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Driving home points and wins

May-Treanor and Walsh, defending gold medalists in beach volleyball, adjust to the unusual schedule.

August 12, 2008|K.C. Johnson | Chicago Tribune

BEIJING -- With Kid Rock blaring on the loudspeakers early this morning, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh could've been playing anywhere from Chicago's North Avenue Beach to Manhattan Beach.

Which seemed fitting, since the defending gold-medal winners in beach volleyball keep winning with metronomic regularity, no matter the venue, no matter the stakes.

Today's straight-sets victory over Cuba's Dalixia Fernandez and Tamara Larrea, punctuated by a May-Treanor spike, marked their 64th straight triumph. The 21-15, 21-16 decision also tied an Olympic beach volleyball record as the duo's ninth straight Olympic victory.

The raucous crowd at Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground responded in kind. "I think everyone had their morning coffee," May-Treanor said.

The second-seeded American duo played as if caffeinated, cutting down on its unforced errors from an opening-match victory over Japan's Mika Teru Saiki and Chiaki Kusuhara and displaying an attack as relentless and suffocating as the humidity that envelops this city.

"I feel we're playing better and better every time we're on the court," May-Treanor said.

That isn't very often. Walsh acknowledged the difficulty of adjusting to the Olympic schedule, which features matches every other day.

"We're used to playing three matches in a day," Walsh said. "Now we have 11 days to play hopefully six matches. That creates a mental challenge. So we're lifting on our game days and staying focused by trying to study our opponents."

They certainly aren't studying their winning streak. In fact, both players appear tired of talking about it.

"At the end of the day, we don't go home and write it down," May-Treanor said. "We just say, 'OK, another day.' You have to look at each match and each set. The winning streak will come if you do that. It's built slowly, like the Great Wall."

Up next for May-Treanor and Walsh is a Thursday matchup with the 11th-seeded Norwegian duo of Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen. That's one day before Walsh's 30th birthday -- "I'm trying to hang on to my 20s," she joked -- but she has already received a present this week.

Near the tail end of Sunday's opening-match victory, she jumped for a block and her wedding ring slipped off her finger.

Five matches followed. Volunteers later searched the area with metal detectors and found it, returning the ring to Walsh on Monday.

The ring is gold. With it secured, the quest for more gold continues.

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