By Shashank Bengali, McClatchy Newspapers –
LONDON — Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings made their last match together one to remember.
The legendary beach volleyball duo won their third straight Olympic gold medal on Wednesday, dispatching fellow Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross in straight sets and sending May-Treanor off to retirement in style.
When Ross’s serve went long on match point, May-Treanor danced on the sand at Horse Guards Parade, the raucous, best known venue of the London games.
“This is what we dreamed and we lived it,” May-Treanor said.
In front of a sellout crowd that included Prince Harry and David Beckham, the most decorated women’s beach volleyball team ever hardly gave an inch to their opponents, who were making their first Olympic appearance.
May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings had dropped one set the entire tournament and maintained their unbeaten streak at three Olympics.
“I still feel like, somebody pinch me that this happened,” said May-Treanor, 35, who has said she wants to retire to have children. Her husband, Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Matt Treanor, was watching from his team’s clubhouse back in California.
Of her volleyball partner of 11 years, she said: “It’s tough, we’ve been through a lot…on and off the court.”
The all-American final turned Horse Guards Parade, nestled among the prime minister’s office, the foreign ministry and the houses of Parliament in the heart of London, into a patch of Southern California beach. American flags flew from the stands. After rainy and cold conditions the night before, Wednesday night was an almost balmy 66 degrees, and the players wore bikinis instead of the long sleeves they’d sported earlier in the tournament.
“It felt very at home out there with all the USA chants, but it had a British tint to it,” Walsh Jennings said.
Their opponents, who missed qualifying for the Beijing games in 2008, were a surprising finalist pair, beating defending world champion Brazil in a three-set semifinal to advance to the gold medal match.
The first set was a seesaw battle before May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings pulled away to close it out, 21-16. Ross, a fearsome server, tried every combination to throw them off balance — serving long and short, left and right – but in the end the defending gold medalists were too much, with May-Treanor digging a match-high 15 balls out of the sand.
A 21-16 victory in the second set completed the gold-medal hat trick.
Afterward, Kessy said, “They are the best team of all time and it doesn’t feel too bad being second to them right now.
“They really stepped up their game. I don’t even know if they made any mistakes.”
Even after she danced on the stand and beamed on the medal stand, looking as happy as if it was her first time winning gold, May-Treanor said she never questioned that this was her last volleyball match.
“It’s time for me to be a wife,” May-Treanor said. “I want to be a mom. And share time with my family. All of us as athletes we sacrifice more on the family than people maybe realize. And it’s getting back to that.”