Paris has long been known as a city that inspires people to dream and even dares them to take a chance in life. Whether that’s down to the stirring sight of the horse chestnut trees that line the Champs-Élysées, the serenity you get from being at the top of Sacré-Cœur, or the sense of awe you get from the iconic sight of the Eiffel Tower; this city will give you boundless energy and a drive to do something incredible of your own.
But, for all the irresistible allure of Paris and the inspiration it provides, will it be enough for 44-year-old Kerri Welsh Jennings to win an Olympic gold medal in 2024 when the Games are hosted in France’s capital? Before we answer that, let’s go back a few steps.
Who is Kerri Walsh Jennings?
If you needed a reminder, Kerri Walsh Jennings is the most successful women’s beach volleyball player of all time. In fact, if you said that this titan of volleyball has enjoyed an astonishing and glittering career, you may be at risk of doing Walsh Jennings an unforgivable disservice as the American has won gold at three consecutive Olympics between 2004 and 2012 while winning a bronze in 2016 in Brazil.
Known to some as “Six Feet of Sunshine,” Kerri Walsh Jennings is a four-time beach volleyball Olympic medalist and our new elite ambassador. pic.twitter.com/ELu5NkLXtg
— lululemon (@lululemon) April 11, 2017
On top of that, Walsh Jennings has won 135 tournaments that she has played both domestically and internationally. All in all, it has been a breathtaking display of consistent dominance that has spanned the better part of two decades. In many ways, you could say that the only real career disappointment came after missing out on qualification for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo while partnered with Brooke Sweat. Many people thought that this would signal the end of Walsh Jennings’ medal-laden career but tellingly, there was never any retirement announcement forthcoming. Instead, Walsh Jennings swapped Manhattan Beach for Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and for all intents and purposes, slipped out of sight. With this being the case, many fans and pundits felt it went without saying that the 44-year-old had retired. Not quite.
The comeback queen?
Incredibly, Walsh Jenning has stated that she wants to compete at the Paris Olympic Games in 2024 and intends to team up with former Stanford teammate Logan Tom who is now 41 – three years younger than Jennings. According to Jennings, convincing Tom to join her on this journey was a tough sell but following a successful six-week trial period, Tom saw enough to convince her that a qualifying spot for Paris 2024 was achievable. This is a point that is deserving of special consideration given the enormous amount of backbreaking sacrifice that any athlete has to go through in order to compete in the Olympics. In other words, Tom is willing to give up her time and doesn’t see this as a futile excise. Yes, playing volleyball at the Olympics Games is the pinnacle for any player which means that the pull to compete is fiercely strong, but logic would triumph over emotion when questioning whether to put one’s life on hold to achieve this goal.
Ultimately, can the pair do it, and importantly, will Walsh Jennings become the oldest female competitor to take part in beach volleyball at the Olympics in France? Tellingly, it would be a seminal moment for many reasons but none more than the fact that the host country France is going through what can only be described as a volleyball revolution, especially in the women’s game. You only need to look at the latest online betting oddsfor Ligue 1, the women’s national league where VB Nantes Women are predicted to win the title at a price of 11/5 as of the 3rd of February, to see how viral the support has gone domestically. Even as little as ten years ago, it would have seemed unthinkable that there would be international odds available on France’s women’s league.
Needless to say, the tidal wave of support for the game shows how much the country has fallen in love with the sport, and having a legend of the game like Walsh Jennings make her swansong in the City of Light would be an event that is welcomed enthusiastically by locals. So, again, what are the chances of a fairytale ending in Paris?
If anyone can, Welsh Jennings can
As touched on, there hasn’t in the history of volleyball in America ever been a female athlete who has achieved more than Walsh Jennings. The point here is that if anyone can defy the sands of time, then it is the Californian-born player.
Congratulations to five-time Olympian and three-time gold medalist 🥇 Kerri Walsh Jennings who was inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame 👑 over the weekend in Holyoke, Mass.!
— USA Volleyball (@usavolleyball) October 25, 2022
It is, however, worth taking note of the fact that four days after the Paris summer Olympics conclude in 2024, Walsh Jennings will turn 46. This isn’t mentioned because there is some sort of specific stipulation in the extensive rules of volleyball that states older players can’t take part but more as a nod to the accomplishment it will be if Welsh Jennings is successful in reaching the showpiece.
Paris is calling so only time will tell if the three-time Olympic gold medalist is able to answer the call.