<
>

Olympic beach volleyball star McPeak to retire after AVP season

3/11/2008

LOS ANGELES -- Holly McPeak's records have been surpassed, and she's going to miss the Olympics for the first time since beach volleyball joined the games in 1996.

It was time, after 18 seasons on the AVP tour, to call it quits.

"It's nice to know that this is it," McPeak said Tuesday in announcing that the 2008 season would be her last. "When you know this is your last opportunity, every tournament is more focused."

McPeak made the announcement on Tuesday at media day for the AVP season, which will open at South Beach in Miami on April 11. The 18-event schedule takes a break for the Olympics in August and then resumes with a new playoff format that takes the top 24 in the point standings and winnows the field to eight teams.

Those teams will compete with eight more that qualified through an open tournament in the Crocs Cup Shootout, with a $1 million purse.

"We want to come out of the Olympics with the momentum," said tour commissioner Leonard Armato, who's married to McPeak. "We want to build our own Super Bowl, our own NBA finals. We want to build our own event."

A three-time Olympian who was once the winningest player on the women's beach volleyball tour, McPeak will partner with Angie Akers this season on the AVP tour and attempt to add to her 72 career victories. Then she will put away her sunscreen for good.

"She's my kind of player," said Karch Kiraly the all-time leading men's winner, who retired last year became a broadcaster. "She out-trains everybody, so I admire her work ethic, how she honors the game. It's an honor to know her."

McPeak is one of five women to have competed in each Olympic tournaments since the sport was added to the games in 1996. She won the bronze medal in Athens in 2004 with Elaine Youngs -- the first U.S. women to medal in the sport.

That year, McPeak earned her 68th victory on the domestic tour, surpassing the record that had been held by Karolyn Kirby. McPeak's AVP victory total of 72 has since been surpassed by Misty May-Treanor and teammate Kerri Walsh.

McPeak also won 19 international events. She is a five-time MVP and eight-time honoree as the best defensive player on tour and was the first female beach volleyball player to top $1 million in career earnings. McPeak also helped lead UCLA to the 1990 NCAA championship.

Armato admitted it was difficult to look at his wife's retirement impartially.

"She's kind of done anything in the sport anyone can hope to do," he said. "She's going to go out competing at a high level.

"Everybody's going to miss her playing," he said. "But she'll have an opportunity to turn her energy and her 'little engine that could' attitude to different aspects of the sport."