Beach Volleyball

Checking Olympics, and other items, off my bucket list

USA’s Serena Williams celebrates after beating Russia’s Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1 for the Women’s Singles Tennis gold medal match at Wimbledon, Centre Court for the London 2012 Olympics in London, England on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012. (Nhat V. Meyer/Mercury News)

Julie Jag

jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

Gabby Douglas, 15, sat in a conference room, surrounded by reporters and Olympic officials with at least 20 years on her. One dusted off the cobwebs and mustered the saliva to ask Douglas, who days earlier became the first African American girl to win the gold medal in the gymnastics individual all-around competition, what she expected the impact of her historic victory to be.
“I’ve always wanted to inspire people,” replied Douglas, as she held court over the group.
“The thing about the Olympics, [there’s] this quote you see: ‘Inspire a Generation.’ You know, now I can check that off my bucket list.”
That moment near the end of my expedition into covering my first Olympics got me thinking about bucket lists. I hadn’t ever really made a physical list of the things I wanted to experience in life, nor taken an inventory. But Douglas’ remarks unlocked a mental file I had apparently stored away in the recesses of my brain. Attending the Olympics in an official capacity was right near the front.
While in the process of fulfilling that wish over the past month, though, I got the opportunity to places checkmarks next to several other life experiences — some of which I didn’t even realize were in the bucket until I’d experienced them for myself. This is the short list:
Serena Williams wins gold with authority
Whatever the reason, this stands out as one the highlights of my Olympic experience. Part of it can be explained by the intimate confines of Wimbledon’s Centre Court, where an entire crowd of 15,000 can share in an inside joke like friends at a dinner party. Part of it related to Williams’ demeanor, more powerful and amped up than ever in her 6-0, 6-1 dismantling of Russia’s Maria Sharapova. What really made it memorable, though, were the post-match antics — Williams dancing on the grass in excitement over her gold-medal performance and the American flag fluttering to the ground in the midst of the national anthem.
USA women’s soccer team gets revenge on Japan
This moment also had more to do with the building and buildup than the game itself. The USA and Japan entered with a tense history, especially from the Americans’ point of view. We were on the losing end of the same matchup for the Women’s World Cup championship in a game that went down to penalty kicks. The USA women made no bones about wanting revenge, plus they had barely escaped Canada in their semifinal. That led to the teams packing 80,200 vocal, flag-waving, sign-hoisting fans — an Olympic record for a women’s game — into Wembley, already one of the world’s iconic soccer venues.
The teams made the game almost as riveting as the anticipation. It was a close, well-played contest full of skillful shots and a couple rub-your-eyes-in-amazement saves by Hope Solo. As far as memories go, of course, it didn’t hurt that the USA came out on top.
Watching the fastest man alive with my own eyes (and seeing him be too slow to escape a gaggle of autograph seeking reporters)
Twice I headed to Olympic stadium to see Usain Bolt prove, again, he’s the fastest man alive. The first time I completed my own sprint, weaving through the thick crowds in my wedged sandals as I tried to get from the jam-packed Stratford train station to the stadium before the 100-meter final. When I got there, I was told the press seating was full. I’m more stubborn than that, though, so I sneaked into the back of an open-air broadcast booth and knelt down until the gun went off. Bolt finished not 100 feet from where I stood, the clear winner, albeit in a close race.
I thought about waiting around to hear his reaction in the press conference. One look at all the time he took “bolting” around the track and the long line of broadcast outlets waiting to interview him, and I figured it would be midnight and he would be exhausted, before the lowly print media got their time with him. Little did I know he planned to stay up until 3 a.m. celebrating with members of the Swedish handball team.
The second time I saw him may have been his last Olympic race. He was gunning for a trifecta by adding the 4×100 to his golds in the 100 and 200. Luckily, I was already at the stadium to cover the women’s 800 final and had snagged a nearly front-row seat. The seat became even better when I discovered that to my right sat an amicable reporter for the London paper The Sun, who happened to be a veritable expert on Bolt, having just finished writing a biography on the runner.
