Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor are determined to win gold in what will be their last game as a team.
Not for the gold medals that would be draped around their necks with one more beach volleyball victory.
They've already got two of those.
"We want to seal the deal that we're the best team that's ever happened," Walsh Jennings said Tuesday night after the Americans advanced to their third consecutive Olympic final with a 22-20, 22-20 victory over China. "Misty has changed my life. I just love her. I want to win tomorrow for us."
May-Treaner told Vollywood announced earlier this year that this game would be her final.
"No, I don't. Maybe as a spectator, or I can be a samba dancer on centre court. This is my last tournament. I'm done after August 8. Time to move on," she said.
Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor won gold medals in Athens and Beijing without ever losing a match — in their first two Olympics, they never even lost a set — and they ran their unbeaten streak to 20 in a row with a victory Tuesday. They will play Wednesday night against the winner of the late semifinal between top-tanked Brazilians Juliana and Larissa and the other American team, April Ross and Jennifer Kessy.
The losers will play China's Xue Chen and Zhang Xi. They're trying to repeat their bronze medal finish from Beijing.
Already the most-decorated team in the brief history of Olympic beach volleyball, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor are guaranteed at least a silver medal. No one — man or woman — had ever won two beach volleyball gold medals before they became repeat champions in Beijing, and until now no woman had won three Olympic medals of any color.
"I had a picture in my head at the beginning of the season of how I wanted us to play, and we're living that picture," Walsh Jennings said. "But it's not over yet."
Earlier Tuesday, Brazil's Emanuel and Alison defeated Latvia to advance to the men's gold medal game. They will meet the winner of the last match, between the Netherlands and Germany.
May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings beat Austria 2-1 in pool play last week. But they gave up the first three points of the semifinal and fell behind 13-7 in the first set. China saved two set points before Xue put one into the net tape to give the first set to the Americans.
The Americans held a slim lead most of the second, but China took the lead 17-16 and forced the Americans to take a timeout. Trailing 19-18, May-Treanor ran far behind the end line to retrieve an errant pass and bumped it toward the net — too close — forcing Walsh Jennings to slide under the net, delicately bumping the ball over and to an unoccupied area on the Chinese portion of the court.
"They're a great team. They make you do crazy stuff like that," Walsh Jennings said. "That was just funky. Misty ran down the ball and I think I got a little lucky on that one. But you need luck and I think you create your own luck, and that's what you get when you don't give up. But I can't take real credit for that. That's not skill."
The Americans saved one set point, but May-Treanor fisted one to the back line to set up a match point, then Walsh Jennings' block fell to the sand and she leapt into the air to celebrate.
In the early men's semifinal, the reigning world champions from Brazil beat Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins 21-15, 22-20 to clinch no worse than silver. It is Emanuel's third straight medal, but a first for Alison.
"I have been dreaming about this since I was a child," Alison said. "Today I can finally say I am an Olympic athlete with a medal. But I am still dreaming about the gold."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.