Walsh's Wedding Ring Found in Sand

Aug. 10, 2008, 9:55 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Even the volunteers go for the gold at the Olympic beach volleyball venue.

When American beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh's wedding ring flew off during her opening match of the Olympics, venue workers combed the sand with metal detectors to find it. Volunteer Song Zhendong dug it up after about 20 minutes.

The ring came off when Walsh went up for a block in Sunday morning's match against Japan's Mika Saiki and Chiaki Kusuhara. American broadcasters could see what happened, and they called officials from the international volleyball federation to see if the ring could be recovered.

Some 17,000 tons of sand were brought into Chaoyang Park to create the beach volleyball venue, which includes a 12,200-seat center court and a practice area with eight nets nearby. So if finding the ring wasn't exactly a needle in a haystack, it was close.

The video helped them figure out where to look, but the ring could have moved considerably between Walsh's 9 a.m. match and the end of the morning session at 3 p.m.

"The problem is, we rake the court," said Peter Paul Hreszczuk, the FIVB official manning the metal detector. "We heard a few noises; a few were false alarms. When we found it, it was pretty much under the net."

Even the availability of the metal detectors was a stroke of luck.

Hreszczuk said they're part of the federation's checklist for international play, because many of the events are on actual beaches and foreign objects are common.

"In this case there are no foreign objects in the sand, because this is specially procured, which is the best sand that's available," he said. "It's really something we use - not to search for wedding rings. That's not the prime objective."

Walsh found out the ring had been recovered, but she did not have it back on Sunday night, U.S. beach volleyball team leader Al Lau said. A meeting with the volunteer has been set up for Monday.

"It's a plain gold band," Hreszczuk said, "but obviously very precious."

It might not be the last golden bauble for Walsh, who is married to fellow beach volleyball pro and former NCAA champion Casey Jennings. She and partner Misty May-Treanor won the gold medal at the Athens Games in 2004 and are the favorites to repeat in Beijing.