When volleyball icon Kerri Walsh Jennings dislocated her shoulder at an FIVB World Tour event in Gstaad, Switzerland, in July, a collective groan went up. Not only did the injury look painful (the shoulder was popped back in on court and Jennings finished the match but not the tournament), it interrupted her pursuit of a berth at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and the possibility of a (dare we say it?) fourth gold medal in sand volleyball.
Jennings has spent the weeks since the injury “taking baby steps,” she says from her Manhattan Beach home, working with a raft of physical therapists and a sports psychologist. Her goal? The ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball, which unfolds August 18-23 in Long Beach, offering Jennings and partner April Ross huge points toward qualifying for the Games (they’re in third place among U.S. teams in the FIVB rankings, with only the top two teams traveling to Copacabana Beach in August).
So there’s already enough potential drama to pack the main arena for the free event. And with hundreds of well-toned bodies expected to spike, block, and dig on the adjoining courts, as juniors, collegians, and four- and six-man teams compete for bragging rights, impresario Leonard Amato may have put together the largest and most important volleyball festival in the country.
Anyone who watched last year’s action should expect one big change. Remember all that dust? Amato has got the solution: Truck in lots of high-quality sand. Sounds like coals to Newcastle, but whatever it takes to clear the air.