They lifted weights, they ran sprints in the sand, they did rapid sit-ups while holding weighted balls. Life at the beach was a lot of hard work for volleyball players Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser. It paid off Friday, August 22, with their sport’s most coveted prize: the Olympic gold medal.
It wasn’t easy – until Rogers and Dalhausser got to the third set of the gold-medal match at Beijing’s sun-baked Chaoyang Park. They wore down Brazil’s Fabio Magalhaes and Marcio Araujo by scores of 23-21, 17-21, and 15-4.
Rogers and Dalhausser are 14-0 in three-set matches since 2006. Although the Brazilians managed to stay alive by pulling out the second game Friday, they were almost helpless in the deciding set. The relentless Americans moved out to a 9-1 lead, as the 6’9″ Dalhausser, known as the “Thin Beast,” snuffed three consecutive attacks by Magalhaes. Dalhausser scored the final point on another block, his ninth of the match.
It was the third time since beach volleyball was introduced to the Olympics that U.S. men stood at the top of the podium. And each time, the winners had a Santa Barbara connection: In 1996, when Santa Barbara High graduate Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes won the inaugural tournament at Atlanta; in 2000, when former UCSB All-American Eric Fonoimoana and Dain Blanton pulled a huge upset. And now in 2008, Rogers is another homegrown player (San Marcos High and UCSB), while Dalhausser moved into the area when he and Rogers teamed up in 2006.
Kiraly was NBC’s commentator for all the beach matches in Beijing.
Rogers, 34, now lives with his wife, Melissa, and two children in Solvang, which may find a way to honor him as the town’s resident Olympic gold medalist. Known as “The Professor” because of his cerebral approach to the game, Rogers coached Dalhausser to become the world’s most feared player on the sand. Rogers joked that he was just a cheerleader in the third set Friday, but he did a lot of work early in the match. The Brazilians served Rogers most often, and he responded with a match-high 24 kills.
A day earlier, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh earned their second consecutive gold medal and won their 108th match in a row. It was the first time the U.S. had Olympic beach volleyball champions on both the men’s and women’s sides.
There is a chance Santa Barbara will see all the gold medalists in action September 6 and 7, when the Association of Volleyball Professionals comes to West Beach for the Crocs Cup Shootout. It is one of four tournaments remaining on the AVP schedule, beginning at Mason, Ohio, August 29-31. Other stops are San Francisco (September 12-14) and Manhattan Beach (September 19-21).
The last time the AVP staged a Santa Barbara event was May 2006. Rogers and Dalhausser won the men’s title, their second triumph as a team. Since then, they have tacked on 30 more victories, none bigger than the one on Beijing sand.