US Olympic Beach Volleyball: Under-the-Radar Men Better Bets for Gold Than Women

Blake DorfmanFeatured ColumnistJuly 15, 2012

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 15:  (L-R) Beach volleyball players Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers pose for a portrait during the USOC Portrait Shoot at Smashbox West Hollywood on November 15, 2011 in West Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images for USOC)
Harry How/Getty Images

You would never see Todd Rogers or Phil Dalhausser trying out for "Dancing With The Stars."

The defending Olympic gold medalists are stars, to be sure, but they keep their stardom within the realm of beach volleyball.

Rogers is a 38-year-old family man who would, frankly, rather be at home with his wife and kids than anything else. Dalhausser, known as "The Thin Beast" by many, is a 6'10" freak of nature whose insane blocks are much louder than his personality.

Rogers readily admits that he and Dalhausser are happy to fly under the radar.

"Absolutely. I never understood the desire for people to have celebrity status. It's never something I've wanted," he said.

This, of course, is not how things are for Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, the defending champions on the women's side The greatest women's volleyball team of all time has been in the spotlight for years.

May-Treanor is exponentially more famous than her husband Matt, and he plays for the Dodgers. Walsh, meanwhile, has sex appeal and athleticism packed into a slender 6-foot-3 frame.

May-Treanor's ruptured Achilles tendon on "Dancing With the Stars" two years ago left her with some work to do to revive her career, but she is back with Walsh and has seen mixed results in FIVB events heading into the Olympics.

They won the last tour stop in Gstaad, Switzerland but didn't have to face the first or second seeds along the way. This time, they will go into the Olympics as the third-seeded tandem as they try to three-peat for a gold medal.

Meanwhile, the ageless Rogers and his beastly buddy are seeded second on the men's side and have a better chance at gold, even if you don't see their names as often.

If there is any adversity in London, Rogers and Dalhausser will be ready to tackle it. They lost their first match in Beijing to the youngest team in the tournament and were left in a state of shock. A few days later they were nearly eliminated, down 6-0 in the third set before rallying back to win 15-13 in front of a crowd of 12,000 people.

That was followed by another comeback in the quarterfinals until they eventually broke through for a 3-set win in the gold-medal game. They were incredibly focused throughout the drama, to the point where they went to work out immediately after playing each match.

Rogers had knee surgery last summer, which ended the team's season early and kept them out of tournaments that would have likely allowed them to carry the top seed into London. They had won five consecutive FIVB tournaments before that and won their next two after Rogers' return, setting a record with 40 consecutive victories along the way.

Confidence is not an issue for the champs right now.

"We've faced everything at this point. In my opinion, if we're both playing our best, which you could argue we haven't done this year, I just don't think there's a team that can beat us," said Rogers.

Their relentless training has allowed for Rogers to remain an agile defensive genius, while Dalhausser's physical gifts remain unmatched. On top of being the best blocker in the world, he also has a remarkably soft set of hands that allows him to dish up some juicy sets to Rogers.

Since he is smaller, Rogers was the recipient of most of the serves in Beijing. In the title match, he had 43 hitting attempts with 24 kills—a very good average. Dalhausser's setting prowess didn't hurt that cause.

While their exposure levels might be different, the top American men's and women's teams heading into London are actually in similar situations. Both are trying to defend their gold medals after dealing with aging and injury over the last four years. Both teams could find their way to the top of the podium, as Rogers predicts:

"I would never bet against Kerri and Misty. Kerri's drive to win is second to no one... They are the only team that has been there and done that," he said. "If you gave me $100, I'd bet it on them."

All quotes were obtained first-hand.