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LONDON – Just minutes after winning her third-straight Olympic Games gold medal with partner Kerri Walsh Jennings, beach volleyball star Misty May-Treanor revealed she is quitting the sport to start a family with her husband, baseball player Matt Treanor.
The American duo of May-Walsh once again dominated the sand to round out their career together with a perfect Games record of 21-0, having lost just a single set (earlier in this year's Games) along the way.
But while Walsh Jennings will carry on toward Rio in 2016, May-Treanor is done, preferring to leave the sport on top, and plans to dedicate herself to family life with as much effort as she pursued athletic glory.
"Now it is time for me to be a wife," said May-Treanor, after she and Walsh Jennings defeated fellow Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross in the final, 21-16; 21-18. "I want to be a mom. Our families sacrifice more than people realize and this is about getting back to that. My mind says it's time, my body says it's time. It's the right time."
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The pair competed together for 11 years and celebrated with hugs and smiles and tears at the culmination of a remarkable journey. On form this year, they were not expected to complete the three-peat, but survived a series of obstacles to get the job done.
Along the way in these Games, the duo overcame dropping a set for the first time (to Austria's Schwaiger sisters), a bout of pinkeye for Walsh Jennings and even the aftermath of some ongoing disputes that had caused them to seek "relationship counseling." In the end, their experience and champion spirit came through against opponents who at times looked a little nervous, and allowed their legendary compatriots to pull away.
"Our competitive journey is done and that crushes me," Walsh Jennings said. "We will be able to be girlfriends but we won't be playing together. It makes it really hard, really bittersweet, but I'm really proud that we went out the way we did."
Ross and Kessy fought hard in the early part of each set as they sought to continue their outstanding run through the draw. But the reigning champions responded to the challenge, and from 14-13 in the opener pulled away to establish a one-set advantage.
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The second was a similar story, at least until the midway point. Then, some untimely errors by Ross and Kessy turned the tide in the opposite direction, and more gold was heading to two familiar participants.
"This time, this was so much more about the friendship and togetherness and the journey," May-Treanor said. "The volleyball was just a small part of it.
"Winning back-to-back gold medals is very difficult. To get three … I don't know if you could write this script the way it worked out."
Speculation will now turn to where Walsh Jennings begins her search for a new partner. The victory celebration featured a mildly awkward moment when she extolled the virtues of both Kessy and Ross as a potential future teammate.
It would be no surprise to see her topping the podium with either of those two in Rio, with May-Treanor watching on, happily ensconced in family life.
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