The London 2012 Games were the end of an era. Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor went together like peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, chocolate and vanilla, the Rio Olympics and every possible misfortune. Winning three gold medals together in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 summer Olympics, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor have been described as “the greatest beach volleyball team of all time.”
The two first found each other—alright, they were paired together for the FIVB international tour—in 2001 after narrowly missing Olympic medals in Sydney in 2000 (May-Treanor and her partner came in 5th in the beach volleyball tournament, Walsh Jennings came in fourth in the indoor volleyball competition).
Since 2001, the two had been known as a pair on the international and national beach volleyball circuit. They competed together in the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics, becoming a household name– even to non-beach volleyball fans.
That’s not to say things were always smooth sailing. The duo suffered losses, difficult matches, and even a brief retirement by May-Treanor, who decided in 2010 that she would take a break from competition. Walsh Jennings partnered with fellow American—and 2008 Olympic teammate—Nicole Branagh, but after a change of heart, May-Treanor soon joined her partner back on the court. The two won a third consecutive gold in the 2012 London Games.
But it seems that May-Treanor really means it this time when she says she’s not coming back to compete. Walsh Jennings will be competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics with April Ross, who earned second place in the London Olympics.
While Ross is no May-Treanor, the almond-butter and jelly pairing will still be a force to reckon with in Rio.
Ross can certainly hold her own on the court. She has eight AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) and nine FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball) first-place finishes overall. She was named the Most Outstanding Player in the 2008 Phuket Thailand Open and, together with Jennifer Kessy, beat World Champion couple May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings in the AVP tournament in California. Kessy and Ross also beat Brazilians Juliana Silva and Larissa França way back in 2009 before trouncing them again in the semifinals of the 2012 London Olympics.
While Ross and Walsh Jennings are favorites to medal in Rio, they have quite a few challenges ahead. In addition to rebranding, Ross and Walsh Jennings must face Brazilian all-star Larissa França on her home turf. On top of that, Walsh Jennings underwent shoulder surgery in the fall.
Here’s hoping the 37-year-old can be just as dominant in her 5th Olympics with Ross as she was in three Olympics with May-Treanor.
The team takes on Australia in their first Olympic match together, Saturday, August 6 at 11pm EST.
How to Live Stream the 2016 Rio Olympics:
NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app will be live streaming coverage of the Games for pay TV subscribers via TV Everywhere. You can download the NBC Sports app to your Android TV, Apple TV, Xbox or Roku or use the iOS, Android or Windows Phone apps.
You can also live stream Olympic matches from NBC here.