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Beach volleyball

On rainy day, US team shines

American duo is golden again

Kerri Walsh, left, and Misty May-Treanor of the U.S., celebrate their gold medal win in the women's beach volleyball match against China. (Richard Dole / BPI via Bloomberg) Kerri Walsh, left, and Misty May-Treanor of the U.S., celebrate their gold medal win in the women's beach volleyball match against China.
By Gregory Lee Jr.
Globe Staff / August 21, 2008
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BEIJING - The women's beach volleyball gold medal match today was just a coronation for Americans Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor.

Playing in rainy conditions, the American duo defended its Olympic title by defeating Wang Jie and Tian Jia of China, 21-18, 21-18, before a capacity crowd of 12,200 at Chaoyang Park.

The Americans succeeded by taking the big points late in each set to extend their winning streak to 108 matches. They are the only team to win two titles; the sport was introduced at the Atlanta Games in 1996.

"We were warriors," said the 6-foot-2-inch Walsh, a Californian dubbed "Six Feet of Sunshine."

"To come out on top in these conditions on their home field, it was pretty intense," she said. "We felt like we stepped up to the challenge, and I am so proud."

The dominant Americans have won the last three world championships and didn't lose a set in this tournament.

In the first set of the gold medal match, a battle of strategies developed as each team adjusted to wet sand. But the Americans snapped a 17-17 tie by scoring 4 of the final 5 points, capped by a powerful spike by May-Treanor, who controlled the set with soft, delicate shots to keep the Chinese off balance.

"We were prepared for [the rain]," Walsh said. "We've played a lot of FIVB tournaments in the rain and in the sun, so I think the rain gave us luck today."

The Americans carried their momentum into the second set, scoring the first 3 points as Walsh stalked the net and pounded two kills.

However, the Chinese had a surge of their own to fire up the home crowd.

They tied the score, 8-8, in the second after a deep, long serve jammed May-Treanor. On the next point, the Chinese took the lead.

"They came after us," May-Treanor said. "They had some breaks. We've worked so hard for this, strived so hard. This was so big; we have just gone back-to-back at the Olympics. No one has ever done that."

Just as in the first set, the teams traded points as the rain came down harder.

The Chinese took their last lead in the second set when Wang had a kill to make it 15-14. But once again, the Americans took over down the stretch.

Walsh hit a well-placed shot that the Chinese dug out but returned into the net. Then May-Treanor continued her deft shot-making, forcing the Chinese into an errant shot as the Americans took the lead at 16-15. May-Treanor put the US up by 2 with another big point.

Their momentum was halted momentarily when Tian needed a timeout to have her left arm treated, but it merely delayed the inevitable. The Chinese tied the score at 18, but May-Treanor scored as the Americans scrambled out of a difficult situation and forced a Chinese shot into the net.

On the following point, the Chinese were a bit unraveled and hit a shot long. Walsh slammed home the match point by hitting a cross for the winner. The Americans fell to the wet sand and celebrated their second gold medal.

"It was awesome," Walsh said. "I'm so proud we did a good job here in Beijing and I'm so glad it's over. We played such a good game. It was a team effort."

Earlier, Xue Chen and Zhang Xi won China's first beach volleyball medal by beating Talita and Renata of Brazil, 21-19, 21-17, to take the bronze.

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