(News4usonline) – Jordan Larson’s quest for a gold medal came up two spots shy of that pursuit at the 2016 Rio Olympics with just a bronze medal to show off for her hard work. Four years earlier, Larson came close to that ultimate dream, winning a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Playing in the Tokyo Olympics might turn out differently for Larson and Team USA. The USA women’s volleyball team is the best globally, coming into the Summer Games with a No. 1 ranking.
And in a tune-up of what to look forward to, Larson and her buddies smacked down No. 2 Brazil to help the U.S. Women’s National Team claim a third straight FIVB Volleyball Nations League championship.
Larson seems to be on a roll these days. Besides her lofty ambitions of coming home with a gold medal from this year’s Summer Games, marriage is headed her way. Larson is engaged and set to marry Pepperdine men’s head volleyball coach David Hunt sometime this summer. She has already earned the distinction of being a world champion. Winning a gold medal would just be icing on the cake for the Hooper, Nebraska native.
But to walk the walk of an Olympic gold medalist, Larson may have to call on the internal spiritual guidance of her late mother, Kae, whom she lost to breast cancer. For Larson, Kae had a profound impact on her life and volleyball career, even though she never got the opportunity to see her daughter play in Olympic competition.
In an interview with journalist Dennis J. Freeman, Larson shared her thoughts about going to the Olympics, the influence her mother had on her, and the quest for the U.S. women’s volleyball team to win its first gold medal in the history of the program.
Dennis J Freeman: What does it means for you to wear the USA uniform?
Jordan Larson: “It means a lot. Obviously, I think that we as a nation have gone through a lot the last couple of years. I shouldn’t say a couple…last year. I’ve been able to play in other countries and I kind of been able to live different cultures and when I come back to the United States, I really am appreciative of how much we do have and the privileges that we do have. While it has been a challenge the last couple of years just with everything going on and everybody’s points of views on different things, ultimately, we have a lot of freedoms here that maybe not a lot of people have in other places, and so I’m grateful for that. Being able to put on that jersey is a representation of that freedom, And also for the people that kind of paved the way for us, like my grandpa who fought in the war and there’s a lot representatives that sacrificed their lives for us and I think equally has some weight to it and representing the United States.”
DJF: What will take for this year’s [U.S. Women’s Volleyball] team to win a gold medal?
JL: “I don’t know if I have an answer. For us, it’s just how can we maximize our talent. We have a lot of talent, and so we’ve been working really hard to performing at the highest level. So, I think I think we need to play together as a team and not as individuals out there. We need to make sure that we’re cohesive and on the same page and kind of pulling on the same side of the rope. So I kind of think that’s where our focus has been.”
DJF: Were you were worried or concerned about making the Team USA roster since the Olympics were pushed back a year?
JL: “Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I think there was a little concern if this was going to actually take place and if it was going to happen. But I think ultimately we all bought into ‘Hey, we’re in this for the long haul and we’re committed to it.’ You know if it wouldn’t have worked out that would really stink if you’re working towards something. But ultimately, it kind of has made us appreciate the time that we do have together because we got that trip from last year. So, really just being thankful for the time that we do have and really take advantage of that.”
DJF: What was last year like for you personally-training, navigating through the pandemic and all the other upheaval that the country was going through?
JL: “It definitely brought some new challenges. But honestly, for me personally, I have been playing nonstop basically for 12 years. The longest time that I really had off was maybe a month, and that was like very limited time. So, it was kind of nice to really kind of sit and like be at my house for longer than a month. I was able to really decompress, kind of step away, and obviously I’m kind of more towards the end of my career than I am to the beginning, and so it kind of gave me a look into, ‘Hey, what is life like outside of volleyball? What does that look like. I haven’t had much of a chance to like kind of step away and really reflect and be like, ‘Whow! This sport has given me so much.’ When you’re in the grind of things you lose track of that. And so, I physically wasn’t in a great place last year when the pandemic hit. Like I was dealing with some foot issues. Obviously, I’m not getting any younger. So just overall joint health wasn’t great. So I was able to really kind of stop and really kind of revamp up. I was able to put put good work in the weight room and nutritionally I kind of honed in on what was best for my body. But I just really think the rest, not only physically, but mentally, really set me up for a much better place going into the Olympics. I’m really, really thankful for that.”
DJF: How much do you think your [past Olympic] experience will help this year’s [U.S. Women’s Volleyball] squad?
JL: “We have more first-time Olympians than we have two or three-time Olympians. So I think that those who have been there before will be able to help facilitate…you know there’s just more emotions that come with it, right? It’s something that we’ve all been dreaming about since we were little, and so dealing with those emotions and how can we facilitate that on the court and being able to navigate that stuff and kind of get focused on our goal versus like the stuff that’s happening around us.”
DJF: How much of an influence has your mom had on you?
JL: “My mom was always like a competitive person. She would be just super supportive of me playing, and it was never like, ‘Jordan, why are you doing these things? It was more like she had such a great perspective as a competitive athlete because she played a little bit in high school and my dad also played. I don’t know. I was always grateful for her eye and what she saw and how she handled cancer itself, and like always having this never give up attitude, despite being until the end. Even when she wasn’t feeling the best, you never would known it. I’ve just tried to have that in the back of my mind. Like if my mom was here what would she want me me to do? Or how would she want to act or what would she think of this situation? I think having that mentality has really helped me to have the ability to ground myself…She doesn’t know me as a professional. She passed before I was able to kind of really dive into professional volleyball life. It’s so crazy to me. I feel like it’s gone by fast, but then also slow at the same time.”
DJF: Do you feel like you embody her [mother] spirit?
JL: “For sure. She was fun and energetic. I think that I’m a little more even-keel than her. I think she was kind of more emotional than me, but in a good way. She cared a lot and was very passionate.”
DJF: Is this your final Olympics or do you feel like you have another one inside of you?
JL: “I don’t know. I’m not trying to not give an answer…I think I’m just going continue to be patient and listen to my body and kind of decide kind of what’s next after this. I would like to start a family at some point. So I do want to make that a priority. I’m getting married this summer. So I’m really looking forward to marriage and I do want to start a family, so kind of whatever that looks like and just paying attention to my body and my family.”
‘DJF: What was it like for you to deal with the experience of not being able to win gold in London  as well as in Rio ?
JL: “Obviously, disappointing. I think we-in both Olympic Games-I think we had equal chances of winning both times. It’s definitely frustrating, and it’s something that our program has never done before, right? We’ve never won Olympic gold. So, I think that constant pursuit of mastery, like trying to pursue something that’s never been done I think is an ongoing challenge and something that we’re constantly trying to figure out and finding a way. It’s definitely frustrating, but also like a really good challenge as well.”
Featured Image Caption: U.S. women’s volleyball player Jordan Larson (10) in action at the 2014 FIVB Women Volleyball World Grand Prix. Courtesy photo