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Video: Volleyball star: Sports masked pain at home

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    NATALIE MORALES, anchor: In the sport of women's beach volleyball Misty May-Treanor is one of the brightest stars. Along with partner Kerri Walsh , Misty won gold at the last two Summer Olympic Games in Athens and in Beijing . These two ladies are the only American women ever to win Olympic gold in the sport . Well, now Misty is

    opening up about her life off of the beach in her new book, "Misty: Digging Deep in Volleyball and Life ." Misty May-Treanor , good morning.

    Ms. MISTY MAY-TREANOR ("Misty, Digging Deep in Volleyball and Life"): Good morning.

    MORALES: Good to have you here.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: Good to see you again.

    MORALES: I was reliving those highlights with you. And, you know, Athens , of course, six years ago, two years since Beijing , you've had a lot of time to relive those moments over and over again, what stands out to you, what are the highlights to you?

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: I mean, the last ball. Everybody asks me about what's the most memorable thing, and both the last balls both in Athens and Beijing and sharing that moment with Kerri ...

    MORALES: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: ...because we sacrificed so much together. And, you know, when we started as a team people didn't, you know, see us coming together, you know, right away, and we made it happen.

    MORALES: And any of the golds mean more to you? I guess you get that a lot. I mean, a gold is a gold but...

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: I mean definitely -- yeah. Definitely the first one just because we were so young and nervous and we were coming up against a good Brazilian team . But the second was just as sweet, you know, doing back-to-back.

    MORALES: Yeah.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: No one's ever done it before. And I mean, we've accomplished so much in such a short time.

    MORALES: Yeah.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: They're both -- I mean, they're both amazing feats.

    MORALES: You know, as I was reading through some of the book, you literally grew up on the sand, Muscle Beach , you know, right there near the Santa Monica Pier in California . Tell me about some of your memories, childhood and just being there as your mom Barbara and your father Butch were volleyball players as well.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: Yeah, my mom came from a tennis family, so I got to dabble in kind of all these sports, tennis, I played soccer, I did volleyball. But there's no better playground than the beach.

    MORALES: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: I grew up right there at Santa Monica Pier , I watched it get knocked down during storms, watched it get rebuilt, just watched the whole Santa Monica transform. And had many people watch me out there and -- I mean, Karch Kiraly played at that beach, Liz Masakayan , Sinjin Smith . So a lot of the great players...

    MORALES: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: ...played at the beach where, you know, I was a rug rat just roaming around, boogie-boarding and kind of just living carefree.

    MORALES: And learning your craft very well. And you do dig deep -- dig deep in this book as well and you talk about some less than happy moments in your life, you talk about your parents dealing with alcoholism. And in fact, we reached out to your father Butch , who said he was aware that you were writing about all of this and he said that `whatever I did, I own it.' How is -- how is your relationship with your dad now? They were recovered alcoholics, as far as I understand, when you were 15 years old, they sobered up.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: Correct. Yeah, my dad stopped drinking first and, you know, my mom had to battle it, but she got sober. And they were sober -- I mean, my dad still...

    MORALES: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: ...doesn't drink. And before my mom died she had been sober for over -- I mean it was about like 15 years. So it was -- I mean, it was -- it takes away a little bit of your childhood, but I think every family has a story to tell, and these are the ups and downs that I hope people will read my book and say, `Oh, my gosh, she went through the same thing'...

    MORALES: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: ...`and this is how her family got through it' or, you know, as a kid, `Oh, this is what she did to overcome it.' But I think...

    MORALES: Did it make you a tougher competitor? Did you -- and did the beach volleyball really help you go through that period in your life?

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: I think -- I think playing sports, playing volleyball, playing soccer took my mind off of, you know, what was happening at home.

    MORALES: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: You know, you come home and, you know, when people drink they can become different people and -- but once they get healthy...

    MORALES: Yeah.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: Our family loving, caring, great support system.

    MORALES: Yeah.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: And but I mean...

    MORALES: Great relationship all around.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: But it's tough, yeah.

    MORALES: Yeah. And meanwhile, I should just quickly say Kerri Walsh just had another baby.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: Two.

    MORALES: So your partner -- so now she has a one-year-old and she has what, a one-month-old?

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: The Irish twins. There she is.

    MORALES: Joseph -- so she has Sundance and Joseph. Exactly, Irish twins. So congratulations to her.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: And I hope I look that happy after I have...

    MORALES: I know. Well -- and I hope that's coming up in your future...

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: So...

    MORALES: ...as well as more volleyball.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: Thank you.

    MORALES: I know that you're playing with Nicole Branagh as well, your new partner.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: Yep.

    MORALES: So wish you a lot of luck. And are we going to see you in London ? We hope.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: You'll have to ask me in 2012 . I have no idea.

    MORALES: That's too long to wait.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: I have to -- I'm happy -- I'm happy that I'm just back on the court.

    MORALES: Yeah.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: And I try to go tournament to tournament, year to year.

    MORALES: Yeah.

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: I just want to stay healthy.

    MORALES: All right. Well, we hope you do, especially after that ankle thing that your -- the Achilles' heel in " Dancing with the Stars ." So...

