Americans Rogers, Dalhausser win beach gold
BEIJING (AP) The Chinese women won two beach volleyball medals - the first for a country that figures to be a power in many Olympics to come. Brazil, a more traditional power in the sport, put two teams on the men's podium.
In the middle both times, wearing the gold, was the United States.
Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers beat Brazil in the Olympic championship game on Friday, completing an American sweep of the men's and women's beach volleyball tournaments. Including the two straight women's titles won by Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor, the United States has won five of the eight Olympic gold medals since the sport was added to the games in Atlanta.
"I feel like I don't even belong up here," Dalhausser said at the medal ceremony news conference, where he was flanked by Brazilians. "These guys have been playing well for so many years, I just don't feel like I even belong."
In a dominating championship performance, Dalhausser blocked three consecutive hits in the decisive set to unleash the blowout, then added another block on match point to beat Fabio and Marcio 23-21, 17-21, 15-4. A day earlier, May-Treanor and Walsh continued a gold medal tradition that began when beach volleyball legend Karch Kiraly won the inaugural men's event in Atlanta with Kent Steffes.
"It's good to be in good company," Rogers said.
Brazilians in green and yellow wigs added a samba beat to the Chaoyang Park venue, while the Americans in the 12,200 seat-stadium had to make do with a few U.S. flags and a man in a red, white and blue Evel Knievel jumpsuit.
Dalhausser's bald head glinted in the sun, while Rogers wore his hat backward to keep the sun off his neck. In the stands, umbrellas were used for shade instead of shelter, like they were when the women's final was played in a steady downpour.
Spitting out the Brazilians like the sand he washed from his mouth in the second set, Rogers played steady for three sets and Dalhausser came alive in the third.
"Obviously, Phil wanted this medal pretty dang bad. He was just ridiculous out there," Rogers said. "When he gets on a roll, I just pull out my pompons and give a little cheer and keep smiling and clapping. That's what good blockers do: When they get on a roll, good luck to you."
The tallest player in the tournament at 6-foot-9, with a wingspan and jump that can bring him 43 inches above the 8-foot high net, the bald bullet known as "The Thin Beast" had nine blocks in the gold medal match. He had three in a row - and five overall in the third set - to turn a comfortable 6-1 lead into a 9-1 runaway.
"I got in a zone, I guess," Dalhausser said. "I blocked it all out. It's just one of those things where you see everything perfectly and it all seems to be in slow motion."
The Chinese, who had won a total of two Olympic matches before bringing the games to Beijing, took the silver and bronze in the women's bracket on Thursday. A day later, 2004 gold medalists Emanuel and Ricardo of Brazil won the bronze, beating native Brazilians Jorge Terceira and Renato Gomes, who were playing for Georgia.
With two more in Beijing, Brazil has won nine of the 24 medals beach volleyball medals that have been awarded.
"The numbers speak for themselves," Emanuel said.
Brazil put their hopes for another gold on Marcio and Fabio, the 2005 world champions, who had been 5-2 against the reigning champs. But Dalhausser blocked those plans, then rushed over and tackled Rogers, both of them tumbling to the sand.
Marcio and Fabio led 6-1 and 9-3 in the first before the Americans took a 13-10 lead and closed it out on their third set point. Brazil scored four straight points to take the lead in the second, then scored three straight to break a 15-all tie and needed just two tries to close out the set.
It was reminiscent of the 6-0, third-set deficit the Americans overcame against Switzerland. Or the Olympic-opening loss to Latvia that put the heavily favored Americans on the verge of a shocking elimination in the round-robin.
"We got off to a slow start," Dalhausser said. "But once we got it going, we got it going."