Jen Kessy and April Ross are trying to do what no American (or international) duo has done in beach volleyball in the last two Olympics--take down the seemingly undefeatable Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor.
So what if Kessy/Ross (ranked fourth) pull off the upset over Walsh/May-Treanor (ranked third) and the rest of the Olympic field? Do they take over the throne? Do they become the team to beat? Are they the next Walsh/May-Treanor?
Not so fast.
When any unbeatable force in sports begins their descent to the rest of the mortal sports world, or retires, one of the first questions we as sports fans and writers ask is, "Who will be the next them?" Think Tiger Woods the past few years, or Roger Federer when he had begun to show signs of aging.
Like Tiger and Federer, May-Treanor and Walsh so completely dominated the sand for years and nobody else was within a mile of catching them.
Walsh and May-Treanor joined forces in 2001 after both had disappointing debuts in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Walsh was 23 and May-Treanor was 22.
From 2003 to 2004, the pair won 89 consecutive matches in the AVP and FIVB tours, the longest such streak at the time. As expected, they were favored to win in Athens and did not disappoint, going undefeated in their seven matches.
Heading into Beijing they were on a 105-match winning streak (with 18-straight tournament titles). They swept (again) to capture another gold, becoming the first pair to do so.
Individually, May-Treanor leads all women in volleyball history with 111 victories, with Walsh at 108. No other player is within 35 wins of either, and the pair are also the only women to earn more than $2 million in winnings. Combined, they have 103 victories and nearly $4 million in earnings. Second is the Brazilian couple of Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca with 47 victories and $2.6 million in winnings.
Ross and Kessy teamed up in 2007 trying to qualify for the Beijing Games, but Kessy was 29 and Ross was 24.
The duo has never come close to the winning streaks tallied by Walsh and May-Treanor, and their 21 tournament titles together, while sixth overall, is a far cry from their U.S. counterparts.
Ross and Kessy are not entering London as favorites to win gold as May-Treanor and Walsh did in 2004. They haven't dominated the sport in the states and in international tournaments in their five years together the way their rivals have.
While it's possible that Ross and Kessy can upset the two-time defending champs-- May-Treanor and Walsh are aging and have slipped in the rankings after spending time off the sand due to injury (May-Treanor) and pregnancy (Walsh)-- it's next to impossible to imagine them repeating what May-Treanor and Walsh have done.
Nobody has come close to Tiger, and while Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have been serious thorns in Federer's side, they still didn't control tennis the way Federer did in the mid-2000s.
And nobody will come close in the foreseeable future to what Walsh and May-Treanor have done for a decade, not even Ross and Kessy.
And the main reason is?
Kessy will not be returning to the Olympics. This is her one and only shot for gold before she retires, according to Fox Sports.
Kessy and Ross are already dark horse contenders, not favorites. And they're past their prime, especially since Kessy's nearing the end of her career, as she claims. They've had a considerable amount of success together in just five years (although in volleyball, that's a long time together), but nothing to the level of their American rivals.
As good as the pair is, it's completely unfair to put them on the same level as Walsh and May-Treanor, who have dominated their sport on a level rarely seen.
So there you have it, there will not be another Walsh/May-Treanor, at least not beginning with London.
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