When temperatures dropped for the first Olympic beach volleyball night session, Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor said bye-bye to their bikinis.
The two-time defending gold medalists from the US wore long-sleeved shirts on top of bikini bottoms on Saturday, when the temperature at the start of their 11pm match was 17oC. Their opponents, Australians Natalie Cook and Tasmin Hinchley, wore long pants and short-sleeved shirts underneath their bikini tops.
“It’s cold,” Walsh Jennings said, with a “what do you expect” look on her face. “It’s 11pm in London.”
The Americans won 21-18, 21-19, coming back from a four-point deficit in the second set to win on May-Treanor’s spike, which ended a lengthy set point. Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor have never lost a set in three Olympics.
Two-piece swimsuits have long been the standard attire in the sport. Players say the skimpy clothes allow less room for sand to get underneath and chafe. However, international rules have long allowed women to wear warmer clothes when the temperature drops.
However, TV viewers — and the British tabloids — seem to take the notion of more modest clothing as an affront.
Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor have said they do not mind the cold weather: They won their second gold medal, in Beijing, in a torrential downpour. They have also played in the snow, in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, on the AVP domestic professional tour.
However, because of the name recognition that makes them — and the sport — a big TV ratings draw, all of May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings’ matches have been scheduled for the last match of the third session at Horse Guards Parade: 11pm local time.
All four players in the match said they had never played so late at night. Part of the preparation: Bringing cold-weather gear. May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings warmed up wearing long pants, but felt hot and decided to go halfway.
It did not seem to affect them.
“We definitely had our chance,” said Cook, a five-time Olympian and two-time medalist. “That’s what’s disappointing to us, but the more often you can put yourself in that position, the better chance you have.”
May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings won the gold medal in Athens and again in Beijing, but a lot has happened for them since 2008. Walsh Jennings had two children in less than a year, and May-Treanor ruptured her Achilles tendon while rehearsing for Dancing with the Stars.