ATHENS — For Misty May, that nagging abdominal strain just won't go away.
Not the strain itself. That, she insists, is completely gone as she prepares to team with Kerri Walsh in the 2004 Olympic beach volleyball competition.
It's fending off the constant media questions about the strain that has proved to be the bigger strain.
"It can get annoying," May said, "but it was to be expected."
That it was. The words "Misty May" and "abdominal strain" have appeared in the same sentence over and over again in the last four years.
Limited by an abdominal strain at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, May and her partner, Holly McPeak, finished fifth.
Having fully recovered, formed a new team with Walsh and won the world championships in Rio de Janeiro last October, May seemed to have put her medical problems behind her. She and Walsh were cruising along on a record streak heading into the Manhattan Beach Open in June. They had won 90 straight matches and 15 consecutive tournaments, both beach volleyball records.
But then, suddenly and painfully, a new abdominal strain struck May. She and Walsh lost in the semifinals of the Manhattan Beach event to Annett Davis and Jenny Johnson Jordan.
For two months, May nursed the injury, wearing a corset or layers of tape. Finally, at the Hermosa Beach Open, her condition reached the point where she and Walsh had to forfeit the final match to McPeak and Elaine Youngs.
Now it was not only reporters who were asking the abdominal strain question. With the Olympics less than three weeks away, Walsh was doing the questioning. It "scares me to death," she said of the possibility she would have to replace May.
Not to worry, insisted May.
"Three days after Hermosa, everything was fine," May said. "I just needed to calm that area down."
After several furious weeks of rehab, running and practicing, May faced the media Thursday at a news conference. Patiently, she answered question after question about the strain with a smile on her face, declaring that she is "hitting the ball harder than ever."
And Walsh? She laughed about her earlier panic.
"I was just being a little bit of a drama queen," she said.