London, Great Britain, August 8, 2012 – Defending champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor won a third consecutive Olympic gold medal when they defeated fellow USA team Jennifer Kessy and April Ross 21-16, 21-16 in the London 2012 Olympic Games gold medal match at Horse Guard’s Parade on Wednesday.
Reigning FIVB world champions Juliana Felisberta and Larissa Franca meanwhile beat China’s Chen Xue and Zhang Xi in the bronze medal match.
“It is one thing to play an Olympic final and another to play one with people you know so well,” Walsh said. “It ups the stress levels and anxiety levels. I was more nervous for that match than any other.”
“It’s tough to play your own country, but it is nice to see them back and have an all-US final,” May said. “That’s what we want. It says a lot about volleyball in the US.”
Kessy and Ross served first and scored the first points of the match and for the early part of the match the teams traded points. Eventually May-Treanor and Walsh sneaked ahead and held their advantage to win the first set and take control of the match with a powerful May-Treanor spike.
The second set began in exactly the same way as the first when Ross opened the scoring which led to the two sides exchanging points. Once again though May-Treanor and Walsh stepped up their performance to draw clear. Kessy and Ross were unable to stay in touch and a service error gave Walsh and May-Treanor another gold medal to go with the ones they won at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
It meant that May-Treanor signed off her beach volleyball career in the perfect fashion as they became the first team to win three Olympic beach volleyball gold medals.
“I wanted to do this for her and to finish with a win for both of us,” May-Treanor said. “We set our expectations really high as a team, as people and as players. We set the bar really high and extended ourselves over it.”
For 2009 FIVB world champions Kessy and Ross the silver makes up for missing the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
“We are really proud of what we did here,” Ross said. “It has been a tough battle and we nearly lost to Spain and the Czech Republic and nearly lost to Brazil last night.
“We are really proud of how we fought tonight, but they didn’t let us in. We like to be underdogs and come back and they didn’t let us back in tonight.”
Juliana and Larissa fight back to win bronze
In the bronze medal match Juliana and Larissa staged a second-set comeback to beat China’s Chen Xue and Zhang Xi 11-21, 21-19, 15-12 to win.
“I am so proud of our team,” Juliana said. “At the beginning of the match we didn’t play well and I didn’t know how we did it in the second set. The tie-break at the end, though I hate them, went well. This medal, though it isn’t gold, feels like gold.”
China were fastest into their stride and the Brazilians had no answer to Zhang Xi’s left-handed hitting as they sought a second-consecutive Olympic bronze medal. Juliana and Larissa were also unable to match the fluidity of the Chinese, who won the set when Xue hit a spike that Larissa was unable to defend.
In the second Larissa and Juliana came out with renewed focus, but as the set went on the Chinese gradually took control and built a two-point lead. However, Zhang Xi and Xue couldn’t close out the win and two points from Juliana won them the set and sent her running towards the Downing Street End of Horse Guard’s Parade in celebration.
Juliana and Larissa were visibly reinvigorated by drawing level on the scoreboard and they quickly racked up six points, with two against in the third set. Despite a time-out the Chinese had no riposte to their play and while Zhang Xi saved one matchball, they held their nerve with the second to win the bronze.
“It’s not important to start well, it is important to finish well,” Juliana said. “You want it so bad and I am so proud to have played at the Olympic Games. Last night I said we have to stick together because we had to win the bronze medal.”
In London the teams were divided equally into six pools of and the teams played each other once in their group. The top two advanced to the single-elimination knockout phase that began on August 3 along with the two best third-placed teams. The remaining four third-place teams competed in playoff matches to determine which pairs filled the final two places in the 16-team elimination bracket’s first round.
Sixteen teams qualified for the Games through the Olympic Ranking which is based primarily on world tour standings. Five more joined as winners of the AVC, CAVB, CEV, CSV and NORCECA Continental Cup Finals, and two from the World Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament. Great Britain was granted a berth as hosts.
The sold-out beach volleyball competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games is being held through Aug. 9 in a purpose-built 15,000-seat stadium on the grounds of Horse Guards Parade in central London. For current information, visit www.fivb.org.
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