A second chance. A lifelong dream.
Jennifer Kessy took advantage of one and made the other come to fruition.
Kessy, a Laguna Beach resident, and teammate April Ross are in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The rising duo is one of two teams representing the U.S. in women's beach volleyball. The other is Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, who have won Gold at the last two Summer Games and are going for an unprecedented three-peat.
Kessy said that competing at the Olympics has been a longtime quest.
"To make the 2012 Olympic team is truly a dream come true," she said. "As child I knew I wanted to be an Olympian and finally at 34, I made it happen. Realizing a 25-year-old goal is something special."
Kessy nearly accomplished that goal four years ago, but she and Ross just missed qualifying for the Beijing Games. The pair — an imposing twosome, with Kessy at 6 feet and Ross at 6-1 — has relied on its experience to earn a spot this time around.
"April and I have chemistry," she said. "From the first time we stepped on the practice court together, we could feel the ease and fun we have playing together. We also have that chemistry off the court, which is why we have stayed together for six years."
Kessy, who turns 35 on Tuesday, attended Dana Hills High and then took her game to USC. She currently resides in Laguna Beach but said she will be moving back in two months to her hometown of San Juan Capistrano. She and Ross, who graduated from Newport Harbor High and also USC, have played together domestically and internationally, winning the 2009 World Championships. Now, they are hitting the biggest stage in the world.
Kessy and Ross, the fourth-ranked team in the world, are known for their defensive play. They'll need to be at their best in a stacked tournament.
"Our defense begins with our serve," Kessy said. "We serve as tough as we can to mess with our opponents' reception. This makes our defense feel like an attack, and this sets us apart. We are always attacking you."
Kessy and Ross arrived Monday in London. They held their first official practice Tuesday night and open pool play Sunday against Maria Virginia Zonta and Ana Gallay of Argentina. Their pool also includes teams from the Netherlands and Spain.
With the training and qualifying tournaments now in the past, Kessy said the goal is to solely concentrate on each preliminary round match. Do that, she said, and then she and Ross turn their focus to the next round of the tournament.
"Having missed the Beijing Games by such a small margin, April and I realize how lucky we are to have [a] second chance," Kessy said. "We are enjoying every moment and will remember this forever."