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US Olympic Champion Misty May-Treanor to Defend Olympic Beach Volleyball Gold


American Olympic champion Misty May-Treanor is one-half of the bikini-clad dynamic-duo that captured the women's beach volleyball gold medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004. May-Treanor and partner Kerri Walsh have set a bevy of records since then. As VOA's Teresa Sullivan reports, Misty will be competing in her third Olympic Games in Beijing where she and Kerri expect to face a higher level of competition in this increasingly popular sport.

U.S. Olympian Misty May-Treanor likes to play in the sand. She and teammate Kerri Walsh have dominated women's beach volleyball since winning the Olympic gold medal four years ago in Athens.

The two California natives have played together since just after the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where May-Treanor placed fifth with then-partner Holly McPeak. May-Treanor says finding the right partner is very important.

"It takes time to, you know, find the right fit," said Misty May-Treanor. "You are going to have your ups, you are going to have your downs, and it is just dealing with it and how do you overcome them."

May-Treanor and Walsh work together like a well-oiled machine. Walsh is 1.90 meters tall, while May-Treanor stands 175 centimeters. Their skills, size and styles of-play complement each other on the court. Walsh says, "We just fit."

But Misty jokes that Kerri has one off-court habit that she finds particularly annoying.

"She is like the ultimate speed reader! I have, like, reading narcolepsy, where I read one page and I fall asleep," said Misty. "And she can roll through books like no other. That is kind of frustrating because I wish I could enjoy reading that much. I just ... I tend to fall asleep."

May-Treanor and Walsh are three-time world champions, and recently increased their career international gold medal count to 33 from 57 events since the start of the 2001 season. Before executing a 14-game sweep to win the Olympic championship in Athens, Misty and Kerri notched a record 89-match winning streak from 2003 to 2004. Then after the Olympics, the "queens of the beach" won another 50 straight matches, for good measure.

Last year, Misty clinched her 73rd title to become the all-time winningest player in women's beach volleyball. Her 19 domestic and international victories also tied her for the most-ever among women.

Men's beach volleyball legend and three-time U.S. Olympic champion Karch Kiraly has called May-Treanor and Walsh's partnership "the best ever."

But May-Treanor does not take anything for granted. While acknowledging the dominance she and Walsh have built through the years, Misty also has a realistic attitude about the competition in Beijing.

"I feel we are the best team, but at times there are other teams that are better," said Misty May-Treanor. "I feel that when we are playing well, we are the best team, but not all the time. I mean, we have been beaten by the Brazil team, we have been beaten by China, so you know, I need to go out every match that I play and say, 'We are the best team in the world.' "

May-Treanor and Walsh have been training for the Olympics with new coach, Troy Tanner. Misty says Tanner emphasized the fundamentals to elevate their game, and he reminded them to have fun in the process.

"What Troy did was kind of took Kerri and I backwards, just broke down the basics, broke down our passing - kind of slowed everything down, and just reintroduced the fundamentals to us," she said. "And that is kind of what you need as an athlete. You hate taking that step backwards because you are like, 'Oh this is tedious,' or 'This is boring,' but you need to do that because when you get in the tight matches, especially in beach volleyball where every play is a point, you need to get back to the basics. So even though it is easy, and it is the little skills that we might forget, or the drill we might forget to do, it kind of brought the fun back into it."

Misty is married to Major League Baseball player Matt Treanor, who is a catcher for the Florida Marlins. She and her two brothers grew up in Costa Mesa in southern California. Both of May-Treanor's parents, Butch and Barbara May, played volleyball. Her father competed in indoor volleyball at the 1968 Olympics. Barbara died in 2002. Misty honored her mother in 2004 by scattering some of her cremated remains on the beach court in Athens before she and Kerri played for the Olympic championship.

Beijing will be Misty May-Treanor's third Olympics, but only time will tell if it will be her last. Earlier this year, she said she had accomplished everything she set out to do after winning in Athens, so playing in Beijing will almost be like playing for fun. Almost.

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