Three-time beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings may need surgery after dislocating her shoulder twice in two months, but she still expects to compete at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Walsh Jennings was at an appearance atop the Empire State Building on Thursday ahead of the AVP’s first event in New York City in the 33-year history of the domestic beach volleyball tour.
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She dislocated her right hitting shoulder in May in Moscow on the FIVB tour. After a month of rehab, she re-injured it last week in Switzerland.
"It was a total fluke. It was the perfect storm of me landing on my body and pushing up," Walsh Jennings said of the first dislocation. "My (physical therapist) who watched me do it says that literally it probably would never happen again. It wasn’t the dive. I was pushing up and torquing my body."
The re-injury happened when she "took too many swings and tried to put too much sauce on the ball."
The 36-year-old star plans to take another month off for rehab to determine if she can avoid surgery. But she said it won’t alter her plans to compete at the Rio Games with partner April Ross.
"I plan on winning in Rio," said Walsh Jennings, who had shoulder surgery in the fall before winning gold at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics.
"So if I have surgery, I’m not worried about it," she said. "Every surgery I’ve had — this is kind of standard, they say six months — but I’ve always been back in three to four. This isn’t my first rodeo."
She has had four shoulder surgeries in her pro volleyball career, plus dealt with scoliosis. She’s hoping rest and rehab for a month will put off another surgery in the offseason.
"That’s kind of up in the air still," Walsh Jennings said. "That’s the hardest part right now, the unknown of this shoulder. Will I need surgery and will it come out?
"I need to get everything around my rotator cuff and my shoulder really strong. (My doctor) wants me to work on the little things. I need to get it stable, first and foremost, so that’s why I’m taking time off."
Now she’s setting her sights on returning Aug. 19 for the World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, California. That means she’ll miss another month in the 13-month qualification period for the Rio Olympics. She and Ross need to qualify at 12 events.
"There’s no doubt Kerri will be ready for Rio," Ross said. "She needs to take it easy. Mentally, she’s so strong, she can power through."
Walsh Jennings said she has changed her training over the years to include Pilates and rest, recovery and nutrition. She said she’s "bummed" to be sidelined for the AVP men’s and women’s tournament at the piers along Hudson River Park.
"It feels totally fine, it’s going to be really hard to be around this weekend because I’m going to want to play," she said. "I’m not in a lot of pain. I just have to be smart and patient."