It will be an all-American showdown Wednesday when Team USA takes on Team USA in the women’s beach volleyball final.
Two-time gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings will play Jen Kessy and April Ross for the gold medal. It’s the first time since 1996 – when beach volleyball made its Olympic debut – that two teams from the same country have competed for the gold.
As both teams prep for Wednesday’s event, get to know who’s who on the beach volleyball court.
May-Treanor, 35, is on her way to her third consecutive Olympic gold, after winning in 2004 in Athens and 2008 in Beijing. In Athens, May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings – who have played together for 11 years – took home the gold after seven matches. Then in Beijing, the duo made history when they became the first beach volleyball team to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals. After Beijing, May-Treanor ruptured her Achilles tendon while practicing for Dancing with the Stars, forcing her to drop out of the show. Although she recovered, May-Treanor did not compete for a year following the injury. With plans to retire after the London Games, Wednesday’s final could be the last time for viewers to see May-Treanor play.
Kerri Walsh Jennings
The 6’3″ 34-year-old mother of two considers May-Treanor her volleyball hero. As a sophomore in high school, Walsh Jennings asked for May-Treanor’s autograph after her team defeated May-Treanor’s. The two would later meet again after their parents met during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and the idea of playing together was first proposed. At the Sydney Games, Walsh Jennings played with the women’s indoor volleyball team and ranked fourth. Prior to teaming up with May-Treanor, Walsh had never played volleyball on the beach. Walsh Jennings and fellow beach volleyball player, Casey Jennings, tied the knot in 2009 and have two children together, Joseph Michael, 3, and Sundance Thomas, 2.
The London 2012 Games mark Kessy’s Olympic debut. However, the 35-year-old California native boasts a number of impressive accomplishments. In 2009, Kessy and partner Ross won the world championships. Then in 2010, Kessy became the sixth American woman to win over $1 million in career earnings. Kessy also signed with CoverGirl last spring, appearing in ads leading up to the London Games. I have always dreamed of being a CoverGirl, Kessy told PEOPLE in April, adding that when she was asked to be a face of the brand she “thought [she] was being punked.”
At 30, Ross is the youngest player competing for the gold in Wednesday’s final. While at USC, Ross was awarded four-time All-American and two-time NCAA champion. In 2001, tragedy struck when Ross lost her mother, Margie, to breast cancer. Sometimes while on the court, Ross will tap her chest twice and point to the sky as a tribute. Although they’ll face off on Wednesday, Ross and May-Treanor share the same alma matter: they both attended Newport Harbor High School in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Kerri Walsh Talks About Her Last Olympics with Misty May-Treanor