U.S. has good day at beach, wins gold, bronze medals

May and Walsh cap dominant run with victory over Brazilian pair

Women's Beach Volleyball

Athens 2004

August 25, 2004|By Jerry Brewer | Jerry Brewer,ORLANDO SENTINEL

ATHENS - Rowdy as always, beach volleyball placed medals around the necks of its most skilled players yesterday, and as usual, something delightfully unusual occurred.

The competitors hugged, all of them, and kept hugging, the gold, silver and bronze medalists and the countries they represent indistinguishable. Two pairs of the United States' best and one pair of Brazil's best stood on that podium, but all you could see were respectful volleyball players sharing joy.

"I'm very proud of the three teams up there," U.S. gold medalist Kerri Walsh said.

Beach volleyball always provides unexpected flair. For 11 days, the focus was on the women, the Canary Islands dancers, the disc jockey and the club-like atmosphere. During the women's gold-medal match, it was about the volleyball. And when it ended, it was about athletes promoting a fun sport.

Misty May and Walsh won the gold medal with a 21-17, 21-11 victory over the Brazilian pair of Shelda and Adriana Behar. The U.S. duo of Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs beat Australia's Natalie Cook and Nicole Sanderson to win the bronze medal.

May and Walsh finished the most impressive gold-medal run since the sport became an Olympic event in 1996. May and Walsh won seven matches and needed only 14 sets to do so. They needed 43 minutes to get through the final. They are the first duo to run through the Olympics so easily.

Walsh ended the match with a spike just inside the line. She dropped to her knees, May tackled her, and they rolled around in the sand. The best team in the world, which boasted a 90-match, 15-tournament winning streak until May was injured earlier this year, had accomplished its goal.

"They form the best team ever in beach volleyball," Youngs said. "It's no secret."

May walked into the news conference room as McPeak and Youngs were concluding their remarks, and the bronze medalists clapped.

"An applause for Misty May," Youngs said.

Before May played the final, she finished sprinkling her mother's ashes into the sand. Her mother, Barbara, had died of cancer two years ago, and May kept her ashes in a bottle that once contained pills for the cancer. She had spread ashes before the semifinal match, too.

"I don't know what I'm supposed to say or sing a song, but I'm very excited," May said of winning a gold medal.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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