If all good things must come to an end, then in the case of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, at least it took a very, very long time.
Fresh off capturing their third consecutive Olympic title in women's beach volleyball, May, 35, and Walsh, 33, caught up with The Huffington Post to discuss May's retirement plans, Walsh's plans for the 2016 Games in Rio and just how special their final journey was together.
What was the toughest part of the final match?
Misty May-Treanor: I think playing another U.S. team in the gold medal match is the ultimate, but it's always nerve-wracking playing against your own countrymen. We knew that team had a good offense and they're really good servers. They've been able to come back from being down before and that was apparent when they played Brazil in the semi-finals. It was very important that anytime we side out, we gotta side out on the first one. Don't give them any room to come back.
Kerri Walsh Jennings: I think the mental challenge of yesterday was huge. An Olympic final is crazy in itself, and then you add the component of playing a team from your own country. It just added so much pressure and anxiety. That day, we walked around in the hotel and we'd seen them walking by. I walked into lunch and I saw them watching video on us. It was really, really intense; it's unusual. That being said, it's such a cool situation, and I'm really proud of both of our teams and our country. I kind of underestimated how intense it would be.
Had you played them recently?
KWJ: Yeah, we beat them in Switzerland in three games, but it's always a really tough match against them. It's always back and forth, so we were really happy beating them in two, decisively.
Thirty minutes leading up to the match were you still talking strategy or just locked in by that point?
MMT: I think strategy is really important. We'd get to the venue early enough and talk with our coach, but I think with our game -- because communication is so important -- even during warm-ups, we're still going over different strategies. What do they do on this attack? Where are they coming from? We talk strategy before warming up until the end of the match.
How does this compare to the other two golds. Is it a lot different?
KWJ: I don't want to undermine the first two gold medals, because they're obviously what got us here. But this for many reasons is so much more special. I think it's just the 11 years we've had together, all the ups and downs and, in particular, these past two years have been really, really special. Getting back together with Misty absolutely changed my life and it changed our relationship forever. It's just deeper and more real, and we've really cherished the journey the past two years. To finish on top the way we did, I love this gold medal and I'm the most proud of it.
Will you be wearing these medals or keeping them in the background?
MMT: Just through TSA and Customs and maybe lines at Disneyland, movie lines.
KWJ: These are actually really heavy. They're not that easy to wear.
How much will you two keep in touch moving forward?
KWJ: We have a commitment to each other, and it's not always easy with family to go and see each other all the time, but you need to make it a priority, and Misty is going to be a priority for my whole life. I want my kids and myself to have Misty as a physical presence.
Misty, is it harder to walk away from the sport or this team?
MMT: I think from this team it's more difficult, because of what Kerri and I share, but I don't really feel like I'm walking away. I'm just stepping off the sand. If she needs somebody to serve her balls, I'll be there and by her side the rest of the way. But as far as competitively, it's just my time to focus on other things. I won't be out of the sport whatsoever, whether that be coaching or helping her get that other gold medal. I will miss the training sessions that I have with Kerri and the traveling that I have with Kerri. I'm going to actually have more time to come see her outside of volleyball, which I'm excited about.
Kerri, how different will it be for you to have a new teammate?
KWJ: I have aspirations beyond today in this sport, and I want to play in Rio in 2016 and win a gold medal there. That being said, I can't imagine it. I can't picture it. I feel a little bit brokenhearted to even think about trying to do any of this without Misty. It doesn't seem possible at this moment right now and that's been building in me today.
Misty, how will you stay active away from the sport, and what advice would you give to young women trying to pursue volleyball?
MMT: One is to have a dream and really have the passion for what you're doing, and to be excited about it every time you're out there. I plan on still being active, whether that's going down to the beach and playing or being a practice player for Kerri and her teammate. Or doing spin class and yoga. I want to share my knowledge with the next generation of players, and that's what I'm looking forward to. I would like to instill in people just to work hard. As long as they keep at it, their dreams will happen.
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