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Metzger Dusts Off Sand, Starts Fresh

He's part of a new beach volleyball team in Olympic qualifying event at Carson after being dropped by his former partner.

September 19, 2003|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

In the last month, Stein Metzger was dumped by his beach volleyball partner, found out about it when his girlfriend read it in the newspaper, and, as if that wasn't enough, was defeated by his former partner in an important coin flip for an Olympic qualifying tournament.

And you think you've had a rough go of it lately.

Metzger, a two-time All-American who led UCLA to the NCAA title in 1996, was buried in the lower rung of the Swatch Federation International de Volleyball/Nissan Grand Slam Olympic qualifying tournament Thursday at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

It was vastly different from a month ago, when Metzger and Kevin Wong finished second at an Olympic qualifying tournament in Austria, finally fulfilling the promise that had eluded them since they became a team two years ago.

Wong, however, wanted out of the partnership.

He and Metzger had never been a magnetic duo, often bickering on the sand in the middle of tournaments and finishing 17th in three previous qualifying tournaments. With the Olympics a year away, Wong believed a change was necessary.

Wong called Eric Fonoimoana, the gold-medal winner at the Sydney Olympics, who had been going through struggles of his own. Fonoimoana said yes. He and Wong became a team.

One problem: Nobody told Metzger, who had flown to the Czech Republic the day after the Austria tournament.

"My girlfriend called me when I arrived in Prague and said, 'I just read the morning paper and it said Fonoimoana and Wong are playing together,' " Metzger said. "She sounded too serious to be joking around.

"I went from one of the highest highs, finishing second in Austria, and then found out from my girlfriend that my partner had dumped me. That's great."

Wong said he tried to contact Metzger about the impending breakup, to no avail.

"I left voice mails that were all saying, 'Stein, I really need to talk to you,' " Wong said. "I tried tracking down his girlfriend's number.

"I really did try to get in touch with him. It was the right thing to do."

Metzger and Wong were second among U.S. teams for qualifying points. Now they are starting from scratch with their new partners. Metzger is teaming up with Fonoimoana's former partner, Dax Holdren.

Only two men's teams from each nation can qualify for the Athens Olympics by successfully competing on the 13-month FIVB tour, which will have 17 to 20 tournaments before Athens.

This week's tournament, which ends with the men's and women's championship Sunday, is a grand slam event worth double the normal qualifying points.

Metzger and Holdren advanced out of Thursday's lower-level bracket and into today's main draw by beating Spain's Raul Mesa and Manuel Carrasco, 21-18, 21-14.

They had to play an extra day in the tournament because they lost a coin flip to Wong and Fonoimoana for the final spot in the main draw. Wong and Fonoimoana begin today and Metzger and Holdren are still alive.

"The toughest times are when you learn the most in life," Metzger said. "I'm not going to count us out yet."

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