Walsh Jennings, Ross hope midnight matches are a trend
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) With three small children at home - one for each Olympic gold medal - Kerri Walsh Jennings turned into a morning person whether she wanted to or not.
So preparing to play at midnight in the marquee match of the Rio de Janeiro beach volleyball tournament is less of a struggle than it could have been.
''I've been trying so long to be a morning person and it's just so contrary to who I am,'' Walsh Jennings said after she and April Ross beat Australia 21-14, 21-13 in a match that began at 12:34 a.m. and took only 35 minutes.
Ross said the players prepared for the late start by taking a nap during the day. They avoided walking around in the hot sun, watching video instead while also finding plenty of time to meditate, do a crossword puzzle and read.
''We knew it was going to be really electric out there and we knew it was going to be a really long day,'' Walsh Jennings said. ''And it's under the lights in Copa. So it's a great atmosphere.''
That's something the Americans can get used to. After all, as the biggest names in the tournament - at least for the lucrative U.S. television market - they will play again at midnight for their second match, against China early Tuesday morning.
The gold medal match is also scheduled to start at midnight.
''That's the goal,'' Walsh Jennings said.
Here are some noteworthy events from the opening day of the beach volleyball competition and things to look for on Day 2:
Rookie Casey Patterson and two-time Olympian Jake Gibb also won their opener, beating Qatar 21-16, 21-16. They get a day off before playing Austria on Monday.
The other U.S. teams make their debuts on Sunday. Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat play Poland in the morning, and 2008 gold medalist Phil Dalhausser and his new partner, Nick Lucena, meet Tunisia.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attended the early matches and went out to the practice court to wish Walsh Jennings and Ross well. ''Very patriotic,'' Walsh Jennings said. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi also visited the venue.
DAY AT THE BEACH
Just outside the security fences is the iconic Copacabana beach, where locals frolicked in the surf, played soccer in the sand or cooled themselves under an umbrella at one of the many open-air kiosks serving food, beer and the local sugar cane cocktail, caipirinha.
''I love South American fans, and I love how the people love sports,'' said Argentina's Georgiana Klug, who lost her opener with Ana Gallay, falling to Spain in straight sets. ''All the singing, dancing - it makes me feel like home.''
Italy's Adrian Carambula got things started with his trademark Skyball, a high and spinning serve that wanders into the path of the sunshine and wind and confounds attempts at a return. Although he typically uses it sparingly, Carambula said he was egged on by his friends to start things off with a little flair.
''They said they wouldn't talk to me if I didn't,'' he said in a post-match interview that was twice interrupted because the prime minister asked him to come over and pose for a picture.
''My legs were shaking'' before the first serve, said Carambula, who with Alex Ranghieri beat Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst 21-14, 21-13. ''When I walked in I actually got a little bit emotional. I wasn't expecting it, but I embraced it and I played with it. So, very special.''
Jimmy Golen has covered Olympic beach volleyball since 2008. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/jgolen