Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 16, 2016 – What is it like for the families of Olympic athletes taking part in Rio 2016?
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On Tuesday evening, Volleyball House welcomed Tim and Marjorie Walsh, who are in Rio to cheer on their daughter, US beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings, to a fourth consecutive gold medal. While the spotlight is on Kerri, her journey is very much part of her family’s as well.
“It’s pretty unbelievable the fact that she has achieved so much in her athletic career,” said her dad, Tim. “Kerri is one of four children that we have and they’re all very athletic and just following her all the way through youth sports from high school to college into professional it’s been an amazing bonus time for us.”
Kerri’s career growth has also been a learning experience for her parents, who stressed that parents of young athletes should take care to ensure that their children do not get overused by programmes or coaches. And the number one skill to being an Olympic parent? “Support them through good times and bad times,” said Tim.
Tim and Marjorie do admit to leaving Kerri alone to get on with preparations for her match. “I know better than to say anything,” said her father. “No we’re way past that!”
Marjorie stressed that all of Kerri’s family members are involved with her career. While her parents are in Rio to support her, Kerri’s children Joseph, Sundance and Scout are with her sister Kelli and cousins in California. Everyone pitches in so that Kerri can travel with peace of mind and focus on her matches.
Tim and Marjorie were cautious about predicting their daughter’s gold medal victory. “She has to win tonight first, let’s get through that first,” they both said as Kerri and partner April Ross gear up to play home team Agatha and Barbara for a place in the women’s final.
Earlier in the day, Zhang Yousheng and Jiang Qiu Han, father and mother of China’s volleyball player Changning Zhang were also in the house talking to China’s Tencent video about their experiences in Rio.
In 2014, Changning Zhang was selected by the China national women’s volleyball team and won silver at the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship and a gold medal at the 2015 Asian Women’s Championship.
Zhang’s father is no stranger to the pressures of high level competition, as he was a volleyball player for China National Men’s Team in 1980s and who took part in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. "It's much harder to see my daughter playing than to be on the court,” he said.