IN RAIN and in shine, U.S. beach volleyball was good as gold in Beijing. Since this most Californian of sports made its Olympic debut in 1996, the U.S. men and women have never swept—until last week, when Golden Staters Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh defended their title, and a pair of Santa Barbarans, Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser, put the Americans on the top of the podium. Said Dalhausser, whose nine blocks fueled the three-set win over Brazil's Marcio Araujo and Fabio Magalhaes in Friday's championship match, "It feels good to bring U.S.A. volleyball back."
The 6'9", 200-pound Dalhausser is beach volleyball's new prototype. Nicknamed the Thin Beast, he boasts a standing reach of 8'9". If opponents try to dink over him, the 6'2" Rogers is quick enough to run the ball down. Dalhausser came up big against Brazil in the gold medal match: His three blocks of the 6'8" Magalhaes turned the momentum of the decisive set. "Brazil's been dominant for the last seven years," said Rogers, "but Phil and I made our statement here."
May-Treanor and Walsh have been making statements since they joined forces in 2001. They're the first duo to win two gold medals, and in Beijing they extended their streak without a loss to an astonishing 108 matches.
The steady rain that fell throughout Thursday's gold medal match against the Chinese team of Tian Jia and Wang Jie proved no problem for May-Treanor and Walsh. Afterward a jubliant Walsh said, "Athens was lightning in a bottle. This is more soulful."