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Storming The Beach

Johnson Jordan, Davis Seek to Continue Medal-Winning Legacy

September 12, 2000|MIKE BRESNAHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rafer Johnson better make room on the mantle.

The family collection of Olympic hardware, which includes one of the most revered gold medals in U.S. history, could grow by the end of the month if all goes well for Rafer's daughter, Jenny Johnson Jordan, and her beach volleyball partner, Annett Davis.

The breezy milieu, Bondi Beach in Sydney, is vastly different than the environment Rafer Johnson experienced in winning a silver medal at the politically charged 1956 Melbourne Games and a gold in the hotly contested 1960 Olympic decathlon in Rome.

But Johnson Jordan, 27, has carved her own niche in beach volleyball, which became an official Olympic event in 1996.

The former UCLA All-American, who grew up in Sherman Oaks and lives in Tarzana, has teamed with Davis, also a resident of Tarzana, to become a success story.

The duo started playing the two-on-two format only a few years ago and compiled bottom-of-the-barrel finishes in its first two international tournaments in 1998.

More familiar with four-on-four and six-on-six competition, Johnson Jordan and Davis found the two-on-two game anything but easy--fewer players, more sand to cover, more confusing.

"I felt like I was learning a completely different game," said Davis, also a former UCLA All-American. "Definitely a hard transition."

But they broke through with a third-place finish at a tournament in Canada last year.

"We looked at each other and said, 'It's a longshot [for the Olympics], but we can do it,' " Johnson Jordan said. "It didn't seem so far off after that."

Since then, Johnson Jordan and Davis have accumulated two firsts, three seconds and a slew of third- and fourth-place finishes.

As a result, the public eye has found them.

They have done countless magazine pictorials and are featured on a national commercial for an auto maker. Life has been busy beyond the sand and surf.

"I'm no Marion Jones, but we have been getting calls to do stuff," Johnson Jordan said. "I can see how it can be a distraction if you let it be, if you say yes to too many things. With us, training comes first and that comes second."

The duo emerged from qualifying to earn the No. 3 seed in the Olympics.

They face a potentially rough semifinal against No. 2-seeded Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede of Brazil, who were 8-0 against Johnson Jordan and Davis until the Americans finally prevailed to win the French Open on July 23.

If Olympic karma is a factor, the U.S. duo should be in good shape. Rafer Johnson, 65, will be in attendance, cheering and hollering.

"It's much more difficult for me as a parent to sit and watch," Johnson said. "You want to be as much help as you can possibly be. We pray and we shout and we hope, but that's all we can do."

His daughter's success stirs memories.

"I'm reminded of my experiences every time I watch her," Johnson said. "I think back on what happened to me. I realize how difficult it is to become an Olympian. I know how difficult the process is. I'm proud of the way things have worked out for her.

"There's a father-daughter bond. There's an Olympian bond."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

PROFILES

JENNY JOHNSON JORDAN

Age: 27

Birthplace: Tarzana

Residence: Tarzana

High school: Windward

College: UCLA

Honors: All-American at UCLA. She and teammate Annett Davis finished 1999 as the No. 2 team in world rankings. They have won two international tournaments and are seeded No. 3 for Olympics.

*

ANNETT DAVIS

Age: 26

Birthplace: Long Beach

Residence: Tarzana

High school: St. Anthony

College: UCLA

Honors: All-American at UCLA

*

SYDNEY SCHEDULE

What: Women's beach volleyball

When: Sept. 16-25

Where: Beach Volleyball Centre, Bondi Beach, Sydney

Qualifying: Elimination matches Sept, 16, 18 and 21; Quarterfinals and semifinals on Sept. 23; Medal matches on Sept. 25

Medal Favorites: Misty May and Holly McPeak of U.S., Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede of Brazil, Sandra Pires and Adriana Samuel of Brazil

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