'King' and reigning men fall on Olympic beach
By JIMMY GOLEN,
Updated August 10, 2012
LONDON (AP) Ever since King Charles I was marched through Horse Guards Parade on the way to his beheading, this former jousting tiltyard has been rough on royalty.
And as the iconic venue of the London Olympics, it was much kinder to the fans than the favorites.
Defending beach volleyball gold medalists Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser lost in the opener of the knockout stage. Reigning world champions Juliana and Larissa, the top-seeded team on the women's side, earned just a bronze. And two-time Olympic medalist Emanuel, whose beach exploits are so extensive he is known as "The King," lost in the gold medal match.
"It's not easy to be in the top in beach volleyball," Emanuel said after Germany won the final on Thursday night to deprive him of an unprecedented second men's beach volleyball gold medal. "You saw a lot of really good teams passing by this 20 days here. Only three have medals. I'm very satisfied to have one of them."
A 500-year-old jousting grounds that is now home to the Queen's household cavalry, Horse Guards Parade was established by Henry VIII and traversed by Charles I on his final night in 1649, a half-century after William Shakespeare wrote, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." On the clock tower that stands sentry over the sand, a black spot at 2 o'clock marks the time that Charles was fatally dethroned.
In this regal and somewhat somber setting, Olympic organizers constructed a temporary 15,000-seat stadium with the goal of putting on a beach party. Dancers rocked, fans did the rhumba and even the grounds crew was cheered as it raked the sand to the Benny Hill theme.
Organizers said their goal was to create an atmosphere that would energize the competition and not distract from it.
They succeeded, the athletes said.
"Everything was so special in these Olympic games," Emanuel said. "The best thing I can see is the beach volleyball level is getting higher and higher. Especially the crowd, 15,000 watching beach volleyball, understanding our game and enjoying. This is the best thing I can say because I have been playing beach volleyball since 20 years ago and I saw this sport grow so fast."
Emanuel's disappointment came with a loss to Germany's Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann, who won 23-21, 16-21, 16-14 for the first European victory in a sport long dominated by Brazil and the United States. The two countries have claimed two-thirds of the medals since beach volleyball was added to the Olympics in 1996, and they did so again.
Even with a shutout of the men, the U.S. took home two medals when Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor beat April Ross and Jennifer Kessy in the women's gold medal match. In addition to Emanuel's silver medal - he now has one of each color - Brazil took bronze in a women's tournament that was kinder to the top seeds than the men's.
The Olympics is the culmination of a two-year period in which partnerships form with the goal of qualifying for the Summer Games. Now that they are over, many longtime players plan to retire, including Emanuel, Rogers and May-Treanor.
Dalhausser is expected to team up with Sean Rosenthal, a two-time Olympian, or Nick Lucena. Walsh Jennings will play for now with Nicole Branagh, but Ross could also be available if the 35-year-old Kessy isn't up for another run at the Summer Games.
Already a three-time champion, Walsh Jennings said she is determined to defend her title in 2016, even without May-Treanor. It will be hard to top London, but Rio de Janeiro organizers have a chance: The competition will be at Copacabana beach, one of the most famous in the world, with a beach volleyball-loving country as its host.
Emanuel, 39, will be there.
But probably not as an athlete.
"Rio, Rio, Rio," he said wistfully. "It will be in my hometown, but I don't know if I will be in shape to be there. I will be 43 years old and no one player has had this challenge before. I don't know. I don't have an answer for you right now. I like the Olympic Games. I like to be there, I like to play."