Selznick returning to Summer Games |

Selznick returning to Summer Games

Misty May and Holly McPeak overcame enormous odds to qualify for next month’s Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. The beach volleyball doubles team’s perseverance is only matched by their coaching legend Gene Selznick’s life-long pursuit of an Olympic gold medal.

“I’m not excited yet. I don’t get too excited. I have my heart to think about,” said the 70-year-old Selznick, a part-time resident of Zephyr Cove. “When it gets a little closer and I watch the parade of countries, then I’ll start feeling it.”

May and McPeak, starting a year behind other American teams in accumulating points in the Federation of International Volleyball ranking system, held off Liz Masakayan and Elaine Youngs for one of the two U.S. Olympic berths.

“Other teams had 18 tournaments to accumulate points and Misty and Holly did it in 10,” said Selznick, who coached Sinjin Smith and Carl Henkel at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. “I just found their weaknesses and tried to improve upon them. At my age I tell them I know the game, and they don’t know it yet.”

The tension for Selznick’s duo reached a crescendo during the final Olympic qualifying event earlier this month in China. Trailing 14-8 in their semifinal match to a Chinese team, McPeak and May were in jeopardy of squandering what they had worked all year to attain. Sensing their dream slipping away, May and McPeak rallied for a 17-16 victory with a pro-China crowd of 10,000 cheering on their opponents.

“That was kind of a tough go, wasn’t it? But they did it? Selznick said.

As it turned out, May and McPeak’s primary Olympic contenders, Masakayan and Youngs, won the tournament. May and McPeak would have missed the Olympics had they lost that semifinal match and then lost a subsequent match for third place.

“They’re the two best players in the world, and they’re mentally tough,” Selznick said.

They demonstrated that mental toughness throughout the summer circuit when May played through a pulled stomach muscle. May missed two tournaments because of the injury and is still bothered by it heading into the Olympics.

Adding to their weekly test in 2000 was the burden of qualifying for the FIVB tournaments’ main draw.

“I liked it, but I didn’t like it, because it tired the girls out. Nobody else could have done it,” Selznick said.

The Olympics will be a family affair of sorts for Selznick as his son, Dane, will coach the men’s team of Rob Heidger and Kevin Wong.

After a personality clash with the head coach left Selznick as an alternate for the U.S. men’s indoor volleyball team in 1964, his pursuit of a gold medal is very much within reach 36 years later.

“Going to the Olympics is fun because we’re going there to win the gold medal,” he said. “I’m going there to get that elusive gold medal. I should have been there in ’64.”

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