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Americans chilling on Beijing's beach

BEIJING – Veteran Olympians will tell you that the intensity of the world's greatest sporting festival is the biggest challenge for any athlete to overcome.

Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser are the exception to the rule.

The United States' gold-medal contenders in men's beach volleyball are among the most relaxed characters in the Beijing Games, bringing to China the same kind of chilled-out mentality they have used to great effect in becoming the sport's premier combination.

"Fired up is overrated," said Dalhausser, kicking back with a smile in the lobby of the U.S. Olympic team's base at Beijing Normal University.

"People are always saying you need to get fired up. I just want to play some ball. We are both pretty laid-back guys and off the court that is huge. That's why it works."

Rogers and Dalhausser have been the most prolific pairing on the domestic AVP Tour, winning eight titles this year to go along with three international victories. That level of consistency, plus their success in the 2007 world championships, has established them as the team to beat here despite being seeded second behind Brazil's Ricardo and Emanuel. On Saturday, Rogers and Dalhausser take on Martin Laciga and Jan Schnider of Switzerland with a quarterfinal spot at stake.

But even as the medal rounds near, the carefree approach of the 6-foot-3 Rogers and 6-9 Dalhausser doesn't change. It almost seems like the sport itself is an afterthought.

Before the final of an event in Russia, a game of cards ran into overtime, meaning the pair did not get enough warmup time. They were "smoked," according to Dalhausser, in the first game before mounting a comeback to take the title.

During their interview with Yahoo! Sports, Dalhausser talked about his passion for video games, while Rogers waxed lyrical about his latest cookery creation. When the conversation did eventually shift to beach volleyball, they didn't analyze spikes, digs and serves. Instead, they discussed the pros and cons of the Olympic regulation that requires the wearing of shirts.

Players perform shirtless in the U.S. But shirts are routinely worn on the international tour in order to allow more space for sponsor logos.

"I would much rather play without a shirt," Rogers said. "Most of the guys and girls have fantastic bodies. Everyone is pretty shredded up. It is part of the show.

"A girl wants to see a guy without his shirt on – he has got nice abs and everything – versus having it on."

Dalhausser has an even better reason for wanting to play bare-chested.

"The shirts make me look like a girl," he said. "They always get my size wrong and think I am XXL so it looks as if I am wearing a dress."

Rogers, known as "The Professor," is 34 and has enjoyed the most productive spell of his career the past two years since teaming with Dalhausser, nicknamed the "Thin Beast."

Now one of the most recognizable figures in the sport, Rogers relishes the way in which beach volleyball continues to grow in Olympic popularity.

"It started in Atlanta and it gets better every time," he said. "I think it is the ambience. Most of the sports that you go to, you are supposed to be quiet – you are not supposed to be cheering and (being) loud and everything's much more cultured and classical.

"At beach volleyball, there is music playing the whole time. Most of the guys are in board shorts (and) you have got dancing girls coming in that are beautiful. Everyone is drinking beers together. It is more of a festive and party atmosphere.

"Obviously, it is cool to go to other sports and to see that sport itself, but beach volleyball is entertainment as well for every second you are there. It is a show."

Rogers and Dalhausser hope the show goes on for a bit longer, resulting with a gold medal around their necks.

Just don't expect them to get too fired up.