Parenthood seems to be the unanimous issue that separates the best beach volleyball team in the world from their competition.
Misty May-Treanor, 34, and Kerri Walsh, 33, have been unstoppable for over a decade. To name a few accolades, they clipped off an astounding 112-game win streak and two Olympic titles. And that is just scratching the surface.
Age has begun to slowly catch up with the pair. Despite their driving passion, their physical abilities are pointing that this may be their last run at glory form.
Shortly after the completion of their headlining repeat gold-medal act in Beijing, May-Treanor took to a different style of stage.
After dipping her feet in sand for nearly her whole life, she settled into some more sensible shoes as a cast member of ABC's hit series, Dancing With The Stars.
A devastating blow would sideline the pairing for 18 months as May-Treanor wound up tearing her Achilles.
While May-Treanor was locked in rehab, Walsh put a ring on her finger and gave birth to two baby boys. The vision of retirement began to circle.
Needless to say, while the duo has been plagued with injuries and dealt with the challenges of becoming a mother, new beach volleyball pairs have begun to emerge.
Is the era over? The Brazilian pairing of Juliana Silva and Larissa Franca would like to think so.
The Brazilians defeated the highly targeted Americans in last summer's world championships.
2001 marked the last year before the reality check of 2011 that they had lost at an Olympic or world event.
May-Treanor and Walsh know they are pinned atop everyone's radar. And the inexperience and time away from the game recently may hurt them in their quest for a three-peat in London 2012.
Currently, the duo rests in the third position in the world rankings. They sit behind No. 1-ranked Brazil, and the No. 2-ranked Chinese squad of Xue Chen and Zhang Xi.
For the first time, May-Treanor and Walsh will not be entering as the favorites.
Regardless, the two have made beach volleyball a thing of beauty for all women. If they take home the hardware in 2012, they will own the rights to 60 percent of the gold medals since the sport's existence in the Olympics.
The youth of the Chinese and the Brazilians are poised to take down the defending champs. They are out to rewrite the history books and prove to the world that there is a new face in the sport.
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