Walsh, May-Treanor reign over China; take home second gold
SI.com caught up with senior writer E.M. Swift to get his thoughts on the women's beach volleyball gold medal match. With Swift and others in attendance, dodging raindrops, Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor won a second straight gold medal with a 21-18, 21-18 victory over China's Tian Jia and Wang Jie.
SI.com: What was the atmosphere like at the final?
Swift: You know, the whole time there was a steady rain -- not a drizzle. The fans who sat there, they had their umbrellas and their little ponchos on and were chanting, 'Go China!' I mean, they were into it; there was this dark sky and the energy at the venue was really there. The rain didn't affect the quality of the play at all, so it was exciting the whole time.
SI.com: The match was very close. Was there ever a point you thought the Americans were in trouble?
Swift: China was ahead 5-3 early and then the U.S. tied it up and then it was like 7-7, 14-14, and 18-17. May won her serve at 18-17 and they just stayed on serve from there on out so it ended up being 21-18. The second game, the U.S. got off to a quick start, 3-0, and they looked like maybe they were just going to smoke 'em, but the Chinese came back and they tied it 8-8. Then it was tied 12-12, 15-15, and then 18-18. Whoever wins the 18-18 serve, they're looking great, and that's what happened both times. There was never more than a three-point difference. The Chinese made a couple little mistakes and Walsh and May-Treanor took advantage of them.
SI.com: Was the crowd 100 percent behind China?
Swift: There were definitely a number of Americans there. It was probably more like 75 percent to 25 percent in favor of China.
SI.com: What was the vibe after the match for the winners?
Swift: I mean, Walsh was giddy as schoolgirl. She was more excited than I have seen an athlete in these Games, honest to God. She was yelping 'Go USA!' She was crying just from happiness. She said she appreciated it much more than she did in Athens. I think they know that this could be the end of the road for them.
SI.com: What's next for May-Treanor and Walsh?
Swift: The idea is in 2009, they both have babies. That is their best-case scenario, and then Misty May spends a year raising hers at home. That gives her two years to come back. They both know that nature doesn't quite work on a schedule like volleyball does. The first priority is to have a family, for both of them, but I think May particularly. That's going to be her priority, and if it takes three years to have a child, then she won't be back in 2012. But the goal is to have the child and then come back the last two years before the 2012 Games and defend their title.
SI.com: So tentatively they would like to come back?
Swift: Yep, with a couple of 3-year-olds on their arms! [laughs]
SI.com: Does beach volleyball feel like an Olympic sport?
Swift: Uh, no, frankly, it doesn't. But they have a public address announcer who is really good! There was an hour and a half between the first match and the second and they brought people out of the stands. I guess they were cleared with security, and they had them serving as the mascots. If you hit the mascots, you got to keep the volleyball. Did that feel like an Olympic sport? No. But it was fun.
The announcer was like, 'Who's rooting for China?' and people go, 'Yeeaaaah!' and 'Who's rooting for the USA?' and people go, 'Yeeeaaaah!' He was orchestrating the cheers. They had a ball and it was pouring rain. The cheerleaders were there and it was very easy to pass the time at beach volleyball even if you didn't love it.
SI.com: So it was a good assignment then?
Swift: It was great. It was even better because it was overcast and it wasn't hot.