The race was riveting. Team USA and Jamaica quickly emerged as the leaders, but the chance of disaster cropped up at every handoff [in fact, the third-place Canadian team was disqualified for an illegal one]. It came down to the final leg, with the USA’s Ryan Bailey and Jamaica’s Bolt — who doesn’t usually run the anchor leg — taking the batons at the same time. But in a head-to-head footrace, Olympic rookie Bailey, who took fifth in the open 100, couldn’t keep up. Bolt not only broke the tape first, but had the consciousness of mind to immediately form an “M” atop his head in tribute to his friend and adored British distance runner Mo Farah, a two-time gold medalist in London.
The press conference that followed more than an hour later proved with the wait. In fact, it might have been more of a spectacle than the actual race. In it, Bolt’s relay teammate Yohan Blake said of the team: “We are not normal guys. We are from space, I am from Mars.” In a more bizarre outburst, “journalists” from around the globe asked Bolt everything from how did he expect to live a normal life now that, as they put it, he is “truly and by far the greatest athlete to ever live” to whether he would tweet a picture if he found himself in the company of Norwegian women’s handball players that night. As the capper, at least a dozen of these “journalists” rushed the stage after the conference to ask for autographs, while the rest of us cringed.
Feeling the bond of beach volleyball’s gold medal winners (even as the floor falls out from under them)
Standing on top of the podium together for the third time in as many Olympics, Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor still couldn’t hold back the tears during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner.” The best known beach volleyball players in the world went out on top, and this time they did it the hard way.
Life had changed so much for the two of them since winning in Athens and Beijing — two kids for Walsh, an Achilles injury for May-Treanor — that they needed couples therapy to get through it. Like any relationship worth fighting for, though, the tests only brought them closer, and that was clear in their cooperation on the court.
It was illustrated even more not 30 minutes after the medal ceremony, when they found themselves on rock-bottom once again. Actually, it was plywood bottom.
The floor of the packed “mixed zone” interview area collapsed under the weight of the unexpected mass of reporters who showed up to cover a sport they could no longer ignore now that the duo had hammered harder than one of Walsh’s spikes into the national spotlight. Walsh managed to hop to level ground and she quickly helped her teammate out of the hole she’d fallen into.
Hey, what are partners for?
“The bond we have and understanding we have for each other is so special,” May-Treanor said. “Kerri said it a couple of times, the first two medals, I think it was more volleyball. The friendship we had was there, but it was all volleyball, volleyball. This was so much more about the friendship, the togetherness, the journey, and volleyball was just a small part of it.”
Holding a historic Olympic medal
The Olympics revolves around medals — those who get one and those who don’t. Still, it didn’t occur to me to want to get a close look at one until Abby Johnston, half of the duo that won silver in 3-meter synchronized diving competition, noted how heavy her hardware was during a post-win interview.
How heavy is it? This question led to one of my coolest first-person experiences. There is something magical about a medal, even a silver one. They’re a piece of art and yes, they are heavy. In fact, they weigh about 14 ounces.
Somehow, though, they carry more weight when put into perspective. It was the United States’ first medal in synchronized diving since it became a sport in 2000.
Experiencing the pride of a country (or what moved Mo Farah)
All we heard heading into London for the Olympics was what a disaster they were going to be. The masses weren’t happy about having to pay for these frivolous stadiums and improvements to the train system, especially during an economic downturn. Then, once we got there, they weren’t happy about being turned away while empty seats glared at them from the TV screen. Making matters much worse, several days of competition passed without the Brits bringing home a single gold. Panic started to set in.
But on Day 6, a couple of female rowers broke the golden spell for the host country. Three days later, local darling Jessica Ennis nearly brought down Olympic stadium when she won the heptathlon. It bolstered the Brits’ the national spirit, uniting them in ways even they didn’t expect. When the medals started piling up, each one dusted off a little more pride. Londoners even started talking to each other on the subway, which apparently never happens.
By the time Mo Farah raced to victory in the 5,000 on the eve of the close of the Games, the country practically glowed with glory. They sent the Somali runner — considered by many a true symbol of the nations-uniting purpose of the Games — and the Olympics out with ear-rattling cheers that clanged through the 80,000-seat Olympic stadium.
Nice thing was, when they weren’t cheering for the home team, they respectfully applauded and lauded outstanding athletes from other countries, even the big, bad USA.

