Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings is aiming to win a gold medal in beach volleyball at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 when she’ll be 41 because, she said on Thursday, “I don’t believe in barriers.”
Speaking at TheWrap’s Power Women breakfast in San Francisco, the three-time gold medalist said:
“You have to earn your way there. I don’t believe in barriers. I believe my heart will tell me [when to stop]. I pray that my body doesn’t give out — my body feels amazing. I’ve had five shoulder surgeries, I’ve been through a lot, my training is smarter and my diet is smarter in my recovery processes, and I have amazing trainers. I honestly pray for clarity that it’s clear when I’m done, my heart will tell me that, ‘Kerri, you’re done.'”
“I’ve lived this part of my life and I’m ready to transition into something else and grow into something else,” she continued. “My mission in the next four years is just grow in my sport — it’s such a beautiful, empowering sport for women, and the drive in this country, the opportunities this country survive on are huge and I want to take it to the next level … I want to beat the world.”
Walsh Jennings, who won the bronze medal in Rio last year, spoke alongside actress Yara Shahidi and digital entrepreneurs Lisa Sugar, Kendra Bracken-Ferguson and Kathleen Grace to a room full of top tech and media executives in San Francisco at the Dolby Laboratories headquarters auditorium.
But previously she said the gold medal wins had taken a toll on her marriage, particularly in 2008, when she won for the second time.
Going into the Olympics, “it was all about winning, because we wanted to prove ourselves,” she said. “So I had my head down every day focused on the end result, which is not the way to live life,” Walsh Jennings said. “I almost lost my marriage, I was giving birth to my boy (son Joseph was born in May 2009) and my husband said, ‘I think we’re done,’ all because I got disconnected from the most important bucket of my life, which is my relationship with my family.”
Walsh Jennings credited her extended family, her faith and her husband and children with being the reason why she’s able to focus on winning again.
“We have such a beautiful lifestyle living the beach volleyball professional athlete life and everything I could have in heaven, I have here on earth, so my dream is to live every single day and literally win gold medals every single day,” she said. “And I would do that by just staying close to my people and hugging them and loving them … Just don’t take for granted that, which is so important. Having those medals is beautiful, but it doesn’t fill you up.”
Walsh Jennings won the gold medal in 2004, 2008 and again at the 2012 London Olympics (while pregnant). But she took the bronze medal in 2016 at the Olympics in Rio de Janiero playing with a new partner, April Ross. Earlier this week, Walsh Jennings announced her new partner will be Nicole Branagh after having competed with Misty May-Treanor in past games.
She concluded, “I believe in the happiest of endings with regard to my professional career. I don’t want a win or loss to define me, and I’ve lost plenty along the way where I know that’s a learning experience. That bronze in Rio de Janeiro broke my heart but it’s going to make me better, so I have a purpose moving forward. I’m certainly driven to change that color of that medal and to end up on top.”
The Power Women Breakfast series brings together influential women of entertainment, media, technology and brands in key cities to network and connect. TheWrap has built a broad community of professional women who are decision makers and mothers, leaders and wives, innovators and activists. The franchise is now in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.