The British love sun and sand – because they really don’t see much of it. So, maybe it was predictable that Beach Volleyball would become phenomena at the 2012 London Olympics.
With the exception of Track and Field, Beach Volleyball was the hottest of all venue tickets. The long, lean bodies in skimpy outfits kept hip, young crowds coming out in droves.
For American fans, the highlight of the Beach Volleyball action was the Gold Medal final between two U.S. teams – Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh vs. April Ross and Jennifer Kessy.
It presented an odd dilemma for both teams. Both tandems are already rivals on the professional Beach Volleyball tour. But they came into London 2012 as teammates in USA’s overall goal to win to wrestle the Medal Count war away from the Chinese. While rooting for USA to rule the sand pit, both teams wanted to come out on top.
May-Treanor and Walsh would take the Gold, leaving Ross and Kessy to consider the value of winning Silver and representing their country on the Stand while their National Anthem played.
When Ross and Kessy sat down during a post-Games press conference, they explained how they learned to love second place.
The Beach Volleyball players are often looked on as the sexiest players at any Summer Olympics. But, both players waved away the urban legend that the Olympic Village is one big sex party morning, noon and night.
“When we first got here, it was like college,” Kessy said. “Everybody is young. Everybody is in shape. And everybody is open to everybody else. But, we didn’t see all of that.”
If that’s all make-believe, what was their first real strong memory of London 2012?
”I realized it was all real and we were really here when we were announced for our first match,” Ross said. “It hit me that this was our dream and we were actually here. I think that was the biggest athletic moment of our lives.”
“I don’t get star truck easy. But I was a four year old girl around Team USA Basketball. I got to talk to Kobe for 10 minutes.”
For Kessy, it was “sitting in the Olympic Village cafeteria and seeing the massive amount of people in there.”
“That made me realize how truly big and momentous this is. And the Horse Guards Parade Grounds was the most beautiful venue we’ve ever played in. We played under the Eiffel Tower, and I thought that was it – but this beat it.”
While not playing, Kessy kept track of the social media world’s reaction to London 2012.
“People love giving volleyball tips online. It’s funny. People who probably never played the game know they want me to work on my serve. I do answer some of the nicer comments sometimes. The support that comes your way over social media and in person is incredible.”
“I had s seven year old at the USA House come up to me with a huge high five and say, “Great win against Brazil. I looked at him and thought, ‘You’re seven?’”
Though they came up short of Gold in London, the team helped America take the top two spots in Beach Volleyball. Still, that left some room for mixed feelings.
“I was excited the night before the final to realize we had at least a Silver,” Kessy explained. “But it was disappointing to lose that match. It hurt for about a day. But then I got over it and celebrated the Silver Medal.”
“It’s hard in beach volleyball,” Ross added. “Usually you’re on an overall Olympic team competing against another country, but we had to compete against another USA team. It’s hard to win a Silver for your country when you still lose to your country.”
While satisfied with Silver Kessy acknowledged London 2012 will probably be her final Olympics.
“I don’t think I”m coming back. I’ll be 39. I haven’t had children yet. I’ll play another year with April, but she needs a younger partner. I’ve been traveling for 12 years. I’d like to have a home life and play on the domestic tour. It’d be nice to be at home, see my friends I haven’t seen in 12 years. I never say never, but I don’t think so.”