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Walsh and May-Treanor win third Olympic gold medal

Miss May-Treanor, left, and Kerri Walsh Jennings celebrate a win over April Ross and Jennifer Kessy during the women’s Gold Medal beach volleyball match between two United States teams at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

By JULIE JAG

jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

LONDON – Just like old times, one more time.

Former Scotts Valley resident Kerri Walsh Jennings and partner Misty May-Treanor looked every bit as in sync in winning their third straight Olympic beach volleyball gold medal Wednesday night as they had winning the previous two. But this one meant a little bit more.

“This feels very new for me. It feels way different than it ever has,” Walsh said. “It was the best. We saved the best for last.”

In the sand at Horse Guards Parade, a temporary venue surrounded by buildings steeped in history, beach volleyball’s most recognizable pair wrote the conclusion to their own. They added the 2012 medal to their collection from ’04 and ’08 with a 21-16, 21-16 victory over fellow Team USA players Jennifer Kessy and April Ross. Then, with May-Treanor sticking with her promise that this would be her last match as a professional, they closed the book.

“Emotionally, we have lived so much life together the past 12 years but especially the last two. We’ve really come together and we’ve been so connected,” Walsh said. “We really wanted to win a gold medal together, but we wanted to do it in a certain fashion. And we wanted to stay connected and create this bond that is unbreakable and to really cherish every moment, and we did that.”

As soon as Ross’ serve at match point sailed over her head, Walsh raised both hands in the air in victory. Then, faster than one of her hard-driven kills, the tears started falling. She raced over to the stands, where husband Casey Jennings picked her 6-foot-3 frame off the ground, then she, in turn, picked up her two young boys. Later on the medal stand, surrounded by Kessy and Ross and the bronze-medal winning pair of Juliana Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil, both cried and sang like they’d never won before.

Truth is, they know how to step up on the podium almost as well as they know how to dig and block. Since they first partnered in 2001, they’ve won 40 of the 78 international matches and only missed out on the top four in 14 of them. In Olympic play, they went undefeated, dropping their first and only set in 12 years and 43 sets to the Austrian team earlier this week.

After they won their debut match of these Olympics, opponent and four-time Games veteran Natalie Cook of Australia dubbed Walsh and May-Treanor beach volleyball royalty.

“Just the amount of tournaments they’ve won – I know how much energy it takes to win a tournament – and for them to do it for years and years is impressive,” agreed Kessy. “My hat’s off to them. That is ridiculous in the end.”

Before they gave up their crowns, May-Treanor and Walsh wanted to add a little more gold to the treasury.

But everything wasn’t the same as they had left it in Beijing. May-Treanor ruptured her achilles while practicing for the show “Dancing with the Stars” and was trying to make a comeback with Nicole Branagh. Walsh, meanwhile, had taken some time off the court to give birth to her two boys – Joseph, 3, and Sundance, 2. When she returned to the sand, she tried to pair with a couple other partners, but none of them matched what she had with May-Treanor.

It took some needling, but in 2011, Walsh finally convinced May-Treanor to make another medal run.

Even after both committed to returning, though, their mojo didn’t. Walsh remained the dangerous net player she had been even when she was in high school at St. Francis in San Jose. May-Treanor still had indescribable defensive instincts. Together, though, they struggled to find their winning form, especially in tournament championships.

“I didn’t really understand what peaking meant, ever, until this time around,” said Walsh, who plans to find a new partner for 2016. “In the prior Olympics we didn’t have to peak, we were just feeling good. But this time around, we had a really terrible year up until about a month ago, and we had to work really hard to get where we are now. It was all emotional, all very mental, and we were in a place we’ve never been before.

“I truly believe going through those challenges the way we did made us even stronger than we were before.”

