US Volleyball star Jordan Larson comes out of retirement to play in fourth Olympics. GETTY IMAGES

Three-time Olympic medallist Jordan Larson has come out of retirement to play in her fourth Olympiad. The 37-year-old retired after leading the US Team to a long-awaited gold medal at the Tokyo Games. Yet after a divorce and some serious soul-searching, Larson finds herself back on the national team and headed to Paris.

USA Volleyball Head Coach Karch Kiraly is one of the reasons the Tokyo 2020 MVP is getting back on the court. Kiraly has lifted her up through two divorces and following the death of her mother, Kae, to breast cancer 15 years ago.

"Life gets hard and he’s just been there and consistent for me," Larson said to the Associated Press about her coach since 2009. 

Kiraly, a decorated beach and indoor Olympian, helped guide Larson and the Americans to a silver medal at the 2012 London Games. They captured bronze in Rio de Janeiro four years later with him as head coach and then won that elusive first gold in Tokyo.

Larson retired after that career high, ready to move on from a sensational volleyball career as an Olympic champion to get married again and start a family.

"I had gotten married right after the Tokyo Olympic Games and I was living in my dream, ready to step away, ready to start a family, and life happens," she said to AP. "I’m away a lot so I think it just gets hard at times. I learned some things and needed to step away and figure out what I really wanted to do."

Coaching became an option, and Larson embraced the idea of mentoring the next generation of American players. She spent part of 2022 volunteering in the volleyball program at Texas before returning last year to her alma mater, Nebraska, as an assistant coach. Coaching has provided a new perspective for Larson, who realised how much Kiraly and the US count on the continuity of college volleyball to build a foundation.

"You enter back in and you have a different outlook and now I see the national team and where our athletes get to go next after college and how it took us 60 years to win a gold medal. It shouldn’t take that long," she said. “I now see, how can we make all of our athletes at all of the universities thrive?”

"I look at these girls in college that I’m now coaching and I’m like, 'I was once that' and I just dreamed of being an Olympian one time," she added. "I thought I was going to be done in Tokyo and really felt I was in a good place, and I still feel like I’m in a really good place. If something happens and I have to step away, I know what I’ve done in this sport and I can walk away with my head held high knowing that I’ve given everything, so I’m grateful for that."

Larson celebrating with the US Volleyball tea, after winning a match. GETTY IMAGES
Larson celebrating with the US Volleyball tea, after winning a match. GETTY IMAGES

Kiraly understands the value of Larson's coaching and has been flexible with her schedule. She was one of the two starting outside hitters for the Americans during qualifying in Poland last September.

"To my mind, Jordan is the best who’s ever played for the USA women’s team, if I were to have to single that out to one person, and that’s really hard to do because there have been so many accomplished people," Kiraly said. "But she’s done it at such a high level for so long. Really impressive."

Larson trails Danielle Scott-Arruda’s record of five appearances and Kerri Walsh Jennings, who played for one indoor and then reached four Olympics on the beach side: winning a total of three gold medals.