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Olympics Have Whitmarsh Rethinking Retirement

He and Ceman vault to No. 3 among U.S. men's teams. Brazilian duo wins Carson event.

September 22, 2003|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

Mike Whitmarsh was supposed to retire quietly a few days ago to spend more time with his ever-growing family and leave behind a memorable 17-year pro beach volleyball career that included a silver medal at the Atlanta Olympics.

Then an Olympic qualifying tournament came rolling into town, and Whitmarsh started winning. Now he has some decisions to make about next year's Athens Olympics.

Whitmarsh, 41, and Canyon Ceman defeated Austria's Nikolas Berger and Clemens Doppler, 22-20, 21-16, on Sunday to finish third at the Swatch Federation Internationale de Volleyball/Nissan Grand Slam Olympic qualifying tournament at the Home Depot Center.

Brazil's Ricardo Santos and Emanuel Rego ripped through Sascha Heyer and Markus Egger, 21-11, 21-18, for their fourth consecutive tournament title in their first season together.

Because the event was worth double the normal qualifying points, Ceman and Whitmarsh vaulted from the seventh-best U.S. team in the standings to No. 3 among active U.S. teams. Only two teams from each nation can qualify for the Olympics by successfully competing on the 13-month FIVB tour, which will have about 10 more tournaments before Athens.

Dain Blanton and Jeff Nygaard have a good grip on the top U.S. spot in the world standings, but no U.S. team has distinguished itself at No. 2.

Whitmarsh will not go to next month's world championships in Brazil, because he and his wife are expecting their second child.

But beyond that....

"I'm not going to rule either way," Whitmarsh said. "Having that second spot open is very tempting."

Ceman, undoubtedly, will try to persuade Whitmarsh to go for the Olympics.

"I'm going to send him a team Ceman-Whitmarsh Christmas card," Ceman said.

There is little doubting which team is the world's best.

In the final, Santos had 10 blocks and continually frustrated Heyer at the net, and Rego played seamless defense in the back of the court.

Rego played as comfortably as if he were at home, which he was, to a degree.

Rego won seven titles in three seasons on the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals domestic tour before leaving in 2001 for the Brazilian domestic tour. Rego said he would consider returning to the AVP after the Olympics.

"I miss a lot here," said Rego, who still owns a home in Redondo Beach. "The three years I played here, people treated me as an American, not a foreign player on the AVP."

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Where They Stand

Federation Internationale de Volleyball standings. The top two teams from each nation qualify for the Athens Olympics. Point totals are estimated, with official totals released today. The next event, the FIVB world championships, is scheduled for next month in Brazil.

MEN

1. Ricardo Santos and Emanuel Rego, Brazil, 2,952

2. Benjamin Insfran and Marcio Araujo, Brazil, 2,596

3. Paul Laciga and Martin Laciga, Switzerland, 2,210

4. Markus Dieckmann and Jonas Reckermann, Germany, 2,136

5. Nikolas Berger and Clemens Doppler, Austria, 1,998

*

Others

11. Dain Blanton and Jeff Nygaard, U.S., 1,516

13. Todd Rogers and Sean Scott, U.S., 1,264

24. Canyon Ceman and Mike Whitmarsh, U.S., 584

*

WOMEN

1. Ana Paula Connelly and Sandra Pires Taveres, Brazil, 3,384

2. Misty May and Kerri Walsh, U.S., 2,890

3. Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede, Brazil, 2,858

4. Natalie Cook and Nicole Sanderson, Australia, 2,266

5. Tian Jia and Wang Fei, China, 2,228

*

Others

7. Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs, U.S., 1,690

10. Annett Davis and Jenny Johnson Jordan, U.S., 1,584

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