BEIJING (AP) American beach volleyball player Jake Gibb stood in the mix zone at the Olympic beach volleyball venue, finally under cover from the rain.
"Was it raining?" he said dryly. "Didn't even notice it."
Just then, a drip of water fell from the brim of the soaking wet ballcap he turned forward to adapt to the messy conditions for his Olympic debut, when he and partner Sean Rosenthal beat Emiel Boersma and Bram Ronnes of the Netherlands 21-16, 21-15.
"We've played in rain, but not that bad," Rosenthal said. "It's my first Olympics. So if it's snowing, raining, I don't care."
A pelting rain, with intermittent lightning and thunder, drenched the Chaoyang Park venue and turned the stands into a sea of yellow ponchos on Sunday, dampening the spring-break atmosphere that tends to accompany most beach volleyball events. Although there were only 1,200 officially in the 12,000-seat arena for the Americans' match, it was impressive that anyone was actually there.
"I think it was amazing," said Gibb, who noted that the partners were so eager to play that they went out early to warm up on a practice court in spite of the weather. "The people in the stands that stayed were super loud."
Beach volleyball matches typically proceed despite rain, but U.S. event organizers will clear the stands in the case of lightning. Olympic protocol is similar, but a venue official said the lightning was too brief to merit a delay or postponement.
Rosenthal said that because the ball was wet, he had to bump set instead of doing it over his head. The rain also took away any chance of putting spin on a spike; the ball had to be hit straight-on or it would slide off their hands.
"When you look up, it pelts you in the eyes," he said. "But it's beach volleyball: we have to play the elements. Sometimes it's howling wind."
The top-ranked American women's team, Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor, also won their opener, needing just 36 minutes to beat Mika Teru Saiki and Chiaki Kusuhara of Japan 21-12, 21-15 in Sunday's morning session.
In other matches Sunday, sisters Stefanie and Doris Schwaiger of Austria beat Vasiliki Karantasiou and Vasiliki Arvaniti, of Greece, 21-18, 21-18; Renata Ribeiro and Talita Rocha of Brazil beat Mayra Garcia and Bibiana Candelas of Mexico 18-21, 21-16, 15-8; Cubans Dalixia Fernandez and Tamara Larrea beat Nila Haakedal and Ingrid Toerlen of Norway 22-20, 21-19; Germans Laura Ludwig and Sara Goller beat Judith Augoustides and Vitalina Nel of South Africa 21-12, 21-14; and China's Xue Chen and Zhang Xi beat Greeks Efthalia Koutroumanidou and Maria Tsiartsiani 21-18, 19-21, 15-12.
In the men's matches, China's Wu Penggen and Xu Linyin beat Florian Gosch and Alexander Horst of Austria, 21-16, 21-15; Marcio Araujo and Fabio Magalhaes of Brazil beat Italians Riccardo Lione and Eugenio Amore 21-18, 21-18; Julius Brink and Christoph Dieckmann of Germany beat Kentaro Asahi and Katsuhiro Shiratori of Japan 21-18, 21-18; Pablo Herrera and Raul Mesa of Spain beat Kristjan Kais and Rivo Vesik of Estonia 21-18, 23-21; and Clemens Doppler and Peter Gartmayer of Austria beat Russians Dmitri Barsouk and Igor Kolodinsky 21-16, 18-21, 16-14.