Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh defeated fellow Americans Jen Kessy and April Ross to win their third consecutive beach volleyball Olympic gold medal, while Brazil bested China to earn bronze.
May-Treanor and Walsh became the first team to win the competition twice in 2008 and further cemented their place among the sports’ all-time greats with their latest piece of hardware.
In the first set, the team took a 17-14 lead over Kessy and Ross after an ace by Walsh. The underdogs took a timeout, but it did not slow down May-Treanor and Walsh’s momentum; and they took the set 21-16.
In the second set, Kessy and Ross remained competitive and were determined not to let the reigning gold-medal winners pull away. But once again, Walsh took a 17-14 lead with an ace, and an incredible dig by May-Treanor led to next point.
The second set also ended 21-16, and May-Treanor and Walsh proved to be the best in the world once again.
According to Worldbeachvolleyball.com, this was the 31st meeting between the two American teams since 2007, and the 26th victory for May-Treanor and Walsh.
The greatest team in women’s beach volleyball history has played their final match, and they will retire, as noted by Sports Illustrated’s Phil Taylor.
In the bronze-medal match, the Chinese were the aggressors in the first set and won 21-11. Zhang Xi and Xue Chen dominated the Brazilians, who looked out of sorts.
China appeared to be headed towards a blowout victory as Larissa continued her usual barking at teammate Juliana. But whatever she yelled seemed to be effective, and the two Brazilians were able to reverse the momentum.
In the next set, Larissa and Juliana fought to win 21-19, meaning the two teams would face off and the first to fifteen points would get a bronze medal.
Brazil refused to let China regain control of the match and took a 6-2 lead early in the decisive third set. Zhang and Xue did not go out easily, and they were able to close the gap; but in the end, the Brazilians won 15-12, and both women earned their first Olympic medal.
For the Chinese, Zhang is 27 years old and Xue is just 23; they will almost certainly be back to compete for a medal in 2016.
Larissa and Juliana are 30 and 29, respectively, and competing at the next Olympics in their home country will be extremely tempting.
The silver medalists have competed for the last time together. Kessy will be 39 years old when the Rio De Janeiro games come around, and Reid Forgrave of Fox Sports notes that she will retire.
Finally, the three-time gold-medal winners went out on top of the beach volleyball world, and their legacy will ensure that they stay there for quite some time.
All results from the tournament are available at NBCOlympics.com.