2 US women's teams to play for Olympic beach gold

AP News
Posted: Aug 07, 2012 12:56 PM
2 US women's teams to play for Olympic beach gold

LONDON (AP) — The beach volleyball title is staying in the United States. That's for certain.

The big question now is which team gets the gold.

A few hours after twice-defending champions Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor beat China, first-time Olympians April Ross and Jennifer Kessy joined them for an all-American final. With a win on Wednesday night, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor would further cement their status as the most-decorated women's team in the brief history of Olympic beach volleyball.

"We want to seal the deal that we're the best team that's ever happened," Walsh Jennings said Tuesday night after the two-time gold medalists advanced to their third consecutive Olympic final with a 22-20, 22-20 victory over China. "I want to win tomorrow for us. ... This will be our last match together, so we want to go out on top."

Ross and Kessy are merely trying to be No. 1 in their home country.

"We're always trying to prove ourselves," Ross said after beating top-seeded Brazil. "Misty and Kerri have set the bar so high, and it's not just against us. It's against the world."

Prince Harry is expected to attend the gold-medal game, following Prime Minister David Cameron by one night to the stands at Horse Guards Parade that also have hosted such luminaries as Bill Gates, Prince Albert of Monaco, London Mayor Boris Johnson and a handful of NBA stars from the U.S. men's basketball team.

But, so far, most of the visitors have come to see Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor.

"With that match," Kessy said, "I don't think we have to prove ourselves any more. If anyone says, 'Who's the other team,' they didn't watch that game."

Ross and Kessy rallied from a first-set loss and a four-point deficit in the second to beat reigning world champions Juliana and Larissa 15-21, 21-19, 15-12. The Brazilians will play in the third-place game against China's Xue Chen and Zhang Xi, who are trying to repeat their bronze-medal finish from Beijing.

Despite a medal shutout by the American men, the United States has clinched multiple beach volleyball medals for the fourth time in five Olympiads since it became a recognized sport in 1996.

"This has been everyone's goal since the beginning: to get the two U.S. teams in the final together," Kessy said. "I can't believe we're going to be on that podium — either gold or silver. It hasn't sunk in for me yet, probably because our job isn't done yet."

Already the most-decorated team in the brief history of Olympic beach volleyball, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor also are guaranteed at least a silver medal. No one — man or woman — had ever won two beach volleyball gold medals before they became repeat champions in Beijing.

And, until now, no woman had won three Olympic medals of any color.

"I had a picture in my head at the beginning of the season of how I wanted us to play, and we're living that picture," Walsh Jennings said. "But it's not over yet."

Earlier Tuesday, Brazil's Emanuel and Alison defeated Latvia to advance to the men's gold-medal game. They will meet the German team of Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann, who beat Reinder Nummerdor and Rich Schuil of the Netherlands 21-14, 21-16 in the final match of a rain-soaked night.

"They have been the most dominant team on the tour the last 2½ years. I can talk positive about this team for a half-hour," Brink said of the Brazilians. "Emanuel is a legend, and he's still playing at a high level."

Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor won gold medals in Athens and Beijing without ever losing a match — in their first two Olympics, they never even lost a set — and they ran their unbeaten streak to 20 in a row with Tuesday's victory. But they gave up the first three points of the semifinal and fell behind 13-7 in the first set.

China saved two set points before Xue put one into the net tape to give the first set to the Americans.

The Americans held a slim lead most of the second, but China took the lead 17-16 and forced the Americans to take a timeout. Trailing 19-18, May-Treanor ran far behind the end line to retrieve an errant pass and bumped it toward the net — too close — forcing Walsh Jennings to slide under the net, delicately bumping the ball over and to an unoccupied area on the Chinese portion of the court.

May-Treanor, who is retiring from international play after the Olympics, said she overshot it.

"They're a great team. They make you do crazy stuff like that," Walsh Jennings said. "That was just funky. Misty ran down the ball and I think I got a little lucky on that one. But you need luck and I think you create your own luck, and that's what you get when you don't give up. But I can't take real credit for that. That's not skill."

In the early men's semifinal, the reigning world champions from Brazil beat Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins 21-15, 22-20 to clinch no worse than silver. It's Emanuel's third straight medal, but a first for Alison.

"I have been dreaming about this since I was a child," Alison said. "Today I can finally say I am an Olympic athlete with a medal. But I am still dreaming about the gold."