April Ross is one of just a handful of female beach volleyball stars to capture medals at more than one Olympics. In Tokyo over the next several days, she will attempt to net her third medal alongside first-time Olympian Alix Klineman.
More than that, though, Ross is aiming to capture her first Olympic gold. And at the age of 39, this may be her last opportunity to do so. Nevertheless, she is confident that top honors are firmly in reach.
“If we play our best or even if we play well, I feel like we can get that gold medal,” Ross said, via NBC Boston. “So, I’m going to take a little bit of luck as well.”
Here is everything you need to know about Ross…
1. The So-Cal Girl Was a Prep Sensation
Ross was born in 1982 in Costa Mesa, California where she lived with her parents and sister. She went on to compete in a myriad of sports at Newport Harbor High School.
She played basketball and ran track in addition to her indoor volleyball exploits as a prep athlete. However, she was clearly a cut above the rest in the latter sport. During her high school career, she played middle blocker, outside hitter and setter on the volleyball court, per her college bio.
For her efforts, she was honored as the 1999 Gatorade Circle of Champions National Player of the Year. She also captured the 2000 Orange County Athlete of the Year trophy for volleyball.
2. Ross Found Major Success With Multiple Partners, Including a Legend of the Sport
Although Ross and Klineman have been doing their thing since 2017, the former was already a big-time player on the beach scene long before their pairing. In fact, she won multiple major tournaments with two different partners, one of which is a volleyball icon.
For six years from 2007 to 2013, she teamed with Jennifer Kessy, who more recently served as her and Klineman’s coach. Alongside Kessy, Ross was a force on the international circuit, winning a world title in 2009.
The duo eventually captured a silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. They were beaten out for the gold medal by the legendary team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh (Jennings).
As fate would have it, Ross became Walsh Jennings’ new partner when May-Treanor retired. The pair went on to earn the beach volleyball bronze at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
3. Before Making the Transition to the Beach, She Starred As an Indoor Player at USC
After high school and years before she hit the sand as a pro, Ross balled out for the USC Trojans as a collegiate. And her run at the school was an impressive one.
As a freshman in 2000, she played her way to Pac-10 and NCAA Freshman of the Year honors and was an All-American. She also helped the Trojans reach the Final Four.
During her sophomore year, she suffered a tremendous personal loss, but still managed to repeat as an All-American. Over her final two years in the program, she led the Trojans to the top of the mountain, netting consecutive national championships. Individually, she had cemented herself as an all-time great, winning the 2003-04 Honda Sports Award as the nation’s top female collegiate volleyball player.
Ross was an international relations major at USC.
4. Ross Lost Her Mother at a Relatively Young Age
Unfortunately, Ross’ mother, Margie, never got to see her daughter ascend to the highest levels of beach volleyball stardom. In 2001, when Ross was a sophomore at USC, her mother died of breast cancer.
However, she continues to hold her lost parent near and dear. And Margie remains a source of inspiration to her on the beach and in life.
“I really thought about how my mom would want me to go about my life in the aftermath of her passing and what would make her proud,” she said, via People. “And that really drove me and helped me turn a corner when I wasn’t doing so well.”
She continued, “I still draw on her memory today when I’m out on the court, and all the courage and the bravery she showed as she was going through her health challenges.”
Ross’ father, Glen, later remarried and April now has multiple step-siblings.
5. During the Pandemic, Ross Trained on a Makeshift Court in Her Backyard
As was the case for a number of career athletes, training proved difficult as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe. However, Ross wasn’t about to let a global crisis stopp her from preparing for Tokyo.
Lacking access to a proper court, Ross constructed a makeshift court in a small corner of her backyard. The jury-rigged setup has made multiple appearances on her popular Instagram feed.