Once they reached London, the pair wasted no time digging their chemistry up from the sand inside Horse Guards Parade. With each win, their confidence and comfort level grew. It practically skyrocketed after a come-from-behind win over the Chinese team of Chen Xue and Xi Zhang in the semifinals.

Kessy and Ross, a team they’d beaten twice in three meetings this year and hold a 28-5 record against, didn’t give up the medal easily. They clung to within a point of their opponent for at least half of each set. When the pressure was on, though, Walsh and May-Treanor just had too much history together.

“It’s hard to stay on top. Winning the first gold medal, we were young, it was sweet, it was like ‘OK, we did it.’ Winning back to back gold medals is very difficult – the target’s huge,” May-Treanor said. “To go for a three-peat, I don’t know if you could write this script the way that it turned out.

“But, we believed.”

 

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Live from the women’s beach volleyball gold-medal match

Former Scotts Valley resident Kerri Walsh and partner Misty May-Treanor will try to win their third straight Olympic gold medal in women’s beach volleyball in just about 15 minutes. Their opponent? No other than the other USA team, April Ross and Jen Kessey. These teams have played each other more than 30 times, so it’s sure to be a showdown.

Check back here to follow it blow for blow.

Here we go. Misty serves first. Kessey scores the first point with a lob but Walsh gets it back with a hard hit.

A hit on 2 by Walsh makes it 3-3, then a switch when Kessey’s hit off the net bounces out.

May’s pickup then pokey makes it 6-5.

Switch on 7-7 after a Ross pounding.

Nice to know I’m not the only one who one-overs. It’s a score for Kessey, even if accidental.

That’s a huge double block by Kessey– one on May and one on Walsh. She is fired up. Makes it 10-10 with a TV time out.

May and Walsh  got their biggest lead of the night at 13-11. Then Ross-Kessey caught up, but now they are down by 2 again, 15-13.

Kessey just won a joust w/Walsh

Kessey-Ross take a time out after an ace by Walsh puts that team up 17-14, their biggest lead so far.

Wow, great rally but Walsh wins it with a shot to the side.

HUGE block by Walsh! 19-14

Kessey serves out. Big error. Match point

Liner by May ends it 21-16. Game 1 to May-Walsh.

___________________________________
May’s crazy deep pokeys have put them ahead 3-2. But Kessey’s hard drive makes it 3-3

Straight down for Walsh on 2 after great save on the other side results in a free ball.4-3

sorry I left you hangin folks. Walsh and May are running away with it, 20-15.

That’s it, a third gold for Walsh and May-Treanor. Two scores of 21-16. Congrats ladies!

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Scotts Valley’s Murai’s Olympic wish coming true

By JULIE JAG

jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

 

LONDON – On a typical London day, in which the rain and the sun took turns controlling the skies, Erick Murai took refuge in the close confines of an arena seat. There, with his father on one side, his brother behind him, and people from all reaches of the world and speaking dozens of languages around him, the Scotts Valley student settled in to watch a women’s basketball game between Canada and Brazil.

It’s been a long trip, but Murai’s wish to attend the Olympics is coming true.

“Oh yeah,” said Murai, 18. “I’m really enjoying it for the most part.”

For two years, Murai has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. To fight the disease, he has to take daily chemotherapy pills and receive monthly spinal punctures to help the medicine reach his brain – a schedule he’ll have to keep up for at least a year. While he was receiving treatment at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital late in 2011, someone from the Bay Area chapter of Make-a-Wish approached Murai about granting him a wish.

Murai, who played basketball his freshman year and football his sophomore year at Scotts Valley, wanted it to involve sports. So, after his first choice of meeting NFL player Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t pan out, he decided to dream bigger, picking the biggest sporting event he could think of – the Olympics.

To his surprise, the group gave that wish the go-ahead. In all, Make-a-Wish America expected to send 43 Americans and 11 others to the Games, which run through Aug. 12.

Murai, who is traveling with his father, Gerrod, and brother, Christian, left Tuesday and will return Monday. He had only flown once – with the Falcons football team to Oregon – and he had never been out of the time zone, so just being in London has been a new experience.

