“There’s no shame in a bronze medal. I used to think that, and I’m so ashamed of thinking that because there’s so much joy and hard work and love in this,” Kerri Walsh-Jennings was quoted saying after what could have been her last Olympic game.

Walsh-Jennings faced a new reality as she was handed her first match loss in Olympic history when she and her partner, April Ross, fell to Brazil’s pair Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas de Freitas, in straight sets costing them their chance at the gold at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.

Walsh- Jennings had already been recognized along with her previous partner Misty May-Treanor, as the greatest beach volleyball team of all time, and after May-Treanor decided to retire after the 2012  Summer Olympics, Walsh-Jennings knew she still had that fight for gold. She partnered with April Ross, whom she and May-Treanor defeated for the Gold in 2012, and together they dominated in their journey to Rio.

After a tough loss and a night filled with no sleep, they were able to rally together and win the bronze medal match, defeating the number one ranked Brazil team Larissa França and Talita Antunes granting Walsh-Jennings her fourth Olympic medal, making her the most decorated beach volleyball player – male or female – in Olympic history.

While Walsh-Jennings has dominated the Olympics the past 16 years, she feels this may have been her last. She and husband, Olympic volleyball player Casey Jennings, have 2 sons and a daughter they would like to focus on while dreams of starting a leadership academy that focuses on character, team building, and of course, volleyball, loom in their near future.

Even after winning her only bronze medal, Walsh-Jennings knows she still came out of Rio a champion. “No disrespect to win the gold medal, it takes everything you have, but you’re going to go home with a medal. The bronze medal match is the gnarliest match I’ve ever played in in my career, because you either go home with a beautiful medal or you get nothing.”

Kerri Walsh-Jennings never plays for nothing. A true winner all of the way around.

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