U.S. women win second beach volleyball gold
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
BEIJING ” Americans May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh won their second consecutive gold medal in beach volleyball on Thursday, playing through a steady and sometimes driving rain to beat China in straight sets and extend their winning streak to 108 matches in a row.
Walsh and May-Treanor defeated Wang Jie and Tian Jia 21-18, 21-18 to repeat their Athens victory and confirm their dominance of the sport. They did not lose a set in seven Olympic matches, playing through smog and swelter and a drenching gold medal game that soaked their skimpy uniforms but never dampened their moods.
“The rain makes it better. We felt like warriors out there,” Walsh shouted afterward, unable to contain the California girl enthusiasm that earned her the nickname “Six Feet of Sunshine.”
“Athens was just pure excitement. The pressure of this situation is real, and it was heavy, and it was loud. And we beat China at home, under crazy conditions,” she said.
Earlier Thursday, Xue Chen and Zhang Xi won China’s first beach volleyball medal, beating Brazilians Talita and Renata 21-19, 21-17 for the bronze.
Walsh put an early end to China’s chances to add a gold when she quick-hit May-Treanor’s pass between Wang and Tian. The Americans dropped to their knees on the wet sand, hugging each other before shaking hands with the officials and running to the stands to embrace their friends and families.
They were still celebrating, wrapping themselves in U.S. flags, as organizers worked through the rain to set up the podium for the medal ceremony.
“Ever since the ball dropped in Athens, we’ve wanted to repeat as Olympic champions,” May-Treanor said. “No one’s ever done it.”
Rain drenched the Chaoyang Park venue for both the bronze- and gold-medal matches. It was no day to be at the beach ” not for Wang and Tian, and not for the fans who huddled under pastel ponchos and umbrellas that, on a day more appropriate for sun and sand, would be used as parasols.
But the 12,200-seat venue was packed, the dancers in bikinis jiggled to rock music and the players pressed on without concern for the weather. The wet and heavy ball forced them to bump-set instead of doing it over their heads, and the sometimes driving rain made it difficult to look up to receive passes.
“When the ball goes too high, you can’t see it too easy,” said Renata, her eyes wet from crying, as well. “But it’s OK, because if it is raining for us, it is raining for them.”
The Americans scored three straight points to break a 17-all tie in the first. China survived one set point before May-Treanor spiked one down the line for the winner.
The Americans cruised through the two-year qualifying process in a year, giving Walsh a break this spring to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. Managing the pain with massages and a special tape that is said to increase blood flow, Walsh showed no signs of wear.
Tian did need a medical time-out with the score 17-15. As she sat under the canopy that covers the bench, a trainer massaged her left arm briefly before sending her back to the sand.
“The American team is better than we are,” Tian said. “They are more experienced and stronger. But we have made great strides for these Olympic Games. This is the best that we could do.”
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In some ways, it’s hard to believe it’s been five years since Beaver Creek and Birds of Prey hosted the 2015 FIS Alpine World Championships. It feels like it’s been five years since March and the outbreak of COVID-19.