Kerri Walsh Jennings Partnering with April Ross
06/27/2013 AT 08:00 AM EDT
The three-time gold medalist who dominated the sport with teammate Misty May-Treanor since 2001, has announced that she's teaming up with 31-year-old April Ross.
"She's a stud and has been working her butt off for the past couple years," says Walsh Jennings, 34, about Ross, who won a silver medal in the 2012 Games. "I want to be with a winner and that's why I asked her."
The decision to pair up with another teammate is hardly something Walsh Jennings, who gave birth to her third child on April 6, takes lightly. She and May-Treanor, who announced her decision to retire shortly after the pair's victory at the Olympic Games last August, are considered to be the greatest beach volleyball team of all time.
"I've had a lot of months to think about it and it's very bittersweet," says Walsh Jennings, who is already eyeing the 2016 Olympics. "I'm so proud of what we accomplished together. We still love each other infinitely, but it was time to move on."
Walsh Jennings sees her new partnership with Ross – whom she and May-Treanor defeated in London to win the gold – to a marriage.
"It's a really heavy experience, but it's a really special one," Walsh Jennings says. "You see each other every single day, you travel together and you live together out of suitcases, staying in dinky hotel rooms in Europe."
These are busy days for Walsh Jennings. After giving birth to daughter Scout in April, she took an unprecedented month off from training, but is now back at the gym working on losing the 36 pounds she gained while pregnant.
"I have 12 more pounds to go," she says. "I want to look good in my bikini, so I'm facing the ultimate challenge, but I'm up for it."
The 6'2" Walsh Jennings, who is married to pro-volleyball player Casey Jennings, will be returning to competition on July 22 at the Long Beach Grand Slam with interim partner Whitney Pavlik.