Driving golden spikes

Chicago Tribune

BEIJING -- It is redundant to call anything 6-foot-9 Phil Dalhausser puts down on a beach volleyball court as a “big block.”

But utilizing Dalhausser’s power and partner Todd Rogers’ experience and opportunistic play, the American duo defeated Brazil’s Marcio Araujo and Fabio Luiz Magalhaes 23-21, 17-21, 15-4, for the gold medal today at Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground.

First-time Olympians, Rogers, 34, and Dalhausser, 28, jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the third and decisive game with their complementary play -- Dalhausser with the power block, Rogers with the perfectly placed touch shots.


The Brazilians seemed rattled, committing unforced errors as the Americans ran away with the third set, Dalhausser knocking over Rogers with a ferocious chest bump on match point.

A latecomer to the game, Dalhausser teamed up with Rogers for their first international match in 2005, with Dalhausser quickly learning the finer points from his new partner.

They became known as “The Thin Beast” (Dalhausser) and the “The Professor” (Rogers), one of the top teams in the world, with three straight World Cup gold medals coming into the 2008 Games.

With Rogers’ and Dalhausser’s gold medal, U.S. teams have now won five golds, two silvers and a bronze in four Summer Games since the sport made its Olympic debut.

The American pair caught a break by losing their first match to 23rd-seeded Latvia, avoiding a match with the tough Brazilians or any team seeded higher than eighth before the finals.

The Latvia loss did, however, snap the Americans’ 21-match international win streak, one short of a 9-year-old beach volleyball record. But Rogers and Dalhausser won every match en route to the final.


Araujo and Magalhaes also lost one match before the gold-medal showdown.

The Americans came into the tournament as the second-seeded team, but only because the host team is given the top seeding if it finishes in the top six of Olympic qualifying. They entered the finals off an impressive 21-11, 21-13 semifinal victory over 15th-seeded Renato “Geor” Gomes and Jorge “Gia” Terceiro of Georgia.

The fourth-seeded Brazilians seemed to take control early. Araujo and Magalhaes, who upset fellow Brazilians and Athens gold medalists Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos in the semifinals, got off to a quick start against the U.S. team today, leading 6-1 and 9-3 before the Americans got defensive, running off seven of the next eight points to tie the first game at 10 apiece.

It turned into a nip-and-tuck affair from there, the score tied 12 times until the Americans took the first game on their third game point when Magalhaes netted a spike attempt. Rogers had set them up on the point before with a perfectly placed dink deep into the corner.

Rogers and Dalhausser took a 13-10 lead in the second, but Brazil came back on the strength of Araujo, whose third ace made it 13-all.

The Brazilians then surged ahead 18-15 on a netted spike by Dalhausser and led 20-16 on a spike by Araujo, then took the second game on another netted spike attempt by Dalhausser from deep in the court.




*--* Medal winners G: Rogers/Dalhausser (United States)

S: Araujo/Magalhaes (Brazil)

B: Santos/Rego (Brazil) *--*