Saturday, August 21, 2010

August 21, 2008: A day on the beach

BEIJING - Their names have become synonymous with their sport. It is nearly impossible to think of beach volleyball and not also think of Misty May and Kerri Walsh. The two have completely dominated their sport to the point that they are among the most recognized female athletes worldwide in any sport.

After dominating the competition in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, not losing a game in sweeping to the gold medal, May and Walsh went into the 2008 games in Beijing riding a 101-match winning streak. There was no reason to believe the streak would end in Beijing.

The 6-1 offensive force Walsh and the 5-8 defensive wizard May lived up to all expectations in Beijing, not dropping a game in group play or in the elimination bracket leading up to the gold medal match. Even playing against the sentimental favorites, Tian Jia and Wang Jie of China, was no problem, as May and Walsh won their second straight gold, extending their unbeaten streak to 108 matches.

May and Walsh were finally beaten when they returned home from Beijing, losing to fellow American Olympians Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs to end their winning streak at 112 matches. They lost another match later in the year before deciding to take a break. Now, May competes with Branagh on the professional tour, while Walsh continues her break. Even if they never play together again, though, their names will always be linked in Olympic history.

August 21, 2004: ATHENS - In 2000, Gary Hall Jr. had been part of a thrilling 50-meter freestyle final at the Olympics, finishing in a dead heat with fellow American Anthony Ervin to split the gold medal. Back in the final of the same race four years later, Hall continued his habit of dramatic finishes, edging Croatian Duje Draganja by .01 seconds to win his second straight gold.

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