Defending champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh from the United States are on their way to bagging the second Olympic beach volleyball gold in Beijing.
After their Chicago win in July, the 16 tournament title in a row, May-Treanor became the first woman to pull off 100 tournament victory and the fastest among the five players to reach the mark.
Dubbed as "queens of the beach", the duo has not been defeated in a single match since last August.
Teamed up in 2001, the two California natives have dominated women's beach volleyball arena by setting a bevy of records. They have won 75 of their last 76 international matches since the end of the 2006 season.
"It doesn't matter what you've won in the past and what you're going to win in the future. It's about now. We want to get better, we want to improve, and we want to win another gold medal," May-Treanor has said.
In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the 23-year-old May-Treanor finished fifth with her then-partner Holly McPeak while Walsh was playing indoor volleyball. Big stride were made after she joined with Walsh, whose skills, size and styles of play complement well with her.
Before executing a 14-game sweep to win the Olympic title in Athens, May-Treanor and Kerri notched a record 89-match winning streak from 2003 to 2004.
"I feel we are the best team, but at times there are other teams that are better," said May-Treanor, adding that they have ever been beaten by the Brazilians as well as the Chinese. She credited the Chinese girls as hard-working and having passion and drive.
May-Treanor, who will turn 31 on July 30, attributed their consecutive winning over formidable young rivals to age and experience. "When it comes to those tight situations, we know that the game's not over. And we can come back from anything because we've done in the past."
"It's experience," Walsh said. "We know where each other is going to be and where each other wants the ball."
Men's beach volleyball legend and three-time U.S. Olympic champion Karch Kiraly also prized the partnership of May-Treanor and Walsh "the best ever."
Starting to play volleyball at the age of 11, May-Treanor switched to beach volleyball in 1999. Her father was on the United States 1968 Olympic volleyball team and her mother was nationally ranked tennis player.
Despite a shoulder injury to Walsh, the pair has steamrolled through volleyball season and appears primed for another gold medal. Since the fan-favorite sport made its debut in Atlanta in 1996, only the United States, Brazil and Australia have claimed the Olympic golds in either the men's or women's events.
The defending champion said that the Beijing Games will be anybody's battle as all qualified teams are competitive.
Topping the women's Olympic beach volleyball standing, May-Treanor and Kerri have to face challenges from third-ranked Brazilian tandem Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca as well as China's Tian Jia/Wang Jie and Zhang Xi/Xue Chen, who are placed second and fourth respectively on the list.
"Whether we're playing the 32nd seed or the second, Kerri and I have to be playing the best we can at all times," she told media in Chicago.
May-Treanor said her favorite moment is when she hears the national anthem. "I always relive it - wining the Olympic medal - over and over. Even though it was four years ago, it still feels like I'm there."
She said frankly that the only goal in mind for her and her teammate is winning another gold in Beijing.
(Xinhua News Agency July 28, 2008)