If Olympic beach volleyball players April Ross and Jennifer Kessy seemed right at home Wednesday afternoon as they signed autographs and posed for pictures at CdM Fitness, it's because they were.
The pair have trained at the gym on East Coast Highway for about two years. The gym's owner, David Jurevich, accompanied the team to London as their trainer. And Ross and Kessy, who have spent the last month or so since the games toting around some new silver hardware, are both Orange County-bred.
"Our coach at Newport Harbor (High School) would cross train with us and take us out to Newport Beach," recalled Ross, a Costa Mesa native. "Now we train in Big Corona."
Kessy, who is from San Juan Capistrano, remembered growing up with the beach—and plenty of professional beach volleyball—nearby.
"It's easy to play when you're here," she said. "Here, you can pretty much play all year. It's a big benefit."
The fact that their opponents in the Olympic finals, Newport Harbor product Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, also hail from California, Ross said, "feels nice."
"It feels more like a unified family," Ross said of May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings, who took gold. "We travel with them so much."
The atmosphere was relaxed at Wednesday's meet-and-greet. Ross and Kessy mingled with friends, while a few people in work-out garb passed through the gym. Parents and children stopped by and checked out products from event sponsors Suite Sweat Sauna Studio and Ritual Wellness.
Among the admirers were another set of beach volleyball players, 12-year-olds Hayden McElroy and Kenzie Sullivan. Asked how they felt about meeting Ross and Kessy, the two answered in unison: "Really excited."
Sullivan explained that she and McElroy had already met Ross and Kessy once before, but, she said, "This was our first time seeing Olympic medals?" She looked at McElroy for confirmation. McElroy nodded.
Jery Lee, 42, who was one of the first fans to nab a picture and an autograph, said he happened to see the event advertised online and "just came to check it out after work."
Lee said he "mostly watched swimming and gymnastics," along with some volleyball during the Olympics and he's "not too into autographs."
But, he said, "It's not every day you get to see an Olympian."