Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Beach volleyball duo bid a golden farewell at London Games

By Chelsea J. Carter, CNN
August 9, 2012 -- Updated 0821 GMT (1621 HKT)
Gold medallists Misty May-Treanor, left, and Kerri Walsh Jennings celebrate winning the Gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 8, 2012.
Gold medallists Misty May-Treanor, left, and Kerri Walsh Jennings celebrate winning the Gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 8, 2012.
  • Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings won a third consecutive gold medal
  • The American duo extended their undefeated Olympic streak to 21-0
  • In three Games, they gave up only one set -- to Austria
  • "Beach volleyball is not going to be my career anymore," May-Traenor says

(CNN) -- The Olympic journey of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings ended where it all began: In the sand.

Minutes after winning their third consecutive Olympic gold medal in women's beach volleyball on Wednesday, the American duo announced an end to what is considered one of the winningest partnerships of the Games.

May-Treanor, 35, and Walsh Jennings, 33, made history by putting away fellow Americans April Ross and Jennifer Kessy in two sets, 21-16, 21-16, to extend their undefeated streak in three successive Games to 21-0. They lost only one of 43 sets.

"Beach volleyball is not going to be my career anymore," May-Traenor told reporters shortly after the match. "It's time for me to be a wife. I want to be a mom. I want to share this time with my family.

Misty May-Treanor on sandy road to gold
Jessica Ennis not in Games for money
How athletes are partying in London
Great Britain feeling good about Olympics

All of us athletes sacrifice more of the family than people maybe realize. It's getting back to that. My mind says it's time, my body says it's time. It's the right time. It's time for me now to help the next generation."

Walsh Jennings is looking toward a possible fourth Olympic appearance at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings partnership on the sand is the stuff of Olympic legend: A nearly 12 year partnership that helped elevate the sport to one of the hottest tickets at the Games.

The two first teamed up in 2001 after less than satisfying performances at the 2000 Games in Sydney. May-Treanor finished 5th with then partner Holly McPeak in beach volleyball, while Walsh Jennings played on the women's indoor team.

By the time the two hit Athens in 2004, they were already a force to be reckoned with having won international titles.

But it was on the sand in Athens where they started their golden run -- and their shutout. By the time they hit Beijing in 2008, they were full-fledged celebrities with endorsements and television appearances.

They took an extended break in 2009-2010, with Walsh Jennings giving birth twice and May-Treanor recovering from a torn Achilles tendon that she ruptured while preparing for a turn on "Dancing with The Stars."

The break raised questions about whether the two would ever play together again.

May-Traenor had decided not to play in 2011, while Walsh Jennings was preparing for a run at the London Games with a different partner.

As the story goes, just before the start of the 2011 season, May-Traenor reached out to Walsh Jennings and said she was ready to play again.

They met in California where Walsh Jennings asked the big question: "Are you all in?" May-Traenor told NBC recently.

The answer: Yes.

But there were things to work out, on the sand and off.

The two admitted to reporters during the London Olympics to attending relationship counseling to improve their communication skills -- and their game.

Heading into Games, they weren't the favorites after less than golden performances in international competition.

They struggled a bit. Walsh Jennings was diagnosed with pinkeye, and their winning streak looked to be in jeopardy after they lost a set to Austrian sisters Stefanie and Doris Schwaiger.

The duo roared back, though, looking like the team of old.

By the time they made it to the gold medal round, a capacity crowd that included royalty and celebrities -- from Prince Harry to David Beckham -- turned out to watch what May-Traenor had said months earlier would likely be her last match.

In two sets, played just over 38 minutes, May-Traenor and Walsh Jennings completed their Olympic journey.

"I wanted to do this for her and finish in this way for both of us," May-Treanor said. "We've lived so much life together."

Walsh Jennings turned to her teammate and said: "It's been 11 years of fun and crazy time. You are a dear, dear friend ... and I'm glad that you went out the way you deserved."

The two women held hands -- united in victory and accomplishment -- as the American flag was raised and the National Anthem was played in their honor.

