-- Preparing for this Olympics is different for Kerri Walsh because this time she has two kids tagging along on her training.
The U.S. beach volleyball star now has a son for each of her Olympic gold medals. Although she brings Joey and Sundance along for tournaments and training whenever possible, when she does have to leave them behind it's an emotional struggle she didn't have when training for Athens or Beijing.
"It's a whole different world," said Walsh, who's married to fellow beach volleyball pro Casey Jennings. "Joey understands that when Mommy and Daddy go to work, we have to go to the beach. And we always have to wear sunscreen. They've been really good sports. "
Walsh and teammate Misty May-Treanor won the gold medal in Athens in 2004 and they were on their way to another win in '08 when they announced at the Olympics that they would be taking time off afterward to start families. Walsh got right to it: She says Joey, who is about to turn 3, was conceived after she won the gold medal but before she and Jennings returned home from Beijing.
Walsh took less than three months off before returning to the domestic pro tour, but soon after, she was pregnant again. Sundance – yes, the name is from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" – arrived less than a year after his brother.
"Life has changed in the best way," Walsh said in a recent telephone interview to announce her participation in the P&G "Thank you, Mom" campaign. "The babies are the next generation. I want them to have everything I had and more."
For now, though, Walsh has to concentrate on London.
After spending much of the past Olympiad playing separately – Walsh had two pregnancies to deal with, and May-Treanor tore her Achilles' tendon in 2008 while rehearsing for "Dancing with the Stars" – they reunited last year. The two-year Olympic qualifying period ends in June, but May-Treanor and Walsh are expected to easily amass enough points on the international pro tour to earn one of the two spots for U.S. women's teams.
"Two years is a significant amount of time to take off," said Walsh, who is trying for her fourth Olympics, having also gone to the Sydney Games in 2000 as a member of the U.S. indoor volleyball team that finished fourth. "The game changes every single year. Our main problem was our rhythm. If you have rhythm, you have confidence. We just didn't have that this year."
With their history of success, Walsh and May-Treanor will be among the medal favorites in London. They're already fan favorites for the American TV audience that remembers May-Treanor sprinkling her mother's ashes in the sand before the gold medal matches in Athens and Beijing.
Since joining the ranks of motherhood, Walsh has added P&G as a sponsor. She's helping with the campaign that will raise money for youth sports programs and pay the travel costs for more than 800 mothers of U.S. Olympians and Paralympians. The company has also come out with patriotic products, like the stars and stripes Pampers that Walsh is already dressing her sons in to get them into the Olympic spirit.
"I want them looking their best," she said.