US duo hopes royal glory
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
The United States Kerri Walsh, left, and Misty May-Treanor, dive for the ball during a women's final match against China's Xue Chen and Zhang Xi at the Beach Volleyball World Tour Grand Slam in Moscow. AP photoMisty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh will attempt to attract interest from Britain’s Royal Family when they bid to win a third successive Olympic beach volleyball gold at London’s Horse Guards Parade.
The contrast between the sport, one of the youngest in the Olympic calendar, and its latest setting, best known as the stage for the Trooping of the Colour on the official birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, could hardly be greater.
Matches will be contested practically on the doorstep of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s official residence at 10 Downing Street.
But it is the prospect of royal patronage that appeals to May-Treanor.
“Any of the Royal Family would be fun,” May-Treanor said. “Their interest is important. They would bring the rest of the country.”
American rivals April Ross and Jennifer Kessy have also considered the possibilities of Royal spectators turning up to watch an event where, if warm weather holds, competitors will be clad in their customary bikinis.
“Prince Harry! Yes, we’ve been tweeting,” Ross said, quickly confessing that she was joking. “It would be great to see Harry at our sport. Or Kate.” May-Treanor, who turns 35 on July 30, and Walsh face a double battle against age and rising Chinese hopes if they are to prevail.
In Beijing four years ago, the American pair defended the title they had won in Athens in 2004.
They also put together a winning run of 112 matches before their lives and priorities changed.
Return to business after injuries, family affairs
May-Treanor, now 34, damaged her Achilles while taking part in the American TV show Dancing With Stars and missed the 2011 season while Walsh, a year younger, left the sport to have two children.
They have recently reformed for the London Games, but are only ranked three in the world behind gold medal favourites Juliana Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil and second-ranked Chinese pair, Zhang Xi and Xue Chen.
The Chinese team showed they are peaking at the right time by taking a third title at the Moscow leg of the championship, over-powering their American rivals. They also won gold in Brasilia and Shanghai. Zhang said: “We matured a lot this winter. Last year we got carried away whenever it came down to it, we did not have peace inside. This is better now. And we trained a lot on being more aggressive in attacking.” More than 5,000 tonnes of sand have been taken from a quarry in southern England to help create a purpose-built beach volleyball court in the heart of central London.
“The location is very iconic and you can see Downing Street and the London Eye in the background,” said Australia’s Natalie Cook. “It is one of the best venues we have played in.” In the men’s event, American world champions Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers will be defending the title they won in Beijing.
But the top-ranked pair are Brazil’s world champions Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego who won in Moscow.
“The main priority in this Olympic year is to be on every podium,” said Rego, a gold medallist in Athens in 2004.
“We improve step-by-step, but this is a big step because Moscow is a grand slam title.”