Fort Lauderdale, Fla, March 30, 2005 - Three of the four teams that competed for the United States in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games have split for the start of the 2005 Beach Volleyball season as that country’s top players begin their domestic tour.
Only Misty May and Kerri Walsh, the Women’s gold medallists in Athens, remain as a team for the opening Association of Volleyball Professionals’ (AVP) Nissan Series event at South Beach Park in Fort Lauderdale.
For the first-time since 2002, Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs, the Athens Women’s bronze medalists, have new partners. McPeak, a three-time Beach Volleyball Olympian, will be competing with Jennifer Kessy while Youngs will team with Rachel Wacholder. Kessy won a 2001 FIVB challenger event in Thailand with Heather Lowe. Wacholder teamed with Walsh to win two international titles last season in France and Austria when May was sidelined with an abdominal strain.
Dax Holdren and Stein Metzger, who placed fifth in Athens after capturing the silver medal at the 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, start the 2005 campaign with Jeff Nygaard and Jake Gibb, respectively. Nygaard teamed with Dain Blanton to place 19th in Athens. Blanton, who won the Sydney 2000 Olympic Gold Medal with Eric Fonoimoana, starts the 2005 season with Kevin Wong.
Wong, who placed fifth at the Sydney Games with Rob Heidger, and Fonoimoana finished fourth among United States teams for America’s two men’s Olympic berths in 2004. Todd Rogers and Sean Scott, who finished third behind the Blanton/Nygaard and Holdren/Metzger teams in the Olympic qualifying process, will continue their partnership for the 2005 season.
Karch Kiraly, who teamed with Kent Steffes to win the Atlanta 1996 Olympic gold medal, starts his second-season with Mike Lambert. The 44-year old Kiraly, who missed qualifying for the Sydney Olympics due to a dislocated right shoulder, has won 147 pro Beach Volleyball titles, including three last season with Lambert.
Missing from the women’s competition will be Annett Davis and Jenny Johnson Jordan, who are skipping the 2005 season. Davis and Johnson Jordan, who placed fifth at the Sydney Olympic Games, finished third among United States teams for America’s two Women’s Olympic berths in 2004 behind May/Walsh and McPeak/Youngs.
Qualifying for the weekend’s two main draw brackets is set for Friday as 105 men’s and 67 Women’s teams have entered the first of 14 stops on the 2005 AVP Tour that concludes at the end of September in Hawaii.
The AVP will also stage events Tempe, Ariz., and Austin, Tex., prior to the start of the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour in mid-May at Shanghai, China. The international Beach Volleyball Tours for Men and Women will feature 16 stops each, including 12 mixed gender events.
Highlighting the 2005 SWATCH-FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour will be four grand slam events in Berlin, Norway (Stavanger), Paris and Austria (Klagenfurt). The June 21-26 German stop will be the SWATCH-FIVB World Championships where May and Walsh will be defending their 2003 title won in Rio de Janeiro.
May and Walsh validated their 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World Championship by becoming the 2004 Olympic champions to assume the position with Brazil’s Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos as the most recognizable Beach Volleyball teams on the planet.
While Emanuel and Ricardo formed their partnership at the end of the 2002 season, May and Walsh have been playing together since the start of the 2001 season. During this period, May and Walsh have compiled a 90-match winning streak (July 2003 to June 2004) while winning 31 pro Beach Volleyball titles in 51 domestic and international starts together.
Highlighted by capturing the Athens 2004 Summer Games’ gold medal by successfully defending their No. 1 Olympic ranking by winning seven-straight matches, May and Walsh climb to the Olympic title also included a 2002 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season points title where they unseated five-time champions Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede of Brazil.
A pair of former collegiate All-Americans, May (Long Beach State) and Walsh (Stanford) earned their second-straight Olympic appearance after both competed in the Sydney 2000 Games. While May was tying for fifth on Bondi Beach with Holly McPeak in the Beach Volleyball competition, Walsh’s indoor team barely missed a medal by placing fourth.
After Sydney, May and Walsh surpassed Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs as the United States’ top international team during the 2002 season. Since the start of the Athens Olympic qualifying process in 2003, May and Walsh have a 78-6 international match mark together by winning nine of 13 events on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour.
Four of the six international defeats since the start of the 2003 season for May and Walsh have been on the sand to teams from Brazil. Ana Paula Connelly and Sandra Pires, the SWATCH team points champions in 2003, posted three wins over the Americans while two-time FIVB World Champions Adriana and Shelda won once. Since 2001, May and Walsh have a 14-7 record against Adriana and Shelda and 5-3 against Ana Paula and Pires.
May and Walsh highlighted their 2003 season by claiming the FIVB World Championships on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro where they defeated Adriana and Shelda in the finals. Adriana and Shelda, who May and Walsh also defeated for the Athens gold medal (21-17 ad 21-11), are also the silver medalists at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and rank as the winningest team ever on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour with 32 international titles together.