Triple Olympic gold the swansong lure for Treanor
SAN JOSE - Unimaginable in Beijing four years ago, the prospect of winning an unprecedented third Olympic gold medal at this year's London Games has become the driving force for Misty May-Treanor.
The statuesque American has already piled up 110 individual championship wins in domestic and international competition to become the most successful female beach volleyball player ever, but that is not yet enough.
When May-Treanor finally retires from competition after the London Olympics have ended, she wants to leave the sport on a giddy high, having set records with her long-time playing partner Kerri Walsh that will never be equalled.
"It would be a great way to leave the game," May-Treanor, 34, told Reuters when asked about the significance of winning a third gold medal at the Olympics in partnership with Walsh.
"We have been setting standards for others to follow and setting records that may be unbroken. These are great things but we want to be a legendary team, untouchable.
"The mere fact that we are able to come together and still be at the top has been great, but we want a three-repeat win, something no other team may ever be able to do in volleyball."
The pair first played together after the 2000 season and they went on to mine Olympic gold at Athens in 2004 and again at Beijing in 2008 before splitting up to pursue other interests.
Walsh and her husband decided to start a family while May-Treanor joined America's version of the hit TV show "Dancing With The Stars" and also embarked on a master's degree in coaching and athletic administration.
Though May-Treanor's "Dancing With The Stars" stint was short-lived after she ruptured her achilles tendon during rehearsals for the third week of the 2008 edition, she has no regrets over her decision to join the show.
"You never know when opportunities are going to come and that injury could have happened while running on the treadmill or doing something else," she smiled.
"It could have been a sign my body was saying to take a time-out and it allowed me to focus on other things. I got some clinics started and I was able to go back to school for my Masters.
"I don't think you can regret anything," said the five-foot nine-inch (1.75 metres) Californian, who has long suffered from seasonal allergies and has become closely involved with the Ditch the Drip (DitchtheDrip.com) campaign.
May-Treanor initially thought the Bejing Games would be her competitive swansong but, after lengthy soul searching, she decided to return to competition in 2010.
She played that year in partnership with 2008 Olympian Nicole Branagh before reuniting with her long-time friend Walsh in March 2011 after the pair had discussed their options over a lengthy lunch.
While the duo took a little while to re-adapt to the pace of the game, their easy team chemistry was as good as ever.
"Taking time off from any sport, the game always seems kind of changed when you are away from it," May-Treanor said. "So finding the rhythm, the speed of the game, was a little tricky.
"But the connection was always there," added the American, who has a tattoo of an angel on her left shoulder emblazoned with the initials 'B.M.' in honour of her mother Barbara who died of cancer in 2002.
Despite their time away from the sport, May-Treanor and Walsh proved they were still a force to be reckoned with when they finished second at last year's world championships in Rome.
"For a team to be out for two years not playing together and then to lose in that final 16-14, or something like that, I thought it was a tremendous finish," May-Treanor said.
"I don't know any other team that could take two years apart from playing with each other and be able to do what we are doing. I am very proud of what we have been able to accomplish."
Asked what still drove her to be competitive, May-Treanor replied without hesitation: "To be the best. You can always get better and the world is getting better so we need to get better.
"It would be a testament to what Kerri and I have been through, with my injury and her having kids and yet still staying on top through hard work and persevering together.
"I have accomplished so much already that there is nothing else that I need to prove but we simply want to be the best. That's what we want, is to finish on top together." (Editing by Julian Linden)