Men’s duo hopes beach gold resonates

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

BEIJING – When Phil Dalhausser started life on the pro beach volleyball circuit five years ago, it was a non-career move.

"I just did it to avoid getting a real job," said the 6-foot-9 University of Central Florida graduate.

By winning gold at the Olympics with partner Todd Rogers on Friday, Dalhausser gave himself the ultimate confirmation that his desire to shun a more conventional workplace was a pretty good idea.

A three-set victory over Marcio Araujo and Fabio Magalhaes of Brazil was made possible because the Americans held their nerve when they had to and did what they do best – win tournaments.

It’s a job that Dalhausser and Rogers hope has just gotten a little more lucrative.

Olympic beach volleyball has enjoyed high ratings in the United States, where key games have been broadcast in prime time. It remains to be seen whether that will translate into a healthier domestic AVP Tour and increased prize money for the players.

"It can't hurt," said Dalhausser. "The AVP is not exactly thriving, so anything that makes a difference would be good."

Much will depend on how the AVP goes about trying to make sure that at least some of the temporary surge in interest sparked by golds for Rogers/Dalhausser and women's team Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor becomes permanent.

"It is up to the AVP to capitalize on this," said Rogers. "I don't know what they are planning, but there is a lot of media attention on beach volleyball right now and they have to use it to better the sport."

In Rogers and Dalhausser, the sport has two marketable and consumer-friendly superstars. But beach volleyball in the United States is still suffering from limited major sponsorship.

Indoor volleyball, meanwhile, can offer huge sums of money to its star players. Professional clubs around the world, especially in Russia, are doling out contracts worth up to $1 million per season.

"There is just not much incentive for those guys to move over," said Rogers. "If I was asked I would tell them to play indoor, set themselves up for life, buy a nice house.

"Then, if they want, they can 'retire' to beach volleyball for a few years."

Dalhausser and Rogers were planning to head to the U.S. men's basketball team's semifinal against Argentina on Friday night to return the support shown by Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, who all ventured to Chaoyang Park during the competition.

Watching Dalhausser's extraordinary leaping and blocking ability in the final, you could not help but wonder how he would fare on a basketball court.

He made nine winning blocks in total, including five in the deciding set, as the No. 2 seeds surged clear. After edging a tense first set 23-21, the U.S. team led 13-10 in the second before some inspired play from Marcio leveled the scores at one set apiece.

But there was no stopping Rogers and Dalhausser in the third, as they took an early lead and never let it slip.

After making the winning block, Dalhausser charged over to Rogers and hug-tackled him in the sand before the pair ran over to the stands to celebrate with their families.

True to form, both men were humble and gracious in victory.

"I just sat back and let Phil be Phil," said Rogers. "His blocking was phenomenal and I just led the cheering and tried not to make mistakes."

Dalhausser's laid-back attitude and humble nature is in contrast to his fearsome presence at the net.

"I feel like I don't really belong up here," Dalhausser said as he sat alongside Rogers, Marcio, Fabio Luiz and bronze medallists Ricardo and Emanuel. "These guys have played at an incredibly high level for many years. I still feel a little new to it."

Imagine what he might do when he starts getting used to it.