Cool Olympic night forces bikini coverup
Kerri Walsh of the United States blocks the shot of Australia's Natalie Cook during a beach volleyball match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
LONDON - 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 medallists from the United States wore long-sleeved shirts on top of bikini bottoms on Saturday, when the temperature at the start of their 11 p.m. match was 17 degrees Celsius. 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 11 p.m. 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 that ended a lengthy set point. Walsh 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. But international rules have long allowed women to wear warmer clothes when the temperature drops.
The FIVB changed an unrelated rule recently to also allow shorts and T-shirts for women whose cultural beliefs require them to cover up.
But TV viewers — and the British tabloids — seem to take the notion of more modest clothing as an affront. (No worries: The dance teams that entertained the crowds during timeouts continued with shirtless men, and a mix of one- and two-piece suits for the women.)
Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor have said they don't 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.
But because of the name recognition that makes them — and the sport — a big television 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: 11 p.m. local time.
All four players in the match said they had never played so late at night.
"I was worried," Walsh Jennings said. "At home, it hits 11 and I'm a zombie. But we could play at 4 in the morning, we don't care."
Cook said she was tempted to take a nap three different times during the day but the hubbub at the athletes village made it difficult. Walsh Jennings said they have been practising at nights to get ready for the late matches.
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 didn't seem to affect them.
"We definitely had our chance," said Cook, a five-time Olympian and two-time medallist . "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."
"They definitely have weaknesses they didn't have before," Cook said. "We exploited them for short periods but we couldn't for the whole time."
The American pair has never lost a set in three Olympics, a streak that is inconsequential to May-Treanor but something Walsh Jennings protects with pride.
"My goal is to win every set I play in," she said.