Having been on vacation the last few days, my posting has been admittedly sparse recently. I apologize. Fortunately, all the time away from the computer has left me plenty of time to watch the Olympics. And to that end, I’d like to take a moment to give some well-deserved props to two of the most dominant women’s teams in America: our National Soccer Team and the Beach Volleyball duo of Misty May and Kerri Walsh.
May and Walsh claimed their second straight beach volleyball gold Thursday morning in Beijing, defeating China 21-18, 21-18, in a tense, rain-filled match in front of a decidedly pro-China crowd. They became the first repeat winners in beach volleyball history, establishing themselves as perhaps the greatest volleyball tandem ever. Overall, they have won 108 consecutive matches and have not been defeated in over a year. They did not drop so much as a set during the entire Olympic tournament.
I think I speak for all American males when I say I have a new favorite sport. Misty and Kerri, you came into this Olympics expected to win and yet you somehow exceeded expectations – even as favorites in other sports faltered with frightening regularity (see Federer, Roger; Powell, Asafa; Xiang, Liu). For that, we salute you.
But if Misty and Kerri entered this Olympics as solid favorites, another U.S. women’s team most assuredly did not. Fielding a roster completely overhauled since their gold medal in 2004, the soccer team came to Beijing for their first Olympics in the post Hamm-Foudy-Fawcett era. To make matters worse, the team’s best player, Abby Wambach, went down with a broken leg in the team’s final tuneup for the Games.
The American’s first match of the Olympics lived up to the lowered expectations, as they fell to Norway 2-0. Yet they managed to rally in pool play and qualify for the elimination round, where they defeated Canada and Japan and somehow, improbably, found themselves in the gold medal match versus Brazil Thursday night.
Though Brazil looked the better team for most of the night, keeping the ball in the U.S. zone for long stretches and using their superior speed and ball handling to create numerous scoring opportunities, the U.S. women managed to play them to a 0-0 tie at the end of regulation. Then, 6 minutes into extra time, Carli Llyod broke free on the left side and put a bouncing grounder past the outstreched arms of the diving Brazilian keeper and giving the U.S. the only goal they would need to claim the gold.
Two teams, two vastly different paths to victory, but one very clear message: no matter how many sumersaulting vaults or twisting dives by 14-year-old Chinese girls propel the People’s Republic to the top of the gold medal count, America is home to the finest female atheletes in all the world.