For 11 years, they have been Kerri and Misty, the most recognizable faces in Olympic beach volleyball and a team that dominated the sport.
No one could beat them in the Games and no one will get another chance.
In their final competition together, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings beat fellow Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross to extend their Olympic record to 21-0, winning their third gold medal in a row.
May-Treanor said she would retire from international play, perhaps to coach and definitely to spend time with her husband, Matt, a catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who also travels often for his job.
“This is my last match,” May-Treanor said. “Beach volleyball’s not going to be my career anymore ... It’s time for me to be a wife. I want to be a mom and share time with my family. All of us as athletes sacrifice more on the family end than people realize and it’s getting back to that. My mind says it’s time. My body says it’s time.”
The match started with nearby Big Ben pealing the hour and ended with the Star-Spangled Banner rising from the iconic venue, just down The Mall from the royal residence at Buckingham Palace.
Playing on King Henry VIII’s former jousting yard, with the current Prince Harry in the crowd, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor continued their reign as champions of the beach.
“I’m just really proud to finish the journey with Misty, how we finished it,” Walsh Jennings said. “It’s been 11 years of really, really fun and crazy times. She’s the best there ever has been.”
Dominating the sport for three Olympiads, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor have won every match they have ever played at the Games and lost just one of 43 sets.
No one had ever won even two beach volleyball gold medals before the Americans won their second straight in Beijing.
No woman had ever won three Olympic beach volleyball medals of any kind.
“I know how hard it is to win one tournament and the amount of tournaments they’ve won is crazy,” Kessy said. “For them to do it for years and years, and to be on top, is just really impressive. We learn a lot from them.”
Earlier, Brazil’s Juliana and Larissa beat Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China to win the bronze.
Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor pulled away midway through the first set of the title match and were never threatened in the second, falling to their knees and hugging as Ross’ serve went long on match point.
Then they took the celebration to the stands, circling the stadium that was built on the 500-year-old parade grounds now used by Queen Elizabeth II’s household cavalry.
Walsh Jennings covered her bare shoulders with a US flag and grabbed her children. They high-fived the dance team, volunteers and just about anyone holding a US flag, and with both teams in the final from the US, there were a lot of them.
“It’s one thing to play an Olympic final. It’s another to play against a team from your country [that] you know so well,” said Walsh Jennings, who played with Kessy on a US junior team. “I think the only reason Misty and I are gold medalists is because of those two. They push us so hard. They’re one of my favorite teams to beat because they’re so good. They’ve been one of the top teams in the world since they got together. I’m just really grateful that we’ve had them to come up against because they’ve made a big difference in our career.”