    Ms. MAY-TREANOR: Yes.

    MORALES: Yeah. Anyway, you've got a lot to read in this book. "Misty: Digging Deep in Volleyball and Life ." Misty May-Treanor , great to have you here.

TODAY books
updated 6/22/2010 10:41:56 AM ET 2010-06-22T14:41:56

Misty May-Treanor, the most decorated female beach volleyball player in the United States, reveals her journey from growing up in Santa Monica to the behind-the-scenes Olympic moments with partner Kerri Walsh. An excerpt.

All my life, I’ve dreamed in gold.

When I was a tyke, scampering through the sand, a jump serve away from my parents’ pizza stand at Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, California.

When I was eight years old, playing in my first beach volleyball tournament, at Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades, with Dad as my partner.

When I was the outside hitter for Newport Harbor High School, and we won two California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) state championships.

Book jacket: "Misty: Digging Deep in Volleyball and Life"
When I was the setter for Long Beach State, and we captured the 1998 Division I NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship.

When I was twenty-seven and considered the best defensive beach volleyball player in the world, and my partner Kerri Walsh and I steamrolled through seven straight matches without losing a single game to win the 2004 Olympic gold medal in Athens, Greece.

And yes, even when I was strutting my stuff in fancy costumes, theatrical makeup, and ultra-high heels as a contestant on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

Yet, when I served the ball and Kerri blasted it by China’s Tian Jia and Wang Jie to give us our second Olympic gold medal, on August 21, 2008, in Beijing, China, the crowning moment wasn’t bathed in gold.

Instead, it was an absolute blur of colors, from the pastel pink, green, and blue plastic ponchos draped over the twelve-thousand plus fans packed into Chaoyang Park for the monsoon-drenched gold medal match, to the fluorescent orange T-shirts and bright yellow baseball caps and beach umbrellas designating the two dozen or so family members and friends, who’d lovingly dubbed themselves “Misty’s Misfits” as they traipsed across the globe over the years cheering me on. And, of course, the red, white, and blue of hundreds of American flags.

Video: U.S. volleyball duo on gold win As the ball hit the beach for match point, my knees buckled from all the emotion, and I slid down onto my butt in my sopping wet, white bikini. I clenched my fists and let out a scream. “WOOOOO!”

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Kerri grabbed me from behind, and we rolled around on the sand, squeezing each other so tightly I’m surprised we didn’t pass out due to a severe lack of oxygen. Kerri pulled me to my feet, and then I jumped onto her, wrapping my legs around her waist. I thrust my arms into the air and let out another scream. “We did it! Can you believe it? We did it!” I yelled.

We’d shared a once-in-a-lifetime experience over the past eight years, and we’d be forever joined. Sisters. Friends. Teammates. Business partners. Trailblazers. We composed ourselves, ran to the other side of the court, and shook hands with the Chinese team, and then we shook hands with the referees and volunteers.

After those few minutes of decorum, it was a full-on Beijing Olympics gold medal celebration. I began clapping to “Celebration,” by Kool & the Gang, which was blaring over the loudspeakers, and I turned to scope out the crowd, hoping to find my loved ones.

Instantly, everything shifted into super slow motion. I saw a sea of colors but couldn’t make out people’s faces. It was a complete jumble, and it reminded me of the way a TV screen looks when the reception gets scrambled.

Video: Misty sings karaoke! I began running around the stadium, searching for anybody I knew, jumping up off the sand, squealing with happiness, shaking hands and slapping high fives. Somebody handed me an American flag the size of a large beach towel. Someone else gave me a small American flag on a stick. Suddenly, I turned into a two-fisted, bikini-clad Lady Liberty, madly waving both of them as if it were the Fourth of July. Except, instead of a crown, my head was wrapped in a red sweatband. I noticed the Beach Girls, the beach volleyball dance team who’d entertained the crowds in their skimpy bikinis throughout the Games during breaks in the action, and I began gyrating my hips and shaking my booty, mimicking their sexy moves. “WOOOOO!” I screamed again.

My heart was pumping so hard I thought it was going to fly right out of my chest, and my adrenaline was surging so quickly my skin tingled from head to toe. At that time, I weighed between 150 and 155 pounds, but I remember thinking, “I feel so incredibly light.” Out of the blue, a thought shot through my brain, “Didn’t the Olympics start yesterday?” We’d been competing almost two weeks, but the time had flown by, and now our happy ending was unfolding just as I’d imagined. However, I admit I was somewhat dumbfounded it had actually turned out that way. In fact, part of me kept waiting for someone to shake me and say, “Wake up, Misty! It’s only a dream!”

Slideshow: Best of the Olympics Despite the iconic, first-name-only status we’d achieved in our sport over the past four years, it was truly unbelievable to me that we’d managed to become the first beach volleyball team ever to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals. From the outside, it may have looked easy, but having lived, breathed, eaten, and slept volleyball since the day I was born, I knew what we’d pulled off in Beijing was no small feat.

Excerpted from "MISTY: Digging Deep in Volleyball and Life" by Misty May-Treanor with Jill Lieber Steeg. Copyright © 2010 by Misty May-Treanor with Jill Lieber Steeg. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive


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