Brazilians fall short in beach volleyball
BEIJING (AP) Even with the gold medal around his neck, Phil Dalhausser felt like the odd man out.
He and Todd Rogers had just won the Olympic beach volleyball title, knocking off Marcio and Fabio to win their first gold medal. And to have the center spot on the podium, flanked by Brazilians, was a little surreal to the champion.
"I feel like I don't even belong up here," Dalhausser said after he and Rogers beat Brazil in three sets Friday to win gold. "These guys have been playing well for so many years, I just don't feel like I even belong."
The Brazilians have long set the standard in beach volleyball, and technically sent three teams into Friday's final two matches of the Beijing Olympics.
Marcio and Fabio claimed the silver, while 2004 Athens gold medalists Emanuel and Ricardo won the bronze by beating Renato Gomes and Jorge Terceiro - a pair of Brazilians who obtained Georgian citizenship because of a quota that limits each country to two teams in the field.
All came to Beijing looking for gold, and all shed tears of disappointment after Friday's match.
"It's a very good day for Brazil," Marcio said. "But it's not really a perfect day. I'm happy with the silver, but we know we could have won all the medals."
That has become the expectation in Brazil, where the white-sand beaches and outdoor-loving lifestyle have helped the sport surge in popularity.
"Soccer is No. 1, but volleyball is No. 2," Marcio said. "It's very, very popular. We have the long, long coasts, and you see everyone come to the beach to watch volleyball and to play volleyball."
The two Olympic teams faced intense media scrutiny following their semifinal match against each other. While Marcio and Fabio stayed close to their apartment, resting for Wednesday's match, Emanuel and Ricardo were roundly criticized for spending time shopping in the city.
"There is tremendous interest in what we do," Marcio said.
Organized beach volleyball didn't start in Brazil until the late 1980s, then took off in 1994 when the sport found a sponsor its national tour. The country placed on emphasis on coaching - many other top teams only use coaches in indoor - and Brazil quickly became an international force.
"Beach volleyball is great because there is a good investment from our federation for the money on the tour, you can win money. Next year we'll maybe offer 50 tournaments," said Brazilian volleyball federation delegate Marco Teixeira.
"You put a tournament together and they come. If you go to Rio or Ipanema beach, or Copacabana beach, you see the spots, the facilities, just for all the little kids. They've got beach, they've got ropes then they are going out and trying to get on the national tours.
"That's why we've grown so fast."
Brazil has claimed nine of the 24 medals in men's and women's beach volleyball since the sport was introduced at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Despite coming up short for a second gold medal, Rogers is confident the Brazilians will be contenders for years to come.
"Brazil has been the dominant country in beach volleyball for six, seven, eight years now. I don't think anyone would argue that," Rogers said. "Phil and I have made our statement here, but Brazil still has a million great teams. They're always going to be competitive."