Aug. 9, 2012
By Ann Killion
LONDON - Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor had done this before. Twice in fact.
So it was a little surprising to see how overcome they were with joy and emotion when they won their third gold medal in beach volleyball on Wednesday night. They rushed to the stands to hug their own family and each other's family.
May-Treanor looked stunned. And Walsh dissolved in tears.
"It feels so new," said Walsh, who grabbed her two young sons Joey and Sundance from the stands. "A lot has happened. It's better, sweeter, because the road has been full of challenges. Life challenges. Adult challenges."
Stanford graduate Walsh and May-Treanor were victorious in an All-American final: they beat Jen Kessy and April Ross, who both played at USC, in straight sets.
Kessy and Ross, who have known Walsh and May-Treanor their entire lives, were just proud to be involved in such a great night for American beach volleyball.
"This is a huge thing for USA volleyball," said Kessy. She and Ross pulled an upset to reach the gold medal game, defeating the reigning world champions Larissa Franca and Juliana Silva of Brazil to reach the gold medal game.
"I hope we go home to the tournament in Huntington Beach and we have a gazillion new fans," Ross said.
They gained a gazillion new fans in London, including Prince Harry who showed up for the gold medal match.
"We're stoked he thought it was worthwhile to come," said Ross, who might have broken some kind of royal protocol by using the word "stoked" about a member of the royal family.
The match was held at the prettiest, most fun venue at the London Olympics, the Horse Guards Parade. The view from the stands was of the imposing façades of the government buildings, the Eye and Big Ben in the distance. Rock music blared, a dance team performed, massive quantities of beer were consumed and the stadium announcer joked that Queen Elizabeth was asking them to keep the noise down in her neighborhood.
"It felt very American out here with all the USA chants, but with a British twist," Walsh said.
After winning match point, Walsh and May-Treanor collapsed in on the ground in a hug. Walsh said they were overcome with emotion because of the journey they were on. Both players took time off after winning gold in Beijing. Walsh had her children and May-Treanor tore her Achilles tendon on Dancing With the Stars. When they decided to reunite, for one last Olympic run, it felt different.
"We took two years apart and went through a lot of challenges," Walsh said. "When we came back we said, let's treat this as something special."
But May-Treanor says she is definitely retiring now, while Walsh will be looking for another partner to pair with on the road to Rio in 2016.
"Our competitive journey is done," Walsh said. "That crushes. But we're going to be girlfriends and share each other's lives."
And their legacy as the greatest beach volleyball duo of all time.