Jen Kessy, a 36-year-old from San Juan Capistrano, was one of the happiest athletes in the world a year ago. She was an Olympic beach volleyball silver medalist with partner April Ross and no one was happier than her sports-crazy father Ron Kessy.
This year Ron, only 57, died in his sleep of a heart attack, shortly after Kessy had returned from a tournament in China. "It's just been one of the worst years of my life," Kessy said Friday after she and partner Rachel Scott, seeded fifth at the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour event in Huntington Beach, were upset in the first round by Sarah Day and Kaitlin Nielsen, 21-17, 21-23, 15-13.
Kessy, whose 2012 partner Ross now plays with three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings, was playing her first match Friday with Scott since they were partners in 2006.
"It was a spur-of-the-moment decision," Kessy said. "I knew she didn't have anyone to play with and I called her."
Both Kessy and Scott, who is from Laguna Beach, had decided they did not want to travel much for international competitions this year, so they practiced together about four times last week before this event.
Now they must come out of the loser's bracket, but for Kessy there will never be another disappointment close to the moment she heard her father had died.
"I feel like I have a broken heart still," Kessy said. "It's just one of those years. Not the best of my life."
Kessy said she and her London Olympics partner Ross are still best buddies. Their families will gather for a barbecue this weekend. "We've never had an argument," Kessy said. "We had talked about in April before the Olympics, about what would happen after."
Walsh-Jennings and Ross, seeded No. 1 in the women's draw, beat Alison Daley and Megan Wallin, 21-12, 21-15, to improve their 2013 record to 16-1.