2018-05-29 14:45:00 CET

Kerri's warming up for the Major Series

The veteran Olympic champ is working towards regain her best form after a nine-month absence

Surgery on her right shoulder sidelined Kerri Walsh for nine monthsSurgery on her right shoulder sidelined Kerri Walsh for nine months

Not many things have been able to stop Kerri Walsh Jennings over the last 17 years, but her right shoulder was one of them.

After being sidelined for nine months because of a major injury, the three-time Olympic champion returned to the courts last month and now she plans to start a never-ending ascending curve that will hopefully lead her to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which would be the American’s sixth participation in the Games.

“I had no choice,” Kerri told us about missing nine months of competition. “It was very hard for me mentally to stay away from the game for so long, but my body needed to heal and since Olympic qualifying was not happening for some time, it was the perfect timing to take some time.”

Kerri was stopped from playing from July 2017 to April 2018 and in the meantime she missed last year’s World Championships and this season’s Fort Lauderdale Major.

The 39-year-old American legend acknowledges the long time away from the courts is making her return tougher, but the experience she amassed over decades of playing - and winning - around the globe has been helpful for her to handle her shoulder, which is not back to its perfect condition just yet.

“It will keep getting better and better,” she says. “It’s not where I wanted it to be, but it’s ok, there’s plenty of ways to work around it. My body is really good to me and I think it really appreciated the time off. It made me hungry and even more excited to play because I had never had such a long break.”

Since Kerri returned, partner Nicole Branagh and her have competed in a couple of World Tour four-star tournaments in China and Brazil, finishing in ninth place in both.

Some fun snap shots and happenings while @nbranagh & I were in #Xiamen for the @fivbbeachvolleyball 4* event. We finished 9th .... we WILL do better. We actually had a great showing and learned and battled and improved - sometimes the stats don't show everything ;) It was great fun Re-connecting with friends on tour. It's hard to be away from the action for many reasons ✨ the people I am blessed to know & spend time with are a big part of that. @beachteamborgerkozuch thanks for the smiles, the sunshine and the inspiration. I so appreciate your outlook on life & competition ✨ @justinjtaylor_ thanks so much for the 📸s and the ♥️💪🔥🙏 You are an awesome addition to the team @platform1440 Thanks to everyone who cheered us on - - ESPECIALLY you all in Holly Glen 😍🤩😍 - - I'm not sure I've ever known such 🔥 ;) #marco #polo

7,223 Likes, 27 Comments - Kerri Walsh Jennings 🦁🦋 (@kerrileewalsh) on Instagram: "Some fun snap shots and happenings while @nbranagh & I were in #Xiamen for the @fivbbeachvolleyball..."

During the eight matches the duo has played in 2018, some of them against a few of the best teams in the world, such as Canada’s Sarah Pavan/Melissa Humana-Paredes, Germany’s Julia Sude/Chantal Laboureur and Brazil’s Carol Solberg/Maria Elisa Antonelli, there were glimpses of great moments.

The route for Kerri to recover her best form and be the dominant force she once was might be long, but the veteran is confident she’s headed to the right direction. With nearly two months and three four-start tournaments for the American to improve until the Beach Major Series resume in Gstaad, in July, there are great chances the best of her will be seen in the summer.

“I know Nicole and I are very capable of being the best team in the world,” she stated. “The World Tour is very strong and it makes it so fun to compete. The more we can compete the better we’ll be and we have to play more.”

Olympic qualification won’t start until September and Kerri and Nicole will face the competition of a handful of new American teams, which were formed while the three-time Olympic champion was sidelined.

In Brazil, Walsh and Branagh prevailed over fellow Americans Claes and Hochevar (Photocredit: FIVB)In Brazil, Walsh and Branagh prevailed over fellow Americans Claes and Hochevar (Photocredit: FIVB)

They've already crossed paths with one of them, the one of Kelly Claes and Brittany Hochevar, in Brazil, and claimed a straight-set victory. The new formations excite Kerri, but they don’t give her too much to think about just yet.

“There are so many new teams and I like the energy that all these changes bring,” the veteran added. “But I’m not worried about them. We’re worried about us and that’s helpful because if I pay attention to anyone else… I think I’m enough to think about.”

Oh, you’re definitely right about that, Kerri!

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