Kerri Walsh, gold medalist and mom, revels in beach volleyball's status as the sexiest sport

As a new mother of two and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, it seems like being sexy would be at the bottom of Kerri Walsh's list. But the athlete called "6 feet of sunshine" says she would agree that beach volleyball is the sexiest sport in the Olympics.

She says the sexiness is "just a natural part of the sport because we're on the beach and in the sand and we're wearing what we're wearing."

But before critics blast Walsh for the statement, hear her out: She says her two-piece bikini is a performance-enhancing uniform. "It is much like track or like swimmers," she says. "You have sand everywhere and you're pouring sweat and you're diving and getting up and you want to be streamlined."

In fact, she's downright proud of her competitive attire. "I am wearing a very sporty, very functional bikini, which is my uniform," she explains.

As she points out, it isn't like she is strutting down the beach in a teeny bikini typically reserved for Sports Illustrated models. "Early in my career a lot of people were like, 'Kerry how could you do this? Women have come so far,' and I feel the opposite. I feel empowered. I feel like I am showing a healthy, strong woman," the Team Kellogg member says.

"I do love the fact that I can be a good role model for young girls and women who aspire to do these things."

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Despite the fact that she's comfortable in her own skin, the skimpiness of the uniform originally discouraged other countries from competing in the sport at the Olympic Games, leading the International Volleyball Federation to redefine women's uniforms. At the London 2012 Games, women will be permitted to wear shorts and sleeved tops.

Walsh is all for the rule change. "I love the fact that this new rule is allowing more teams to compete and to feel comfortable competing," she says. "This is going to open up our sport to different cultures and to different countries and that to me is just positive all the way around."

With only two months before the Olympic Games, she says this time around will be wildly different than the competitions in Athens and Beijing. For starters, she'll be toting her two sons Joey, 3, and Sundance, 2, across the pond. "I feel like I have this chance to do something so amazing, which is to put together two of my dreams: to be the best in the world on the beach volleyball court and to be the best mommy I can be," she explains.

Mommy duties aside, make no mistake, Walsh and her partner, Misty May-Treanor, will be there to grab the gold for the third time. "Our expectation is that we're going to win. … we're preparing to take on the first seed through the 24th seed and not put one over the other," she says.

The competition itself will be grueling, but Walsh notes the importance of their mental game in pursuing gold. "We're our biggest enemies," she explains. "If we let self doubt creep in or if we just get tight, that's where we're in trouble, but if we're playing well and we're pretty dang tough to beat."

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But nabbing the gold medal may be bittersweet for the pair. After playing 10 seasons together, May-Treanor has announced plans to retire following this competition. This revelation seems to be driving the pair harder than ever.

"We're in a place now where we're like, 'Hey, this could be our last time together. Let's really do this,' " Walsh says. "We're playing for each other to a certain extent and that's a really fun place to be. "

More importantly, though, new mom Walsh says her partner is more than just the other half of an Olympic medal-winning team. "We have a lot of love and respect for each other and we have since day one," she says. "She is my family, at this point, and I love her with all of my heart."

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