, she won three state volleyball titles (and a basketball title). She was the Gatorade High School Volleyball Player of the Year in 1996. At Stanford, she was four-year first team All-American, won two titles and was co-National Player of the Year in 1999.
Walsh Jennings never had a choice to focus on other interests but says her Mother's Day would not be much different in a parallel universe.
— ThePostGame.com (@ThePostGame) March 22, 2016
"I would be a mommy," she says, asked what she would be doing if she not playing volleyball. "I would be chasing a gold medal in some other way. I like growing and evolving my entire life. My children have taught me so much. I want to be better because I'm their mommy. I want to be their best role model and I want to represent my country well in Rio. Whatever I'm doing, I want to be great."
Walsh Jennings owes part of her greatness in preserving her body to Kinesiology Tape. Walsh Jennings uses KT Tape, which is now also one of her sponsors, mostly on her shoulder, which has undergone five surgeries during her career, including one last fall. But she has used it elsewhere.
"When I was pregnant, I would use it to support my lower back," she says.
That is Kerri Walsh Jennings. She's always a competitor and a mother, even under extreme circumstances.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.