Gstaad, Switzerland, July 28, 2007 - As Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh stood atop an international Beach Volleyball podium with their third-straight SWATCH-FIVB World Championships gold medals around their neck, one only wonders if America’s most successful team ever can maintain their level of play through next summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing.
In becoming the first men’s or women’s team to win three-straight world titles since the start of the FIVB championships in 1997, May-Treanor and Walsh won a pair of “final four” matches over teams from China here Saturday at the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships powered by 1to1 energy to share the US$60,000 first-place prize in the $1-million “Beach Bash” in the Swiss Alps.
In winning their 22nd-straight international match before a jammed-packed centre court of more than 7,000 fans with a 21-16 and 21-10 win in 39 minutes over Jia Tian and Jie Wang of China, May-Treanor and Walsh validated their earlier successes in the SWATCH-FIVB World Championships from the 2003 finale in Rio de Janeiro and two years ago in Berlin.
“This was truly a team effort,” said the 28-year old Walsh, who was selected as the SWATCH most outstanding player for the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships. “I am very fortunate to play with the best overall player in the game. I am embarrassed to win this honor because Misty plays such a big role in our game. She handled almost every serve in both matches today and was nearly flawless. We are a great combination that seeks to improve with each match.”
For the record, May-Treanor and Walsh have now won 28 of 37 gold medal matches on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour since forming their partnership 52 events ago at the start of the 2001 season. The Americans rank behind the legendary Brazilian tandem of Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede as the winningest women’s international Beach Volleyball team. Adriana and Shelda have won 31 SWATCH gold medals in 117 FIVB starts with $ 2,182,865 in earnings as compared to the Americans’ $1,302,540.
When asked about winning another Olympic gold medal, May-Treanor said that Saturday’s win “was important in terms of qualifying, but we still have more than a year before competing in Beijing. A lot of things can happen in the next 12 months. Our only concern is getting better with each tournament and maintaining a consistent level of play.”
After May-Treanor and Walsh scored a 21-14 and 21-19 win in 40 minutes over Chen Xue and Xi Zhang in Saturday morning’s first-semi-final, Tian and Wang had to rally from a 25-23 first-set setback to Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca to win their way to the final with a 21-19 and 15-11 win in 64 minutes over the Brazilians.
Saturday’s final was also the sixth meeting between the two teams with May-Treanor and Walsh winning four times, including a 21-15 and 21-12 win in the Paris grand slam gold medal match last month. The next week in Norway, the Chinese defeated the May-Treanor and Walsh 21-19 and 21-19 in the Stavanger semi-finals. For their fifth silver medal in 11 starts this season, Tian and Wang split $45,000.
Gstaad has proven to be a productive venue for May-Treanor and Walsh, who have won their last five SWATCH-FIVB World Tour appearances in the Swiss Alps village. The Americans have won 40 of 42 matches in Gstaad as Saturday’s two wins increased winning streak on the village courts to 35-straight matches.
For the 2007 season, May-Treanor and Walsh have played in five SWATCH stops with a match mark of 34-1 with four gold medals and a bronze to their credit with $202,000 in earnings. Saturday’s 1,000 SWATCH points also aided the American’s Beijing 2008 Olympic hopes as a team needs eight SWATCH finishes to qualify for next August’s Summer Games in the Chinese capital.
In the bronze medal match, Juliana and Larissa maintained Brazil’s record of claiming a women’s medal in each SWATCH-FIVB World Championships with a 19-21, 21-19 and 18-16 win in 63 minutes over Xu and Zhang. The Brazilians shared $35,000 for third-place with Xue and Zhang splitting $28,000 for fourth-place.
The 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships also features men’s play where the semi-finals and medal matches will be played Sunday. A new men’s champion will be crowned as the 2005 world champions Marcio Araujo and Fabio Magalhaes of Brazil were eliminated earlier Saturday by 33rd-seeded Shun Zhou and Jian Li of China 21-15 and 21-19.