It's about time to bring the beach to London.
The United States is sending two tandems with an excellent shot at gold into the Olympic Men's Beach Volleyball Tournament, including defending gold-medalists Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser.
Do we have a potential 1-2 finish in the tournament? You bet we do, but there are bound to be some speed bumps in the 24-team competition.
Here's a guide to introduce you to the teams and what they are facing as they step on the sand in England...
The Defending Champs:
Nickname: "The Professor"
Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA
Rogers is one of the most decorated players in the history of the sport, and acts as a player-coach for the team. He has 24 international wins on the FIVB Tour and 52 victories in the now-defunct AVP. He has over $2 million in career winnings.
Nickname: "The Thin Beast"
Hometown: Baden, Switzerland
Dalhausser is the most physically dominant player in the world, period. Under the tutelage of Rogers, he has become the prototypical big man, with a pair of ultra-soft setting hands to boot. He was won 23 FIVB events and 44 times on the AVP Tour, earning over $1.6 million.
The Other Top Americans:
Nickname: "Rosie" and "Superman"
Hometown: Redondo Beach, CA
Rosenthal is a freakish athlete with incredible quickness on the defensive side of things. While on the AVP Tour, his band of loyal fans, "Rosie's Raiders", terrorized opponents as they watched their man win nine events. He and Gibb have 14 FIVB podium finishes with four tournament wins.
Hometown: Bountiful, UT
Gibb is a well-rounded big man and was named MVP of the AVP Tour in 2005. A devout Mormon, he has 10 siblings. Interestingly, Gibb didn't take up beach volleyball until he was 21. He has 12 AVP win and four FIVB victories with Rosenthal, his longtime teammate.
Jake Gibb hits against Phil Dalhausser.
Gibb and Rosenthal head into London amidst a great FIVB season, leading the tour rankings. They are both healthy and have beaten Rogers/Dalhausser two straight times.
Actually, it's three straight times.
Dalhausser twisted an ankle last week in Berlin and the team was forced to forfeit a semifinal match against Rosie and Gibb. Reports say that Dalhausser should be okay for London, however, as Rogers' Facebook page announced that they had been practicing since arriving London
Rogers is coming off of knee surgery last year, and told Bleacher Report last week that it is "95 percent of what it used to be."
His confidence, however, is as high as its ever been.
"In my opinion, if we're both playing our best volleyball — which you could argue we haven't done yet this year — there isn't a team out there that can beat us," he said.
Phil Dalhausser gets way up.
Aside from staying healthy throughout the tournament, much of the onus will be on Rogers' offense. Considering Dalhausser's size and physical dominance, Rogers will receive the vast majority of serves, leaving Dalhausser to set and Rogers to be the spiker. This was also the case in Beijing, and it was Rogers' craftiness and ability to place the ball all over the court that frustrated opponents the most.
Dalhausser, meanwhile, has a jump serve that is off the charts when he is in the zone. He's also a ferocious blocker that will need to continue to dominate at the net. Opponents will need to hit around his big block, where the defensive-minded Rogers will be ready to dig. If he plays anything like he does in this clip, no one can beat this team.
Rosenthal's quickness on defense is combined with considerable offense for his size. Like Rogers, he will get lots of serves and will need to have his offense in order to win crucial points. Gibb, meanwhile, will have to hang with the big guys at the net as well as set his teammate effectively, which he absolutely knows how to do.
While Rogers/Dalhausser are a generally serious, all-business team, Gibb and Rosie are more extroverted and will have to find the right combination of fun and intensity on the court to make it through the long tournament.
If you have some free time, take a look at this great gold-medal match between the two American teams from the FIVB event in Shanghai this year. Rogers and Dalhausser narrowly won in three sets.
Brazil's Alison and Emanuel
Beach volleyball is a game in which upsets can happen at any moment. Rogers and Dalhausser found this out when they lost to a young Latvian team, Samoilovs/Plavins, in the opening round in Beijing. The shock was a wake-up call, and the Americans had to make a couple more epic comebacks to avoid elimination en route to gold.
The Brazilians, as always, are the top challengers to the Americans. Emanuel/Alison, Ricardo/Cunha and Pedro/Araujo are all ranked in the top five on the FIVB Tour this year, and Emanuel/Alison carry the No. 1 seed into the Olympics (mostly due to playing more tournaments than Rogers/Dalhausser).
There are also strong teams from Germany and The Netherlands who will be contending for a medal.
As far as pool play goes, the American teams should (and should is the key word), cruise through against the lower seeds. Keep up with the schedule here.