Once, twice, three times an Olympic champion
American beach volleyball star Misty May‐Treanor enjoyed a record‐breaking career, which came to a glorious end with a third consecutive Olympic title at London 2012.
A golden swansong in London
After completing a two‐set victory over fellow USA duo April Ross and Jennifer Kessy in the London 2012 final, Misty May‐Treanor and Kerri Walsh‐Jennings turned and fell into each other’s arms, overcome by the emotion of winning their third Olympic women’s beach volleyball title in a row. In doing so, they put together a 21‐match winning run, losing just a solitary set on the way, to Austria’s Schwaiger sisters in the preliminary round in London.
At the end of it all, May‐Treanor called time on her 13‐year career on the professional world beach volleyball circuit, during which she became one half of the most successful pair the sport has ever seen. “The first two gold medals it was more about volleyball,” she said after stepping down from the podium in London. “The friendship we had was there, but it was volleyball, volleyball, volleyball. This was so much more about the friendship, the togetherness, the journey – and volleyball was just a small part of it.”
The daughter of Butch May, a member of the USA men’s volleyball team at Mexico City 1968, Misty May, as she then was, was introduced to the sport by her parents on the beach in Santa Monica, California. During her childhood years she met some of the greatest names in the sport, among them future triple Olympic champion Karch Kiraly, who sometimes baby‐sat for her.
May went on to become an outstanding indoor volleyball player herself, excelling at school and university and forming part of the Long Beach State 49ers side that recorded 36 consecutive wins in the 1998/99 NCAA Championship season, during which she set a new tournament record for service aces and was named the competition’s most outstanding player.
A record‐breaking partnership
After promptly falling out of love with the indoor game, May decided at the age of 22 to become a professional beach volleyball player. Teaming up with Holly McPeak, she competed in her first Olympics at Sydney 2000, where the pair eventually finished fifth. She then found a new partner in Kerri Walsh. Together they would dominate the domestic and global scene for years to come.
Arriving at Athens 2004 on the back of a 90‐match unbeaten run, the US twosome went on to win the competition without dropping a set, defeating Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar of Brazil 21‐17, 21‐11 in the gold‐medal match. FIVB world champions in 2003, 2005 and 2007, they had gone 101 matches and 18 tournaments unbeaten by the time Beijing 2008 came around, and completed their Olympic title defence by seeing off No1‐ranked Chinese duo Tian Jia and Wang Jie.
Time‐out and a three‐peat
In between her first two Olympic triumphs, May married the baseball player Matt Treanor, while her partner Walsh took time out after Beijing to have two children with her husband, the volleyball player Casey Jennings. May‐Treanor then ruptured an Achilles tendon on the US TV show Dancing with the Stars, an injury that sidelined her for more than a year.
After failing to reach the heights with interim partner Nicole Branagh in 2010, May‐Treanor was reunited with Walsh‐Jennings the following year, with the pair setting their sights on an unprecedented third Olympic gold. After booking their place at London 2012 with a silver in the worlds in Rome that June, they duly achieved their golden goal, consolidating their place in the history of the sport and bowing out with a series of records that will take some beating.
Now a guest lecturer, brand spokesperson and prominent media figure, May‐Treanor fulfilled another long‐cherished dream in June 2014, giving birth to a daughter.