May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings reign in beach volleyball

Kerri Walsh Jennings (right) sets a ball for Misty May-Treanor.
Kerri Walsh Jennings (right) sets a ball for Misty May-Treanor. (AP)
Posted: August 09, 2012

LONDON - Misty May-Treanor danced on the sand and then off it, leaving Horse Guards Parade with Kerri Walsh Jennings and a third gold medal.

Playing in the Summer Games together for the last time, the twice-defending champions extended their unbeaten streak to 21 - through Athens, Beijing, and now London - by defeating Jennifer Kessy and April Ross, 21-16, 21-16, in an all-American women's beach-volleyball final Wednesday night.

The match started with nearby Big Ben pealing the hour and ended with the "Star-Spangled Banner" rising from the iconic venue in the Prime Minister's backyard, just down the Mall from the royal residence at Buckingham Palace. Playing on Henry VIII's former jousting tiltyard, with Prince Harry in the crowd, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor continued their reign as champions of the beach.

"It's insane. It doesn't feel like it's real," Walsh Jennings, 33, said. "I told Misty when we were getting our medals: 'If I wake up tomorrow and we have to replay this match, I'm going to be furious.' Because it feels like I'm in a dream."

Dominating the sport for three Olympiads, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor have won every match they have played in the Summer Games and lost just one of 43 sets.

No one had ever won even two beach-volleyball gold medals before the Americans won their second straight in Beijing.

No woman had ever won three Olympic beach-volleyball medals of any kind.

"I know how hard it is to win one tournament. And the amount of tournaments they've won is crazy," said Kessy, who jumped for joy on the medal podium after she and Ross won silver in their Olympic debuts. "For them to do it for years and years and to be on top is just really impressive. We learn a lot from them."

Earlier Wednesday, Brazil's Juliana and Larissa beat Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China to win the bronze.

Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor pulled away midway through the first set of the title match and were never threatened in the second, falling to their knees and hugging as Ross's serve went long on match point.

Walsh Jennings covered her bare shoulders with an American flag and grabbed her children; the older one was a little scared. They high-fived the Horse Guards Parade Dance Team and volunteers and just about anyone holding an American flag.

"It's one thing to play an Olympic final. It's another to play against a team from your country you know so well," said Walsh Jennings, who played with Kessy on a U.S. junior team.

"I think the only reason Misty and I are gold medalists is because of those two. They push us so hard. They're one of my favorite teams to beat because they're so good."

May-Treanor returned to the sand for a funky jig to rival the scantily clad dance team that helped bring the beach party atmosphere to the sellout crowds in central London.

"I was like, 'I hope I'm not rubbing it in anybody's face,' but I was so excited," said May-Treanor, a competitor on Dancing with the Stars in 2008 before she suffered a torn left Achilles tendon in rehearsal and missed a year on the pro tour. "I just had to get out there and let it out."

May-Treanor, 35, said she will retire to raise a family with her husband, Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Matt Treanor, who watched the gold-medal match in the team's clubhouse on a balky Internet connection that made him miss the final few points.

"I'm just real proud of her," he said in the Dodger Stadium dugout.

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