Kerri Walsh Jennings film shows Olympic journey backstory
Beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings is the subject of a new documentary, and to get any closer to what's going on inside the three-time Olympic gold medalist you would need an X-ray.
Actually, the 45-minute film scheduled to debut five days before the opening ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Games includes MRI scans of her shoulder, along with footage from the operating room where Walsh Jennings had one of the four surgeries she needed to get back to the Olympics for a fifth time.
''It seemed like such a big honor and such a big opportunity to show everything that goes into it,'' Walsh Jennings said in an interview with The Associated Press. ''We're a pretty open-book family; we kind of lead with our hearts. There's nothing to hide.''
Produced by Tribeca Digital Studios and Dick's Sporting Goods Films, ''Kerri Walsh Jennings: Gold Within'' will debut on July 31 on NBC and give a more in-depth view of the athlete's journey to Rio than the short, soft-focus vignettes the network will air during the games.
The trailer released this week includes scenes of Walsh Jennings at home discussing toilet training with one of her toddlers, and picking another up from school. Her husband, fellow beach volleyball pro Casey Jennings, speaks of her dedication; Margery Lee Walsh is interviewed while waiting for her daughter to come out of surgery.
''I hope what they capture most is that there are so many people who help me to chase my dreams,'' said Walsh Jennings, who hadn't seen the final cut of the footage. ''No one behind you gets the appreciation they deserve.''
Producers followed Walsh Jennings over the last 11 months, a spokesman said. Soon after they started shooting, she had surgery on her separated right shoulder and raced back to the beach to beat an Olympic qualification deadline.
Dr. William Schobert, her orthopedic surgeon, tried to rein Walsh Jennings in, telling her that a six-month recovery is more the standard than the four months she set as a goal.
''I know,'' she tells him, with a shake of her head and a slight smile. ''But we are not standard people.''
It's typical of Walsh Jennings, a perpetually optimistic Stanford graduate nicknamed ''Six Feet of Sunshine'' that has a ruthless side that comes out on the court. ''I believe, with all my heart, without one single doubt, that I am going to come back stronger from this,'' she says in the film.
But in a rare moment of doubt, she also admits to partner April Ross that she was scared. Walsh Jennings told the AP she could not recall what prompted the emotion but acknowledged that such misgivings do arise.
''In this journey, the fear creeps in from time to time,'' Walsh Jennings said. ''The hint of that is there because there's an unknown factor to everything.
''That's true in everyone's life,'' she said. ''I don't choose to live there. I let it spark me.''
Jimmy Golen covers Olympic beach volleyball for The Associated Press. Follow him at: http://www.twitter.com/jgolen .