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BEACH VOLLEYBALL

Fonoimoana's career ends in his hometown

June 07, 2008|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

It wasn't the exit a former Olympic champion might wish for, but at least Eric Fonoimoana left beach volleyball on his terms.

He and partner Dain Blanton, the 2000 gold medal winners in Sydney, Australia, were dispatched by qualifiers Evan Engle and Dane Jensen, 19-21, 21-17, 15-10, in front of a sparse crowd Friday in the second round of the Hermosa Beach Open.

And with that, Fonoimoana, seventh on the all-time list of tournaments played, called it a career.

"It's time, you know," he said. "And I'm glad that I know when it's time rather than holding on too long."

Fonoimoana, 39, announced his retirement at the end of last season, but discovered that he was $3 short of $1 million in career earnings, so he came back for one more event and won $400 at Huntington Beach. And because Hermosa Beach is his hometown, he extended his return once more.

This time, though, he's certain. "I always wanted Hermosa to be the last one," Fonoimoana said.

In his pro career he won 15 times, including at least once every year from 1998 to 2004. He was the AVP Tour's most valuable player in 2002, but his shining moment was the unlikely gold run he and Blanton made as the No. 9-seeded team in the 2000 Olympics.

"He's the best playing partner I've ever had," Blanton said. "I never had to worry about him because he always took care of his own business. He could still play if he wanted to. He can still play at a high level."

Fonoimoana's body won't allow that. He's had three surgeries in the last four years.

He also hasn't won since 2004 and has placed higher than ninth only three times in 35 tournaments since the start of the 2005 season.

"Mentally, I'm out," Fonoimoana said. "My body has gone through a lot and I'm not willing to take the pain mentally anymore. That's where I am. When I was younger, I could go through any pain. Now that I'm older, I'm just done."

Top-seeded Misty May and Kerri Walsh did not give up more than 15 points in six games as they cruised through three matches. They will face No. 4-seeded Carrie Dodd and Tatiana Minello today at 9 a.m. for a spot in the final four. The women's final is at 2:30 p.m.

Six of the top eight seeded men's teams remain unbeaten. Elimination rounds continue today and the final is Sunday.

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peter.yoon@latimes.com

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