“It’s pretty nice when it’s not raining,” Murai said. “That latest downpour wasn’t that great. We didn’t come prepared, we only have one umbrella.”

Murai said the trip has also involved more walking than he expected. Of course, that included extra miles spent trying to navigate the city, which has been turned into even more of a maze with the barriers erected around Olympic venues.

“Dad has us walking in circles just to cross the street,” Christian Murai, 15, joked.

Erick Murai specifically requested the chance to see basketball. Within hours of landing Wednesday, he was sitting almost courtside, watching the Team USA women romp over Turkey, 89-58. He also was treated to a session of three women’s basketball games on Friday, including the Canada-Brazil game. In between, the trio headed to Horse Guards Parade on Thursday night, where they watched four beach volleyball matches.

“I think that was more enjoyable than basketball,” Murai said.

That sport a big hit with the Brits as well, mostly because it involves women in bikinis playing close to the center of the city.

“It doesn’t hurt,” Murai said. He quickly added, “They were pretty good matches.”

The Murais likely won’t get to see Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. The Dream Team plays Lithuania in the early men’s basketball session today, and they have tickets to the late session, their final Olympic event.

The Olympics may be the centerpiece of this trip, but the Murai men are making the most of all London has to offer. Today they will see a performance of Phantom of the Opera at the historic Her Majesty’s Theatre and on Sunday they will take in The Taming of the Shrew at the replica of Shakespeare’s The Globe.

They’re even tasting the local fare when they can. They haven’t been able to sample any bangers and mash or fish and chips yet, though, because Erick must finish eating at least three hours before he takes his nightly chemotherapy pills.

Still, he says the jet lag has slowed him as much as the leukemia treatments. Both make it hard to wake up when his dad tries to roust him at 7:30 each morning. But, Gerrod Murai doesn’t want this wish to be wasted in a hotel room.

“This is not a sort of relaxation trip,” he said. “It’s a lot of running around and getting things done.”

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Walsh and May-Treanor hit the heights

By JULIE JAG
jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

LONDON — Prince Harry may not have braved the brisk and late-evening match, but that doesn’t mean the queens weren’t on the court when Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor closed out the first day of beach volleyball play and the first full day of competition at the 2012 Olympics.

Playing at Horse Guards Parade, a couple of double-decker bus lengths from Buckingham Palace, Walsh and May-Treanor showed glimmers of why they are the two-time defending gold medalists. They gutted out a 21-18, 21-19 win over wily Australian veteran Nat Cook and her partner Tamsin Hinchley in a best-of-three pool play match that ended just before midnight Saturday.

“We’ll see the royalty come out and they’re seeing volleyball royalty out there now,” Cook said after the match. “That team is beach volleyball royalty, and I’m just a five-time Olympian.”

To the chagrin of the crowd, neither team fully bared their bikini bodies for the 55-degree night match. The Australians stayed covered ankle to neck in leggings and T-shirts, while Walsh and May-Treanor wore long-sleeve black shirts over their bikini bottoms.

With the victory, the California pair — Walsh spent part of her childhood in Scotts Valley and claims Saratoga as her hometown and May-Treanor hails from Costa Mesa — narrowly kept intact their streak of now 15 Olympic matches without dropping a set. Also still intact is their will to become the first women’s team to win three straight gold medals.

“It’s nice to get the first one chalked off. We were amped up. We were like we’re here and we’re ready to go,” May-Treanor said. “Each match prepares us for the next.”

The team’s next order of business is beating the Czech team of Kristyna Kolocova and Marketa Slukova in another 11 p.m. pool play match Monday. Tonight, their compatriots Jen Kessey and April Ross will take Centre Court at 9 p.m. for a match against Argentina’s Ana Gallay and Maria Zonta.

The win provided some relief to Walsh and May-Treanor, who, despite their No. 3 Olympic ranking, have experienced some chemistry problems of late after eight years of Teflon-like teamwork. After winning their second gold medal in Beijing, Walsh and her husband, pro volleyball player Casey Jennings, gave birth to their sons, Joseph, 3, and Sundance, 2. May-Treanor, meanwhile, appeared on “Dancing With the Stars,” where she famously ruptured her Achilles tendon while practicing the jive.

