By Julian Linden
NEW YORK (Reuters) - With two Olympic gold medals dangling around her neck and two toddlers at her feet, Kerri Walsh already knows the importance of having balance in her life.
That new sense of perspective is what the American believes will help her and long-time playing partner Misty May-Treanor win the women's beach volleyball at this year's London Olympics.
The pair won gold at Athens in 2004 and again at Beijing in 2008 before splitting up to pursue other interests.
May-Treanor briefly joined America's version of the hit TV show "Dancing With The Stars" while Walsh and her husband Casey Jennings, also a professional beach volleyball player, decided to start a family.
In May 2009, Walsh gave birth to her first son. Less than a year later, she had a second son, but her competitive instincts never left her.
In 2011, she announced she was reuniting with May-Treanor and they had their sights set on winning a third gold medal in London.
"It was always in my mind to have a time out," Walsh told Reuters in an interview. "This is my dream, my whole life I always wanted to be a working mom.
"I love my career and I love my family and I'm so blessed to have the best of both worlds."
While Walsh said she always planned to make a comeback, juggling the roles of parenthood and being an elite athlete presented her with new challenges.
"I have never been more sleep deprived," she said, before adding: "And I have never been happier.
"I can't tell you how much it will mean to me to win as a mom."
Walsh, 33, and May-Treanor, 34, have both struggled with injuries in the past few years but feel their previous success and experience will help them overcome their younger opponents.
"We're surrounded by 19-year-olds but there's a lot to be said for experience and we still have the fight and the hunger we had when we first started," said Walsh, who recently signed a sponsorship deal with Pampers, who make baby diapers and wipes.
"It's an interesting dynamic but it adds more fuel to the fire. We're not old ladies and we want to show them we've still got it."
Despite their time away from the sport, the pair instantly showed they were still a force to be reckoned with when they finished second at last year's world championships in Rome.
While Walsh acknowledged she was unhappy at losing the final, the defeat acted as a perfect spur for her and May-Treanor as they chase an unprecedented third Olympic title.
"When you're successful you tend to stay in your box and if it ain't broke don't fix it type of thing but we're determined to show the world how good we can be because we are good and we have so much more in us," Walsh said.
"Training is so much fun right now. Misty and I are working so hard and we're so hungry and determined.
"We're very cohesive, we're a unit, we both love and respect each other and we have unfinished business. We want to show the world we're the best in 2012 and if we do that I think we'll be in the running for the best of all time."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)