Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have always enjoyed their week stay in the Swiss Alps where the winningest team in American women's Beach Volleyball history has collected four golds and one bronze medal in the village of Gstaad.
When the Americans return to Gstaad this July, the competition will be for the US$1-million SWATCH-FIVB World Championships powered by 1 TO 1 ENERGY. May-Treanor and Walsh will enter the competition as the two-time defending champions after capturing the world titles in Rio de Janeiro (October 2003) and Berlin (June 2005) by defeating teams from Brazil in both finales.
The 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships will be played July 24-29 featuring 48 teams per gender. After three matches per team in pool play, the top two tandems from each of the 12 groups will advance to single-elimination competition to determine the gold medal teams.
The reigning Olympic champions, May-Treanor and Walsh have also won their four visits to Gstaad to become the winningest team on the Swiss Village sand with more than a tenth of their SWATCH career earnings as a team being won in the Alps ($127,800 of $1,100,540).
"Misty and I love playing in Gstaad," said Walsh, who earned her first of 42 SWATCH medals in the Swiss village with May-Treanor in June 2001. "With beautiful surroundings and great fans, this year's event will provide the unique setting in the history of the world championships."
May-Treanor, who placed second in her first Gstaad appearance in 2000 with Holly McPeak, feels the pressure of the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships will make the competition "even better than before. In addition to playing for a world title, we'll be competing for valuable Olympic qualifying points."
The 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships will distribute the most Olympic qualifying points during the process for the Beijing 2008 Summer Games. While an "open" FIVB event awards the winning team 600 points, a gold medal finish in Gstaad will earn a team 1,000 points along with a $60,000 paycheck.
"Kerri and I have played in three world championships now," May-Treanor offered, "and competition is totally different than any other world tour event. Outside of the Olympics, this is the biggest event in the Beach Volleyball. We have an opportunity to three-peat, so everyone will be competing hard against us."
May-Treanor and Walsh spoiled Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede's bid for three-straight SWATCH-FIVB World Championship titles in October 2003 on Copacabana Beach by defeating the Brazilians 21-19 and 21-19 in the Rio de Janeiro finale.
Two seasons later, May-Treanor captured their second world title by defeating Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil 21-17 and 21-17 in the Berlin gold medal match in June. The Americans survived a semi-final scare as Fei Wang and Jia Tian extended May-Treanor and Walsh to a third set before the Chinese retired due to injury.
"The Chinese have played extremely well the past five seasons," said Walsh, who trained against with the players from Asian country on the beaches of Southern California the past two years. In fact, two of our last three losses on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour have been to Chinese teams, and I know they will continue to perform well leading into the Olympics in their country."
May-Treanor and Walsh step up their play as the tournament's importance grows. Since 2001, when the duo began playing together on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, there have been 21 events that featured bigger than normal prize money, including Grand Slams and World Championships, as well as the Olympics. May-Treanor and Walsh have won 10 of those 17 events they have played, helping the United States to claim 14 titles in that span.
With Grand Slams in Paris, Stavanger and Berlin leading up to the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships in Gstaad at the end of July, the Americans will face opponents' best efforts as they are the team to beat when there is more on the line.