When Walsh returned to the court in 2011, she did so with new partner Nicole Branagh. As London drew closer, however, she knew she had to have May-Treanor back on her court. The two reunited in February of this year, but they have struggled to reconnect the way they once did.

Some of that was evident against the Aussies.

“This one was tough, but I think the game of volleyball has grown so much that players keep getting better and better,” May-Treanor said, noting that of the four players on the court, three were gold medalists – Cook won in 2000. “But we knew we were going to get pushed.”

The slight favorite of the crowd of 10,437, the Australians mostly kept the ball away from the 6-foot-1 Walsh. Using smart shots and line-touching cuts, the Aussies pulled ahead of the U.S. pair on several occasions and tied the score 19-19 in the second set. Still, as May-Treanor threw her body across the court to pick up spike after spike on match point, which eventually ended with Cook in the net, Walsh knew she’d made the right choice.

“I love going to battle with her. I would not choose anyone else in the whole wide world I would rather go to battle with,” Walsh said. “She’s a warrior and she gets the job done. I have so much trust in her and she trusts me so much, I feel like I can take risks out there and that’s what you want in a teammate – someone who makes you feel comfortable. It was good. It was a really good start for us.”

And queens must be ready for battle, even if it means missing a chance to meet the actual Queen. Queen Elizabeth II visited the athletes’ dining hall Saturday morning, but May-Treanor and Walsh didn’t get a sitting with Her Majesty because her appearance conflicted with their practice schedule.

“It was a bummer,” May-Treanor said, “but we’re here for business.”

NOTES

  • The biggest volleyball upset of the day came in the first match of the day, 13 hours before Walsh and May-Treanor stepped onto Centre Court. The Chinese pair of Xi Xhang and Chen Xue, who won bronze in 2008, fell to Russia’s Anastasia Vasina and Anna Vozakova, 18-21, 21-14, 16-14. The Chinese came in as the No. 2 team in the Olympic rankings, behind Brazil’s Juliana Silva and Larissa Franca, who swept Natacha Rigobert and Elodie Li yuk Lo from Olympics beach volleyball newcomer Mauritius.
  • The U.S. men’s team of Sean Rosenthal and Jake Gibbs looked in prime form when they dismantled South Africa’s team in the penultimate match of the night. Rosenthal and Gibbs, who finished fifth in Beijing, defeated Freedom Chiya and Grant Goldschmidt, 21-10, 21-11.

Setting it straight

    Kerri Walsh and Casey Jennings have two sons. A previous version of this article indicated they had a son and a daughter.

Categories: Athletes, Beach Volleyball, Events, Kerri Walsh, Olympics | Leave a comment

Sinjin Smith is on the court, and I’m next to it

Sinjiin Smith is on the Olympic Centre Court at Horse Guards Parade trying to teach some guy named Ollie how to serve in beach volleyball. Pretty funny, but the guy is getting them over.

Speaking of beach volleyball, Sean Rosenthal and Jake Gibbs are up next, followed by Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor. I’ll try to keep you updated on their matches, especially the ladies’ since I understand it will be tape delayed at home.

Rosenthal and Gibbs destroy it in the first game, winning 21-10.

Russia’s not getting the ball past Sean Rosenthal, he’s everywhere. Case in point — two digs for two points, then he puts the ball away to end the match, 21-10, 21-11. Next.

American flags everywhere for these back-to-back US matches.