There, on a podium in the sand, they bid a golden farewell.

CNN's Laura Smith-Spark and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
August 13, 2012 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
The moment that Team GB's Mo Farah won the 10,000 meters was a wonderful collision of electricity.
August 13, 2012 -- Updated 1534 GMT (2334 HKT)
His blistering pace and larger-than-life antics made him the king of the track in London, and bolstered his claims to be a "living legend."
August 14, 2012 -- Updated 0944 GMT (1744 HKT)
Disappointment for Nigeria's Muizat Ajoke Odumosu, who came last in the 400m hurdles final, London 2012 Olympics.
The Olympics are generally won and lost long before the opening ceremony cauldron is touched by fire.
August 12, 2012 -- Updated 0738 GMT (1538 HKT)
Fans of the home side, Team GB, wave Union Jack flags during the Olympic Games
CNN's Richard Quest believes the London Games will be regarded as having brought the Olympics concept home.
August 11, 2012 -- Updated 1633 GMT (0033 HKT)
Strategist Alastair Campbell says he never imagined London 2012 would be quite the triumph it turned out to be.
August 14, 2012 -- Updated 2057 GMT (0457 HKT)
Award-winning director Danny Boyle celebrates the best of British music in London 2012's Olympic Closing Ceremony.
January 31, 2013 -- Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT)
From Usain Bolt's record-setting achievements to an unexpected Ugandan gold, London 2012 has provided a wide array of highlights.
August 13, 2012 -- Updated 0305 GMT (1105 HKT)
CNN's Amanda Davies recaps the London 2012 Olympics from the opening ceremony on July 27 to the finale on day 16.
August 12, 2012 -- Updated 1702 GMT (0102 HKT)
Mo Farah and Usain Bolt celebrate their success at the London 2012 Olympic Games by copying each other's
It's been just over two weeks since the Queen parachuted into London's Olympic Stadium, her apricot dress flapping in the breeze.
August 15, 2012 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
When the world's top marathon runners bid to win Olympic gold, they would do well to draw inspiration from one of the greatest athletes in the history of track and field.
August 11, 2012 -- Updated 1633 GMT (0033 HKT)
Team GB supporters with their faces painted in Union Jack designs at the Olympic Stadium in London.
Alastair Campbell always thought London 2012 would be a success, but never imagined it would be quite the triumph it has turned out to be.
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 1021 GMT (1821 HKT)
Adrien Niyonshuti is unlikely to win an Olympic medal, and he will do well to even finish his event, but his story is surely one of the most inspirational.
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 1605 GMT (0005 HKT)
The colors of the Olympic Rings at the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, August 2012.
Olympic fever has cheered up London and made it a more welcoming place, but will optimism be one of the legacies of the Games?
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Wojdan Shaherkani's Olympic debut was short, but sweet -- the Saudi judoka said competing at the Games was
London 2012 is the first Olympics to feature women in every national team, with Jacques Rogge hailing a "major boost for gender equality."
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
An impoverished South Korean gymnast has not only struck Olympic gold, but also reaped a $444,000 donation in a veritable rags to riches tale.
August 9, 2012 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
Britain's hero Jessica Ennis is set to cash in after winning heptathlon gold, but the poster girl of the 2012 Olympics says fame is not her motivation.
August 8, 2012 -- Updated 0746 GMT (1546 HKT)
China is rallying around fallen hurdler Liu Xiang after he failed to make it past the first-round heat for a second consecutive Olympics.
August 3, 2012 -- Updated 1930 GMT (0330 HKT)
The first woman to win Olympic gold almost died in a plane crash, but remarkably returned to run again for the U.S. in 1936.
August 7, 2012 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
Don Paige could not bear to watch the race he knew he could win. The 1980 Moscow Olympics were the death of a dream for many athletes.
August 4, 2012 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)
Ricardo Blas Jr
While Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt grab the headlines, little-known athletes from around the world keep alive the original spirit of the Olympics.
Athletes spend years eating the right foods ... and then must resist the free fast food in the Olympic village. How do they do it?