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Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor celebrate winning their third straight beach volleyball gold medal.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings cruised past Jennifer Kessy and April Ross for their historic third consecutive beach volleyball gold medal Wednesday.
The legends won as they usually do, in straight sets, 21-16, 21-16, and secured their place as the greatest ever.
"Misty and I have something really special. The world knows it, we know it, and we embrace it," Walsh Jennings told NBC.
They finished their third Olympiad undefeated, losing only one set in 21 total matches.
May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings won on a long serve by Ross. They both fell to the sand, then began celebrating.
May-Treanor began doing a funky jig to rival the scantily clad cheerleaders who entertain the sold-out crowds and the Olympics' iconic venue during timeouts, the Associated Press reported.
The victors hugged their family and friends in the stands — although not May-Treanor's husband, Matt, a Los Angeles Dodgers catcher who was watching on a computer from the team's clubhouse — and high-fived just about everyone holding an American flag, according to the AP.
"It's insane. It doesn't feel like it's real," Walsh Jennings told the AP. "I told Misty when we were getting our medals, 'If I wake up tomorrow and we have to replay this match, I'm going to be furious.' Because it feels like I'm in a dream. It truly feels surreal and it didn't feel like that the first two times for whatever reason. But this, it's almost too good to be true."
Wednesday's match marked the first time that an Olympic beach volleyball final pitted one American duo against another. Ross and Kessy settled for silver, which they accepted with the knowledge that they lost to a pair of women who have been about as close to perfect as possible.
"They're the best team of all time," Kessy said.
Early in both sets, the teams traded one-point leads. Kessy and Ross arguably had the advantage in power, with top serve speeds in the 70 mph range, a good 20 mph faster than May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings. But the defending champions played a much better finesse game, and Kessy and Ross were unable to match their opponents' skill at placing shots into open sand.
Despite the lopsided score, the 40-minute gold medal match illustrated America’s continued dominance in the sport, which was born on the sands of Southern California and became an Olympic sport in 1996. Since then, U.S. teams have won six of nine gold medals in the men’s and women’s divisions.
Wednesday's match not only made history, but also marked the end of an era. May-Treanor plans to retire, breaking up an 11-year partnership.
"I'm a little speechless right now, because I can't believe this is my last match," May-Treanor told NBC. She said she's going to keep watching Walsh Jennings, who will now search for a new partner.
May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings became a team before the 2004 games in Athens, where they steamrolled over their opponents without losing a single set. They did the same in 2008 in Beijing. The straight-set streak ended in London, where they entered competition ranked third in the world. They lost their first set to a team of Austrian sisters, Stefanie and Doris Schwaiger, in preliminary rounds.
Then the steamrolling continued.
To reach the finals, May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings beat the second-ranked team, Zhang Xi and Xue Chen of China. Kessy and Ross, who entered the Olympics ranked fourth, beat the top-seeded team, Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta Silva of Brazil, in a semifinal thriller.
The Brazilians won the bronze medal match in three sets over the Chinese earlier on Wednesday.