The 2012 Summer Games marks only the fifth time beach volleyball has been played in an Olympic arena. Over the short history of the Olympic sport, Team USA has outshined everyone.
Here is a quick look at the United States' most memorable Olympic beach volleyball moments:
Beach volleyball's inaugural Olympics
Beach volleyball made its debut in sunny Southern California during the Great Depression. It wasn't introduced as an Olympic sport until 1996. Atlanta, Ga., hosted the Summer Games that year, bringing a truly American sport to the Olympic stage for the first time. Even better, it was showcased to the world from American soil. There is no better way the United States could have claimed beach volleyball as its own.
Karaly and Steffes win first men's gold
The United States won its first men's beach volleyball gold medal in the same Games. Team USA dominated in the men's competition. Karch Karaly and Kent Steffes took on fellow Americans Mike Dodd and Mike Whitmarsh in the gold medal match. By beating Dodd and Whitmarsh, Karaly became the first man ever to win three Olympic volleyball golds.
May-Treanor and Walsh-Jennings win first women's gold
Team USA didn't win women's gold until the Athens Games in 2004. That year, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings turned international beach volleyball on its ear. They won their first Olympic gold in straight sets, never losing a match. Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs brought home America's first women's bronze in the sport as well.
Treanor and Walsh repeat their gold-winning performance
In 2008, Treanor and Walsh entered the Beijing Games as reigning champions and fan favorites to win a second gold medal. They did just that. Again winning in straight sets, the two annihilated every team they played against. The American men also took the top spot on the medal podium that summer, the first time any country had won dual Olympic gold medals in the sport.
Americans win gold again in 2012
The 2012 London Olympics have just gotten under way, but American beach volleyball has already seen success. The four U.S. teams earned four straight-set wins in beach volleyball's first days of competition. After the first round of pool play, each team stood in the top position in their respective groups. If such successes continue, we may see the American teams facing each other in both the men's and women's gold medal matches.
Kathryn Walsh played indoor volleyball in junior high and high school. Once in college on the California coast, she discovered beach volleyball. She has been an avid fan and occasional player since.