On beach, another golden sunset for Kiraly Sport changes, result same as U.S. volleyball ace claims third gold medal

Atlanta Olympics

July 29, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE HTC

JONESBORO, Ga. -- Now we know what a beach volleyball star wears to an Olympic medal ceremony: a red, white and blue warm-up suit, a pink cap and bare feet.

Karch Kiraly stood on the podium again yesterday, only this time there were flecks of sand clinging to his toes and eight more years of digs, spikes, cuts and sets clinging to his memory as he stared at the American flag rising before him.

Otherwise, it could have been Los Angeles or Seoul, South Korea. There in the stands was his family, including his lean and proud father, Las, the Hungarian immigrant who was tearfully waving the flag of his adopted nation. There around Kiraly's neck was a third Olympic gold medal, the most ever won by a men's volleyball player.

Kiraly's first two golds came indoors in 1984 and 1988, when he helped lead the American team to the top of a sport long dominated by Eastern Europeans. Yesterday's gold came with his partner, Kent Steffes, on a sand-filled pit laid down next to an artificial lake in suburban Atlanta. It's the first time beach volleyball has been part of the Olympics.

"This was an awesome feeling," Kiraly said. "What I am most proud of is that I was able to win gold medals in both forms of volleyball."

Kiraly, 35, and Steffes, 28, cruised past fellow Californians Michael Dodd and Mike Whitmarsh, 12-5, 12-8, to win the gold medal.

"What can you say?" Dodd said. "Losing to Karch Kiraly is nothing to go home ashamed about."

Pub Date: 7/29/96

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