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Another Season in the Sand for Kiraly

August 09, 2003|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

Karch Kiraly, beach volleyball's career leader with 143 tournament titles and the sport's most recognizable name, will play another season, he said Friday.

Kiraly, who turns 43 in November, is the only three-time gold-medal winner in Olympic volleyball history. He has been playing professionally since 1978.

Kiraly and partner Brent Doble have had some hard-luck losses this season on the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour Nissan Series, but Kiraly has remained one of the tour's top players.

Kiraly, also one of the AVP's most popular players, said he feels better physically than he has in years.

"Not many people get an opportunity to play a kid's game at the beach and earn a living," Kiraly said. "Might as well ride it while the engine's still running."

Kiraly, who won the gold medal at beach volleyball's Olympic debut in 1996, was a four-time All-American at UCLA. He won gold medals with the U.S. indoor team at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, and won 77 AVP tournaments from 1992 to '96, most of them with Kent Steffes.

Three years ago, Kiraly was selected player of the century by the Federation Internationale de Volleyball.

When this season began, Kiraly did not commit to next year, saying he would evaluate as the season progressed. Between matches Friday at the Manhattan Beach Open, he was firm in his decision to extend his career at least one more year.

"Absolutely," he said. "[It's] based on how good my body feels and how much fun we've been having and how we're competitive in every tournament."

Kiraly and Doble have collected two third places and three fifth places on the AVP tour this season.

Kiraly has not played in any international tournaments but did not rule out trying to make next year's Athens Olympics. Teams can only qualify for the Olympics based on their performance in FIVB tournaments around the world.

Kiraly said he would make a decision about the Olympics after an FIVB tournament at the Home Depot Center in Carson in September.

The tournament will be worth double the normal points in the arduous 14-month Olympic qualifying process.

"If for some reason we did very well, we'd push down on the gas," Kiraly said.

Kiraly and Doble advanced to the fourth round of the Manhattan Beach Open by beating Aaron Boss and Alika Williams, 21-17, 21-16.

Also among those advancing to the fourth round were the newly formed team of ex-Olympians Kevin Wong and Eric Fonoimoana and the second-seeded team of Canyon Ceman and Mike Whitmarsh.

As expected, top-seeded Misty May and Kerri Walsh swept their way to the women's quarterfinals and are on target to become part of the first women's AVP final to be televised live by NBC.

"We want to be part of that history [today]," May said. "It's good not only for us but for our sport."

Second-seeded Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs also had a breezy day, sweeping their way to the quarterfinals.

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