Keri Walsh Jennings’ run at a fourth Olympic gold in women’s beach volleyball will include a stop in the New Orleans area.
On Monday morning, Jennings, the most decorated athlete in her sport, attended a news conference announcing Kenner as the site to kick off the AVP’s 2015 domestic tour. It’s part of a two-year deal in which AVP and local officials hope will blossom into a long-term agreement.
The AVP New Orleans Open will take place May 22-24 at Laketown — a temporary facility with seating for 2,000 will be constructed near the levee by the Pontchatrain Center. More than 60 of the tour’s top male and female players are expected to participate, while others will compete on May 21 through an open qualifier.
Jennings is already training. She just left the site of the 2016 Summer Games.
“Literally, I just landed off a flight from Rio, an hour before we came here,” said Jennings, a three-time Olympic gold medalist (2004, 2008, 2012). She is also the winningest female beach volleyball player of all time.
“Knowing this is going to be the first stop on our domestic tour, it just gets me so fired up. I’m envisioning myself winning out there.”
In Brazil, she played in an exhibition match between the United States and Brazil. Jennings will compete at the 2016 Olympics with a new partner.
She and Misty May-Treanor won gold in Athens, Beijing and London before May-Treanor retired. Now, Jennings will team with April Ross, who lost an all-U.S. final during the 2012 London Games.
Last year marked Jennings’ first full season with Ross.
“We’re on a mission,” Jennings said. “We want to be the best team in the world, get that gold medal, bring it home.”
The event, lured to the city by the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, marks AVP’s sixth event in New Orleans. The last occurred in 1999, as all-time victories leader Karch Kiraly teamed with Adam Johnson to win the tournament title. Women’s professional beach volleyball last appeared in 1995 under the WPVA, before the men and women’s tournaments merged.
Also attending Monday’s event was Phil Dalhaussser, whose 76 men’s worldwide tournament victories rank seventh all-time.
“I grew up in the South (Daytona Beach, Florida), so any time the tour makes a stop here, I get excited. I know there’s a huge beach volleyball community here, and they’re going to be pumped.”
The AVP is entering its 32nd season.
Donald Sun, the AVP’s managing partner, said the goal is to grow beach volleyball, including local participation in the sport, from courts at parks to apartments.
Kenner’s Coconut Beach is the nation’s largest man-made sand volleyball complex.
Said GNOSF President/CEO Jay Cicero: “We’re very excited about this. We know the local volleyball community is going to get behind this.”