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Kerri Walsh Jennings ‘happy, relieved’ after Body Issue

Jul 11, 2013, 9:27 AM EDT

Kerri Walsh Jennings AP

Kerri Walsh Jennings was an ocean away when her ESPN the Magazine Body Issue photos were released, but she still felt an overwhelming reaction.

Walsh Jennings, who won her first beach volleyball match with new partner April Ross in Switzerland on Wednesday, told People magazine she was relieved at the initial public reaction to nude photos of her pregnant and then with her third child, daughter Scout, nine weeks after giving birth.

“I am so happy and relieved that people are receiving my pictures so warmly,” she said. “I didn’t realize how vulnerable I’d feel upon the release of the photos … I am happy and I am proud.”

Walsh Jennings, 34, a three-time Olympic champion, joined fellow Olympians snowboarder Elena Hight, boxer Marlen Esparza, soccer player Sydney Leroux, basketball player Swin Cash and tennis players Agnieszka Radwanska and John Isner in the fifth Body Issue.

On the sand, Walsh Jennings must be feeling proud of her debut with Ross. They’re 3-0 at the FIVB event in Gstaad, Switzerland, knocking off Brazilians Maria Clara and Carol 19-21, 21-12, 15-10 on Thursday and advancing out of pool play.

They won their first match 21-19, 14-21, 15-10 over a Dutch pair on Wednesday and then beat Austrian qualifiers 21-15, 21-19 in their second.

“I think it was a really great day (Wednesday),” Walsh Jennings said in an FIVB press release. “It was ugly from time to time, but I feel like we didn’t panic and we played together. We have good energy and I feel we can build off that.

“I was hitting balls out, but they were close and we need to be OK playing ugly right now and just work through it. It’s a mental thing and the physical will come.”

Also of note: Walsh will not play with Ross but with Whitney Pavlik at the upcoming FIVB tour stop in Long Beach, Calif., from July 22-28 (on NBC, NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports). Ross will play with her Olympic silver medal-winning partner Jennifer Kessy in that event (Men’s draw | Women’s draw).

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