Aug. 24, 2004
Athens, Greece - After not medalling in the first two women's Olympic Beach Volleyball competitions in Atlanta and Sydney, the United States captured two podium spots here Tuesday at the Athens 2004 Games. Fourth-seeded Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs were the first American team to win a Beach Volleyball medal match as they scored a 21-17 and 21-16 win over fifth-seeded Natalie Cook and Nicole Sanderson in 71 minutes to net the bronze medal before a capacity crowd of 10,000 at the Olympic Beach Centre. Top-seeded Misty May and Kerri Walsh continued their amazing string of successes since the start of the Olympic qualifying process in 2003 as the young Americans posted a 21-17 and 21-11 in 43 minutes over second-seeded Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede of Brazil. In the past two years, May and Walsh have won nine of 13 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events with an 88-6 international match mark. With the bronze medal win, McPeak and Youngs denied Cook her third Olympic medal as she won the bronze in 1996 in Atlanta and the gold in 2000 at Sydney with Kerri Pottharst. The gold medal win by May and Walsh also denied the Brazilians the top spot on the podium for the second-straight Olympics as Adriana and Shelda dropped the Sydney 2000 gold medal match to Cook and Pottharst. "I am thrilled and almost speechless," said McPeak as she entered the mixed zone after winning the bronze. "Obviously, my feeling is different this time as we accomplished almost everything we wanted. Our goal was the gold, but we'll take the bronze since we lost to the best team in the world" For Walsh, the experience was "not for real. I am so happy. Misty is the best player in the world." However, Walsh was named the women's most valuable player of the Athens Olympics in the balloting by the media. "They came at us at the start," May said about the opening set of the gold medal match. "Their defence was great in the opening set. We got stronger as the match progressed. We played some of our best volleyball of the year and really played well in the second set against a great team." The win was the seventh-straight by May and Walsh over the Brazilians as they improved their all-time series with Adriana and Shelda to 14-7. Tuesday's meeting was the 11th-time that the two teams have played for a SWATCH-FIVB World Tour title and May and Walsh have won eight times. In addition, May and Walsh have lost only once on the sand in July 5, 2003 with the team posting 110 wins during the period with three forfeit losses. May and Walsh had won a record 90-straight matches before losing June 6 in the semi-finals of a domestic event in Manhattan Beach, Calif., to Annett Davis and Jenny Johnson Jordan. "I am very happy despite losing to the Americans," said Adriana after the match. "We have played together for nine years and we have worked very hard. It was a different feeling for us this time as compared to Sydney since the Americans were the favourites here." The men's Olympic medal matches will be played Wednesday evening as Javier Bosma and Pablo Herrera of Spain challenge top-seeded Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos of Brazil for the gold medal at 9 p.m. at the Olympic Beach Volleyball Centre.