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England has gone bikini wild

By JULIE JAG
jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

LONDON — Forget the medals, this Olympics is all about the bikinis.
Who will be wearing them? Who won’t? Will they wear them at night? How much will be covered if the rain comes in?
Defending beach volleyball gold medalists Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers and 2012 medal contenders Jake Gibbs and Sean Rosenthal nearly blended into the background Wednesday as reporters peppered the USA beach volleyball women’s teams with questions about their scanty uniforms for the majority of an hour-long press conference. Earlier this week, London’s Evening Standard newspaper plastered its front page with photos of the Brazilan team of Juliana Silva and Larissa Franca wearing two-pieces during a warm day’s practice. And in the weeks before that, security guards, bus drivers and blokes around town could be heard surmising that beach volleyball must have been the first Olympic event to sell out, and they didn’t think Rogers’ defense was the reason.
No, England has simply gone bikini wild.
“It’s weird because … we grew up wearing bathing suits and it’s no big deal to us,” said Team USA’s April Ross, a first-time Olympian who grew up in Newport Beach. “I like to believe people will watch our sport regardless of what we wear, so I feel like I’m stating what’s obvious all the time.”
Walsh, who spent part of her childhood in Scotts Valley, and her partner Misty May-Treanor will experience the fervor tonight when they cap the first day of play with an 11 p.m. match. The two-time defending gold medalists will be pitted against the Australian pair of Nat Cook and Tamsin Hinchley. Their match has drawn the attention of Prince Harry, who said he plans to attend, but who may not be in the box for Rosenthal and Gibbs’ 10 p.m. match. There are also reports that Prime Minister David Cameron might catch a match from the window of his Downing Street home.
“No contact yet, but it would be good to see them at any game,” Kessey said. “It’s great for the sport also. And if they want to have tea, we’re also available for that.”
Why the sudden interest in beach volleyball here?
It could be that fans feared a new rule adopted by the International Volleyball Federation [FIVB] allowing women to wear more clothing — this will be the first Olympics in which players can wear shorts and sleeved shirts, to respect religious differences — would cause the shapely women to put away their two-pieces and pull out their sweatpants.
Kessey said that’s not going to happen.
“We want women of all different religions and everywhere across the world to be able to play our sport. To not be able to play because of the attire is not OK with us,” Kessey said. “So, the fact they can wear more modest gear is something great. You know, we’re not uncomfortable in our bikinis… That’s the most comfortable thing for us.”
The increased attention could also be blamed on the rain, which has forced Londoners to stay covered up in their winter wardrobes for most of the summer. Or, as May-Treanor suggested with an impish grin, maybe it’s just the nature of the sport.
“I think it’s the sweat, sand, rolling around,” she said. “Our sport is very dynamic.”

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Kerri Walsh and Misty May kick off beach volleyball at night

The information below comes straight from the USA Volleyball website. Kerri Walsh, who grew up in Scotts Valley, and Misty May-Treanor will hold down Centre Court late Saturday here, but early Saturday at home in Santa Cruz. Their match will be immediately preceded by a men’s match featuring the USA’s Sean Rosenthal and Jake Gibbs vs. Chiya/Goldschmit of Russia:

Two-time Olympic gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh will begin their quest for a third straight championship on July 28 at 11 p.m. local time (3 p.m. PT) at Horse Guards Parade against Nathalie Cook of Australia and Tamsin Hinchley of Australia.

The schedule for the beach volleyball competition at the 2012 Olympic Games in London was confirmed by the FIVB, LOCOG and the Olympic Broadcasting Services on Friday following the drawing of lots on Thursday in Klagenfurt, Austria.

On the men’s side, 2008 Olympic gold medalists Phil Dalhausser (Ormond Beach, Fla.) and Todd Rogers (Santa Barbara, Calif.) will start the defense of their title on Sunday (July 29) when they play Japan‘s Kentaro Asahi and Katsuhiro Shiratori at 10 p.m. local time (2 p.m. PT).

Women‘s and men’s matches will be mixed throughout the preliminary phase of the beach volleyball competition, which will run over six days with three sessions per day (09:00-12:50, 14:30-18:20, 20:00-23:50), and four matches per session except for the final day of pool play on Thursday, Aug. 2 when there will be six matches in session two.

The preliminary phase will then be followed by the knock out final phase, starting with two days of round of 16 matches followed by the quarterfinals and then the semifinals on August 7 and the medal matches on Aug. 8 and 9 for women and men respectively.

Categories: Beach Volleyball, Kerri Walsh, Olympics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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