This week’s Meet a Mom interview is 3-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings! Her name is synonymous with beach volleyball, and is the most decorated athlete in her sport. Aside from her domination on the medal podium, she’s perhaps best known for her gold-medal performance in London in 2012….because she did it while she was five weeks pregnant with her daughter Scout (now 6 ½)!
Kerri, who is also Mom to Joey (10 1/2 ) and Sundance (9 ½) chatted with The Local Moms Network about that Olympic experience, competing in her 40s and her plans for Tokyo in 2020.
Your kids have such interesting names. What is the significance?
Joey thinks he got the boring name! He is name after Casey’s brother who we all adore and it’s my father’s middle name. My husband grew up on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Early on, we went to the spot where it was filmed, so he’s our little cowboy. Scout is from my favorite character in fiction – Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. She’s a girl who loved her daddy, big brother and the truth, and all those things came with Scout.
You’ve done a ton of amazing things in your career, but winning the Olympics while pregnant in 2012…that’s one of the most memorable Olympic moments, ever. Did you know you were expecting at the time?
I found out when I was in London…at the end of the Olympics I was 6 weeks pregnant. We knew we wanted to have another baby, and my previous pregnancies were so easy, so we felt comfortable in trying. We knew the baby would be so protected and so little [at the Olympics]. It made a really special fairy tale ending to my career with [partner] Misty [May-Treanor], with my daughter in my tummy at that time. Then as soon as the games ended, I had morning sickness and exhaustion. I’m always tired after the Olympics but this was next-level tired.
Was it very difficult getting back in shape between the pregnancies?
When I’m pregnant I feel so empowered, and I’ve stayed in shape during all my pregnancies. But it taught me to love my body in a more feminine way and empowered me. It was about being fit for my babies and being strong for delivery. I love feeling connected to my body—that was my intention while I was pregnant. After having my babies I stopped working out for 4 weeks and that was very hard. But spiritually it was beautiful to have a connection with my babies. Then I took it slow and it was a process. I feel like I’m just getting back to normal, to 100 percent, after having Scout and she’s 6 1/2! It’s my job to be 100 percent physically and it took me a long time. But I didn’t allow it to defeat me. I went through injuries and missteps because my body was still realigning.
You travel a lot for your job. What’s a typical day like and how do you make it work?
When I’m home I generally wake up before the kids, have meditation and me time, and then handle the hustle of breakfast and out the door. I’m working from 8 to 3, and between then I have all of my workouts scheduled—2 to 3 workouts plus other mental and focus activities. After 3, that’s when the errands of life happen.
My husband is so incredible…we’re in this as a team. He’s an entrepreneur and athlete too, but we fill in the gaps. When I go, he does everything that I do. He’s such an amazing father and partner and he loves it, which gives me peace of mind to go on the road for weeks at a time. My heart is broken but my mind is at peace. My relationship with my husband is my biggest priority. We each have our needs and I’m gone a lot, and we have to work hard to stay connected to have that intimacy that we want.
Are you encouraging your kids to following in your footsteps?
I’m encouraging them to pave their own way. My husband I are both athletes and it has made our lives rich and full. Our kids are in sports and we encourage them to be on teams because we understand the value of working together towards a goal but they also love music, and are creative and artists, too.
Can you share a bit about your plans for Tokyo in 2020? How will it be different than previous Olympics?
I want to win it all! I have a new partner which is the most obvious difference. I’ve been doing this since I was 10 and I’m 41, and I now know that the heart and mental side of it is so important. Every 4 years you live a life and become a more rounded human being because of those experiences. Every opportunity I get to play on a world stage I want to be more connected, live in the moment and live the journey, and then the end result will take care of itself. I’m so imperfect at that, but I feel like I’m achieving a new level of awareness.