US beach women lose their first Olympic set
LONDON -- One streak is over. The unbeaten streak continues for two-time defending Olympic beach volleyball gold medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor.
The Americans lost the first set of their preliminary round match against Austria on Wednesday night -- the first time they've lost a set in three Olympics. But after the 21-17 loss in the first, they came back to win the second by a dominating 21-8 and took the third 15-10 to remain unbeaten in this and every other trip to the Olympic Games.
"I was furious," Walsh Jennings said afterward. "It's still with me. I want to go to the practice court and fix it."
The Americans won seven straight matches in Athens and again in Beijing to collect a pair of gold medals without ever losing a single set. They won also their first two matches in London in straight sets.
That's 16 matches and 32 sets in all.
But they fell behind sisters Stefanie and Doris Schwaiger 19-14 in the first set, closing the gap to 20-17 before a busted play ended with the ball in the net. They were never in trouble in the second and led 12-10 in the third before winning the last three points.
"So we can stop talking about it," said Walsh Jennings, who was playing with an eye infection that is expected to stay with her through the end of the Olympics. "I woke up this morning looking like Rocky Balboa, but it's better now."
Despite the blemish on their record, the Americans won their pool and advance to the knockout round as a No. 1 seed. They won't know their opponent until a draw after Thursday night's matches.
"Now it's a whole new tournament," May-Treanor said.
Earlier Wednesday, Americans Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal beat Latvia to bounce back from their only loss of the tournament and advance. The No. 2 U.S. men's team beat Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Ruslans Sorokins 21-10, 21-16 to finish atop their pool; they were in danger of being eliminated after losing to Poland and falling to 1-1.
"It's hard to sit on it for two days," Rosenthal said. "Normally we'd be out there in a few hours."
Teams play as many as five matches a day on the professional beach volleyball tour, so they don't have much time to celebrate their wins or stew over losses.
At the Olympics, the games come every other day.
That gave them time to work on some of the mistakes they made in their second match. But it also gave them too much time to second-guess themselves.
"You think of every match as a final, almost," Gibb said. "It's not as cool when you lose."
Also Wednesday, five-time Olympian Natalie Cook and Australian partner Tasmin Hinchley were eliminated from the Olympics with a 21-16, 18-21, 15-11 loss to Marketa Slukova and Kristyna Kolocova of the Czech Republic. Cook, who is retiring from international play, was in tears after the match.
"The Olympics is the greatest thing on earth," she said. "I'm proud to be a part of it. I'm sad and I'm disappointed, but I'm proud that I left everything out there."
In other men's beach volleyball play on Wednesday, Martin Spinnangr and Tarjei Viken Skarlund of Norway beat Steve Grotowski and John Garcia-Thompson of Britain, 22-20, 21-13. The hosts finished pool play 0-3 and did not win a set, coming closest on Wednesday before the final point of the first set rolled along the tape on top of the net and fell onto their side, just inside the line.
Even so, Grotowski said the Olympics was the highlight of his career.
"I've never experienced so many people cheering for me," he said. "It is unimaginable for an athlete to compete in an atmosphere like this. That in itself was worth it.
"We'll be depressed and try to talk about what could have been, but it's still good to be here -- to be a part of Team GB. ... We'll go away and hold our heads high. But we definitely had more to give."
Also Wednesday in the men's bracket, Poland beat South Africa in straight sets; Russia beat China 29-27, 17-21, 15-12; Brazilians Ricardo and Pedro beat Canada in straight sets, and Germany beat Sascha Heyer and Seba Chevallier of Switzerland in two sets, too.
In women's action, Germans Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler beat Mauritius in straight sets; defending bronze medalists Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China beat Greece in straight sets; Anastasia Vasina and Anna Vozakova of Russia beat Switzerland, 21-17, 19-21, 15-9; and top-seeded Juliana and Larissa of Brazil beat the Czechs in straight sets.