July 15, 2015

Three-time beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings dislocated her right shoulder during a match on the international tour, an injury that will force her to miss a month or more of the 13-month qualification period for the 2016 Olympics.

An extended absence would endanger her chances of qualifying for the Rio de Janeiro Games, where she would be attempting to win a fourth straight gold medal - this time with a new partner, April Ross. But on Wednesday, Walsh Jennings said in a text message to The Associated Press that she is ''very optimistic.''

''My shoulder is well on its way to recovery,'' she wrote, setting her sights on the Aug. 21-23 event in Long Beach, California. ''Rehab has begun with my goal to compete in the World Series of Beach Volleyball in 4+ weeks. I have even longer to rehab than I did prior to (the world championships).''

Walsh Jennings won three consecutive Olympic gold medals with Misty May-Treanor, who retired after the London Games. Walsh Jennings then joined up with Ross, who won silver in London with Jennifer Kessy.

The two have entered four tournaments this year on the FIVB tour, where points are accumulated for Olympic qualification. They finished third in Fuzhou, China, before withdrawing from the Moscow event in May when Walsh Jennings first injured the shoulder.

After a month of rehab, Walsh Jennings and Ross finished ninth at the world championships in the Netherlands. On Friday, Walsh Jennings re-injured the shoulder in Gstaad, Switzerland; NBCsports.com reported that she popped it back into place to finish her quarterfinal match, but the pair withdrew from the semifinals Saturday and finished fourth.

''My shoulder feels very weak, but it's not very painful,'' Walsh Jennings told Quattro Media in Gstaad on Saturday. ''But it's hard being out here by the sand and knowing that we should be competing right now to go to the finals. It's hard in my heart, but it's the right thing to do.''

Along with earning points based on their finish, teams must play in at least 12 FIVB events to qualify. That would be in jeopardy if Walsh Jennings had season-ending surgery, and it likely factored into her choice of rest and rehabilitation instead.

On Wednesday, Walsh Jennings retweeted a Universal Sports news article with the headline, ''Will this affect her (hashtag) Rio 2016 chances?''

She added a comment: ''Absolutely NOT!''

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