In their last Olympics together, Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor are playing for something more.
"We want to seal the deal that we're the best team that's ever happened," Walsh Jennings said Tuesday night after the two-time gold medallists advanced to their third consecutive Olympic final with a 22-20, 22-20 victory over China. "I want to win tomorrow for us. ... This will be our last match together, so we want to go out on top."
A few hours later, Kessy and Ross beat the top-seeded Brazilians in a persistent rain to join their fellow Californians in Wednesday night's gold medal game. Prince Harry is expected to attend, following prime minister David Cameron by one night to the stands at Horse Guards Parade that have also hosted such luminaries as Bill Gates, Prince Albert of Monaco, London Mayor Boris Johnson and a handful of NBA stars from the U.S. men's basketball team.
"I can't believe it. I only let myself picture it in my dreams," Ross said. "I never really expected it. I knew that we could do it, but the competition in the final four is so big. To be on the podium is a dream coming true."
Ross and Kessy rallied from a first-set loss and a four-point deficit in the second to beat reigning world champions Juliana and Larissa 15-21, 21-19, 15-12. The Brazilians will play in the third-place game against China's Xue Chen and Zhang Xi, who are 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 also 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 colour.
"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 German team of Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann, who beat Reinder Nummerdor and Rich Schuil of the Netherlands 21-14, 21-16 in the final match of a rain-soaked night.
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."