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US Women Take First-Ever Gold in Olympic Beach Volleyball - 2004-08-25


Misty May and Kerri Walsh gave the United States its first-ever women's gold medals in beach volleyball at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The Brazilian team of Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar took silver, while another American team - Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs won the bronze.

A packed house at the seaside stadium in Athens saw the two U.S. women overtake their Brazilian rivals in straight sets - 21-17 and 21-11. Although the Brazilian team had the most supporters the crowd, it did not seem to matter that the Americans had won the gold. All sides of the stadium erupted into cheers.

Speaking shortly after winning the gold, Walsh said no matter whose side they're cheering for, the stadium crowd is part of the game.

"That's what beach volleyball is all about," she said. "It's so interactive between the crowd and the players. Typically everyone whose at an event has so much passion for the sport and it's infectious and it really helps Misty and I. People can be booing us they can be cheering us on, it really doesn't matter. We just feed off their energy."

Walsh and May gave a lot credit to the Brazilian team, saying they're very, very good - especially on their serves. May says their strategy against the Brazilians was to try to attack on each of their serves.

"But also defense, we have to hold a lot longer," she said. "And make them think instead of us trying to guess what they're doing. We did a great job, Kerri did a great job at the net and it made my job easy in the back."

Beach volleyball got its Olympic start just eight years ago in Atlanta. Since then, it has become one of the most popular events at the Olympics - playing to full stadiums in nearly all the games here. Few events offer such a feel-good atmosphere - disco and rock music blasts through speakers between plays - an energetic announcer gets the entire stadium to do the wave - and every once in a while, a group of 12 young female dancers come out to entertain the crowd.

But, make no mistake, the four women hitting the volleyball back and forth over the net are first class athletes and the fast-scoring game would be entertainment enough without all the extras.

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