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March 24, 2016 04:05 PM

Last year, Kerri Walsh Jennings injured her shoulder. Although she was sidelined for most of the fall, there was one benefit: it helped her and her new beach volleyball partner April Ross become a stronger team.

“My injury, it was such a blessing in so many ways because it brought us closer together,” the three-time Olympian beach volleyball gold medalist told PEOPLE at an event hosted by KT Tape. “It broke us down, and it was like ‘April, I need you.’ ‘Kerri, I need you.’ ”

Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross
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While competing with Ross last summer, Walsh Jennings, 37, dislocated her right shoulder twice. She continued playing through August, but did so with “one arm.” In September, she finally took a break to have surgery to repair her labrum, which had torn off the bone.

“I’m literally playing with one arm and she’s asked to elevate and I’m asked to do what I can do, you have to go inside and you have to come together,” said the mother of three– Joey, 6, Sundance, 5, and Scout Margery, 2. “It’s either that or go apart and the dreams don’t come true.”

“It allowed for us to unite. It was really beautiful and really powerful,” she said.

After taking six months off, Walsh Jennings recently returned to competition. In March, she and Ross spent two weeks in Brazil competing in a tournament to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. While in Brazil, she and Ross won one silver medal and one gold meal and earned their 100th victory as a team.

“The feeling on the court was like, we are one,” said Walsh-Jennings.

Off the court, Walsh Jennings says the pair are like sisters. And right on time for this summer’s Olympic Games, “We just fit.”

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