U.S. beach volleyball player Elaine Youngs never thought she was superstitious until this summer. Now, she won't go anywhere without her lucky calf sleeve.
It worked again, as Youngs and partner Holly McPeak finished a perfect run through pool play with a gritty 22-24, 21-17, 15-12 win over ninth-seeded Swiss pair Simone Kuhn and Nicole Schnyder.
The fourth-seeded Americans have been the best women's team in the world this year, with six wins and top-four finishes in 12 events. Youngs is convinced the black calf sleeve she's been wearing on her left leg for four months has something to do with it.
"It's like a million-dollar bill," she said.
The third set was tied five times. McPeak ripped a spike down the line for an 11-9 lead and Youngs put the match away with two kills.
"We were under a lot of pressure and we came through," said McPeak, who tallied 23 digs, many of them on sprawling dives.
The U.S. men have not fared nearly as well. Eighth-seeded Dain Blanton and Jeff Nygaard wrapped up a dismal Olympics with a 21-16, 13-21, 15-13 loss to Swiss pair Stefan Kobel and Patrick Heuscher.
"It's sad for me that I'm not going to able to walk out on that court anymore," said Blanton, a 2000 gold medalist with Eric Fonoimoana.
Dax Holdren and Stein Metzger are the last chance to keep alive the nation's gold medal streak in beach volleyball. Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes captured the first beach gold medal in Atlanta before Blanton and Fonoimoana won in Sydney.