U.S. beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh is honing her game for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where she and her playing partner, Misty May-Treanor, are hoping to continue a streak of dominance that goes back to the 2004 games in Athens and Beijing in 2008.
Speaking with Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne, Walsh says the duo’s effort to represent the United States this summer is going well:
“So far, so good. The qualification process started early in 2011, and Misty and I are about 95 percent of the way qualified,” Walsh says. “We need to have one more event, and then it’s all about securing the No. 1 seed. We’re feeling really good, we can’t wait for London. We want to do what’s never been done before, which is three consecutive gold medals.”
When Renee asks if she considers her own Walsh/May-Treanor team the one to beat, the 6-foot-3-inch Walsh answers, “Absolutely” — although she says it with a laugh that might seem at odds with the formidable presence she is during competition.
Walsh, who was also an elite indoor volleyball player in college, has led volleyball’s pro tour in both blocks and hitting percentage in the same year on at least three occasions.
In addition to her two Olympic gold medals, Walsh also has two sons, born in 2009 and 2010 — all of which helps to explain why she also has a new sponsor: Pampers.
News of the sponsorship came out last month. And Walsh says the deal with the Procter and Gamble unit lets her avoid having a regular day job to help support her family.
“It allows me to chase my dream,” Walsh tells Renee. “If I didn’t have their support, I would have to have a 9 to 5, and I’d be a weekend warrior. I wouldn’t be going for a third gold medal.”
But the involvement of family-friendly Pampers as a sponsor doesn’t mean that Walsh will consider changing her match uniform of a close-fitting bikini to more modest attire — something that all female volleyball players can now do, thanks to an edict from the sport’s ruling body.
As Walsh told the AP recently, she’ll be sticking with the bikini.
“It’s something I really feel comfortable with,” she said. “It’s something I feel empowered by, not distracted with. I’m not a sex symbol; I’m an athlete. I want to be streamlined out there.”
If she qualifies as expected, Walsh and her family will travel to London for the games — where she says her sons will be wearing special limited-edition Team USA diapers from Pampers.
“My boys will be wearing these diapers in London; it’s their competition gear,” Walsh tells Renee. I’ll be wearing my bikini; they’ll be wearing these diapers.”