Entering London, we knew Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh were no longer the dominant duo that ran off 112 straight wins between 2007 and 2008.
Age, injury and rust have rendered the pair beatable.
What we didn't know was whether or not they had the right combination of moxie, talent and residual drive to win a third consecutive Olympic gold medal.
And after their straight-sets victory over Dutch counterparts Marleen van Iersel and Sanne Keizer in the Round of 16, we aren't all that much closer to an answer.
Sure, the Americans looked impressive, but the early stages of an Olympic beach volleyball tournament don't betray much.
Since May-Treanor and Walsh reunited in 2011, they've had no problem beating underdogs like Keizer and van Iersel.
A quick survey of the tandem's major tournament results this season proves as much:
Brasilia (Open) — fifth
Shanghai (Grand Slam) — ninth
Beijing (Grand Slam) — ninth
Moscow (Gran Slam) — second
Rome (Grand Slam) — fifth
Gstaad (Grand Slam) — first
Walsh and May-Treanor aren't bombing out of tournaments early. They aren't the kind of erratic older team that can summon magic one night and look ragged the next.
Over the last two years, they've finished fifth or better at 15 of their 17 major tournaments. And they've never done worse than ninth.
Problem is, they've won only three of those tourneys.
The top teams—like quarterfinal opponents Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti of Italy—have caught, and in some cases, bypassed America's presiding beach queens.
That's the difference between this version of May-Walsh and past iterations. May-Treanor and Walsh aren't an inconsistent team. They're a consistently good team that's struggled to rediscover their latent greatness.
Perhaps the Olympics was the spark they needed to make that final transformation.
But we won't know for sure until the competition gets stiffer.
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