The American beach volleyball team of Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser won gold in Beijing and was among the favorites to do so again in London, but Team USA's marquee pairing will come away without a medal after being upset by Italy's combo of Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo in the round of 16. Italy won two sets to none, 21-17, 21-19.
Rogers and Dalhausser were the No. 4 seed in the men's tournament, but most expected them to come away with a medal of some kind. The much younger Italians are ranked No. 15, but they used explosiveness, energy and youthful exuberance to beat the veteran Americans.
The 38-year-old Rogers planned to retire following the London Games, and he confirmed that in a post-match interview with NBC's Heather Cox. Injuries have hampered him over the past year, and a tweaked hamstring appeared to slow him down during the match on Friday.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for the 32-year-old Dalhausser, but the most valuable player of the 2008 Olympics would seem likely to find another partner and continue playing. Whatever the case, the team of Rogers and Dalhausser is no more for the United States.
While the loss is a major blow for an American squad that was hoping for two medals in men's beach volleyball, there is still one team alive. Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal will take on Russia's tandem of Konstantin Semenov and Sergey Prokopyev and now represent the last American chance to medal in men's beach volleyball.
Rogers and Dalhausser were very complimentary to their Italian counterparts during the post-match interview and believe they have a great chance to medal. The Italians and the other American team are on opposite sides of the draw, so it stands to reason that Gibb and Rosenthal could avenge the loss of their compatriots in the finals.
While Rogers and Dalhausser losing may seem like a huge upset on the surface, they haven't been the same team that they were in Beijing, and it showed in London, as they labored through some of their preliminary matches.
Both men are four years older than they were in 2008 and their loss proves how difficult it is to defend Olympic gold. Dalhausser said after the match that the Italian team had been called "young Rogers and Dalhausser" and that they had beaten the Americans at their own game.
Perhaps this was a passing of the torch of sorts, and while Rogers and Dalhausser clearly seemed disappointed that they were unable to advance further, they have already accomplished a lot and left their mark on American beach volleyball.
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