LONDON - Misty May-Treanor danced on the sand and then off it, taking a victory lap around the court before leaving Horse Guards Parade with Kerri Walsh Jennings as three-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalists.
Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor extended their Olympic winning streak to 21 straight - unbeaten in Athens, Beijing and now London - with a 21-16, 21-16 victory over Jennifer Kessy and April Ross on Wednesday night in an all-American championship match.
The match started with nearby Big Ben pealing the hour and ended with the "Star-Spangled Banner" playing in the iconic venue near the Prime Minister's Downing Street office and just down the mall from the royal residence at Buckingham Palace. Playing on Henry VIII's jousting tiltyard, with Prince Harry in the crowd, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor continued their reign as champions of the beach.
"We set the bar very high," said May-Treanor, who has said she will retire. "We extended ourselves over that bar even higher."
Even Ross and Kessy, who won a silver medal in their Olympic debut, have called their fellow Americans legends.
"They're the best team of all time," Kessy said.
Dominating the sport for three Olympics, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor won every match they ever played at the Summer Games and lost just one of 43 sets.
No one had ever won even two beach volleyball gold medals before the Americans won their second straight in Beijing.
No woman had ever won three Olympic beach volleyball medals of any kind.
"Kudos. Hats off to them," Ross said. "That's just ridiculous."
Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor pulled away in the first set and were never threatened in the second, falling to their knees and hugging as Ross' final serve went long on match point.
May-Treanor, who was knocked out of "Dancing with the Stars" when she tore her Achilles tendon, then began doing a funky jig to rival the scantily clad cheerleaders who help bring the beach party atmosphere to the sold-out crowds in central London.
The winners then took the celebration to the stands, circling the temporary 15,000-seat stadium built on the household cavalry's centuries-old parade grounds and high-fiving just about anyone holding an American flag. They hugged their family and friends in the stands - although not May-Treanor's husband, Matt, a Los Angeles Dodgers catcher who watched the gold medal match in the team's clubhouse on a balky Internet connection that made him miss the final few points.
They hugged on the podium after the gold medals were draped around their neck, then shared one with their fellow Californians - first-time Olympians who helped give the United States its best women's finish since beach volleyball was added to the Olympics in 1996.
"It's insane. It doesn't feel like it's real," Walsh Jennings said. "I told Misty when we were getting our medals, 'If I wake up tomorrow, and we have to replay this match, I'm going to be furious.' Because it feels like I'm in a dream. It truly feels surreal, and it didn't feel like that the first two times for whatever reason. But this, it's almost too good to be true."
Earlier Wednesday, Brazil's Juliana and Larissa beat Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China in the bronze medal match.
"I am very happy that I got a medal," Juliana said after the reigning world champions rallied from a first-set loss. "It's not gold. But for us, it's gold."