BEIJING (AP) For a moment, it looked like President Bush was going to dive into the sand for the ball while hitting it around with U.S. Olympian Misty May-Treanor at the beach volleyball venue on Saturday.
His handlers watched anxiously. Photographers leaned in. Secret Service agents stood poised to intervene.
And then, the president waved his arms around in a cartoonish play at staying on his feet.
"I think if he'd take his shoes off, he'd be a stud," said Kerri Walsh, who with May-Treanor is trying to win a second straight Olympic gold medal.
Bush spent about 30 minutes visiting with American beach volleyball players at the Chaoyang Park practice courts before they played their first matches on Saturday, getting sandy with May-Treanor and posing for pictures with the athletes.
"What an honor," Walsh said. "He's just a great sports fan and he exudes optimism and pride in his country. We know he's proud of us."
Wearing a sweat-soaked sport shirt and khakis, Bush tried out a few bumps himself while May-Treanor and Walsh took a break in practice. The president's passing needs work: he hit a pair straight but off his knuckles, then opted not to dive after the ball that May-Treanor returned.
"We've got to get him some shorts and a tank top," May-Treanor said. "Give him a little more time and he'll be good."
Bush then visited with men's players Phil Dalhausser, Todd Rogers, Sean Rosenthal and Jake Gibb. Many of them had met him twice previously, at a White House reception before they left for China and again before the opening ceremony on Friday night.
May-Treanor had joked with Bush about the tattoo on her lower back, which is the angle many TV viewers see of her because she is usually playing defense. When Bush saw her on Saturday, he gave her a friendly slap on the tattoo - the Roman numeral five and her grandmother's initials - and joked about getting a tattoo of his own.
Bush handed out a few of his trademark nicknames: Rogers was "Toddly" and the 6-foot-9 Dalhausser was "Big Guy"; ("Stretch" must already be taken). The president recognized the camera-shy Dalhausser from their White House meeting and apologized for the phalanx of photographers that came along.
"He said, 'Oh, Big Guy, I know you don't like them, but they follow me everywhere,'" Dalhausser said. "He's very charismatic. I would guess most of them are."
When posing for pictures with Rogers - some of the Brazilian men's team also came over for pictures - Bush said the photos might help get the sport some more attention, which is usually focused on the women and their bikini-style uniforms.
Bush also told the players he had gone mountain biking in the morning, describing his workout as "unbelievably difficult."
"That's why they call it an Olympic course," he said.
The beach volleyball competition opened with pool play on Saturday, with Norway's Kathrine Maseide and Susanne Glesnes beating Liesbet van Breedam and Liesbeth Mouha of Belgium 24-22, 21-18; China's Tian Ja and Wang Jie beating Simone Kuhn and Lea Schwer of Switzerland 21-12, 21-18; and Natalie Cook and Tamsin Barnett of Australia beating Natalya Uryadova and Alexandra Shiryaeva of Russia 21-8, 19-21 and 15-12.
In the men's matches, Reinder Nummerdor and Richard Schuil of the Netherlands beat Martin Laciga and Jan Schnider of Switzerland 21-14, 21-15; Brazil's Ricardo and Emanuel beat Emanuel Fernandes and Morais Abreu of Angola 21-9, 21-13; and Austria's Andrew Schacht and Joshua Slack beat Renato Gomes and Jorge Terceiro of Georgia 21-17, 21-19.