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May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings lose a set but continue Olympics win streak

By Charean Williams, McClatchy Newspapers –

LONDON — With Big Ben nearing midnight in the background, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings were doing their best not to turn into Cinderella. The Americans had seen their consecutive Olympic win streak end at 32 sets with a first-set loss Wednesday.

Their goal, though, was not to let their match win streak end, too.

Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor rallied for a 17-21, 21-8, 15-10 victory over Austria’s Stefanie and Doris Schwaiger to improve to 17-0 all time in Olympic play. They won their pool and advance to the knockout round as the No. 1 seed.

“We got the win,” May-Treanor said with a shrug. “We don’t even know. When we come through the tunnel, you guys are the ones who tell us like, ‘Oh, the streak. The streak.’ I don’t look at streaks. Kerri doesn’t look at streaks. They come and go. It’s just about like at the end of the day we won 2-1. We don’t look at anything else.”

It was a historic setting, even if the Schwaiger sisters ultimately couldn’t make history of their own.

“We wanted to win at least one set,” Doris Schwaiger said. “That was our big goal. But, of course, if you win the first set, you want to win the other sets. … In the second set, we got a big ball in our face.”

May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings, who have won the past two Olympic gold medals, temporarily have been replaced as the stars of beach volleyball. The venue at Horse Guards Parade instead has stolen the show.

The 15,000-seat stadium, the largest Olympic venue ever for the sport, is built on parade grounds used for reviews and ceremonies since the 17th century, most recently the Queen’s Birthday Parade in June.

Beach volleyball — with its swimsuit-clad dancers, its rock music and its wildly enthusiastic fans — is nestled in the heart of central London. It sits among Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, 10 Downing Street and Nelson’s Column. Many of the city’s most famous attractions are visible from the top of the stands.

“It’s a hell of a contrast from the sublime to the ridiculous,” said a volunteer who declined to give his name for fear of losing his post.

The setting has made the Olympics’ hippest sport even hipper. Paul McCartney has stopped by, as has Prince Albert II of Monaco. NBA players Carmelo Anthony, James Harden and Kevin Durant were on hand as Wednesday night turned into Thursday morning.

“We want to play in front of this crowd right here,” Anthony said.

This is the fifth time beach volleyball has been on the Olympic program, with the first, as May-Treanor pointed out, played in the Georgia woods. She and Walsh Jennings appreciate where their sport has come.

“I’m a history girl, and I love it. I really do,” Walsh Jennings said. “I’m really grateful that they allowed us to be in this venue because it’s the most special venue I’ve ever played in.

“To walk in and see the Horse Guards every day, with their swords, it’s stuff that you read about in books. It’s a living history right here.”

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