Saturday, September 13, 2008

Misty May and Kerri Walsh in San Fran

Olympic gold medallists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh are in San Francisco!

Hundreds of people turned out this afternoon to sit in hot sunshine on the end of a pier to watch them play in a beach volleyball tournament. And afterwards the girls willingly mingled with excited supporters who queued for their autographs.

To loud cheers, Misty and Kerri won their match, 21 - 17 in the first game and 21 - 16 in the second, and are through to the quarterfinals to be played tomorrow.

The girls are rising celebrities since they won their second gold medal and are having an enormous influence on the sport and young people.

As the match was in progress, three thirteen-year-old girls were allowed by an official to kneel close to the pitch and take pics.

Afterwards, the teenagers were exuberant.

'I really like Kerri Walsh and Misty May,' said Lizie. 'I think they're really good together. They have talent! Very good talent!'

While Julia said, 'I think it's really cool that we can see them up close and that we can get their autographs, because I'm a really big fan of Kerri Walsh and Misty May.'

'I've known them for a couple of years - I've been watching them for a couple of years,' explained Payne. 'I think they are amazing athletes and I remember watching them at the Olympics and watching them now, it's really cool.'

All three girls play beach volley ball themselves. Payne added of watching Misty and Kerri, 'It encourages me to play like them.'

While Lizie said with a big smile, ' It inspires us.' Julia nodded enthusiastically at her side.

The tournament is called the AVP Crocs Cup Shootout and is being held on Pier 30 -32, about midway between the Giants' ballpark and Fisherman's Wharf.

The gold medallists' opponents were Annett Davis and Jenny Johnson Jordon, an equally tall and athletic-looking duo who for a few rounds in the first game kept the scoring close with some spirited and skilful play.

But the superb skills of the Olympians were destined to win out. Watching the girls in real life gives an appreciation of their athletic physique and prowess. It was also fun to see their finger-waggling secret communications to each other behind their backs.

In the second game, as the score reached 20 - 15 the crowd were asked to stand for match point. We were almost there! The game closed to resounding cheers at 21 - 16.

Some of the tournament proceeds are going to a children's charity, Dig 4 Kids. This helps to provide education and exercise programmes in disadvantaged communities and was founded by another Olympic Gold Medallist in beach volleyball, Eric Fonoimoana, eight years ago.

During one of the breaks, a group of young people scrabbled in the sand to find a plastic bottle of hair product hidden on behalf of hair company Paul Mitchell.

For the winning girl who produced it with a flourish, the prize was...a volley ball!

Afterwards, at the end of the match, a group of young girl dancers and singers, the Beach Girlz, performed on a small stage to a backing version of the Beachboys.

But many of the crowd still had their eyes on Misty and Kerri. Misty sat in the players' rest area by the side of the pitch to meet the public while Kerri moved slightly out of the pitch arena. She organised the crowd into a long queue, and with police keeping an eye on security, happily stood and signed autographs, many signatures going onto mini volley balls that people were wearing around their necks.

I caught up again with Lizie, Julia and Payne and so took another pic of them triumphant with autograph.

Also in the queue were a young couple who had thoroughly enjoyed the match. 'It looked like they- Misty and Kerri - beat them easily,' said the guy.

Did they think the crowd were fired up in support of them, rather than the other girls?

'Yes,' said the girl I was speaking to, 'I think they're fired up because they - Misty and Kerri - won the gold medal.'

Kerri, who is from San Jose, in the Bay Area was interviewed on Friday by NBC and repeated what she said after the Olympics that both she and Misty hope to retire for a while to start families.

***pics show the tournament and autograph signings
***pic of Lizie, Julia and Payne have blurred faces at the request of one of their mum's.

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