April Ross has waited a long time for this moment -- having competed in three Olympics across almost a decade.
Wednesday's beach volleyball final at Shiokaze Park saw Ross and new partner Alix Klineman -- both Californians -- take down Australia's Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy to win gold.
Ross, who won a silver medal with Jen Kessy in 2012 and a bronze medal with Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2016, completed her set and became the first beach volleyball player to win an Olympic medal with three different partners.
At 39, she is also the oldest woman to win an Olympic beach volleyball medal -- breaking the record of former partner Walsh Jennings.
Ross and Klineman looked sharp early, scoring five in a row -- including two ace-serves -- for a 7-2 lead. They fared well despite brutal conditions, where the sand measured 129 degrees Fahrenheit -- and had to be watered down prior to the match. Artacho del Solar and Clancy scored some tough points, but simply couldn't match the Americans' tenacity. Team USA took the first set 21-15 when the Brazilians whipped a serve wide.
Australia roared into the second set with a 2-0 lead, but America's "A-Team" -- also known as "Team Hugs," due to their frequent displays of affection -- responded with ten straight points. Minutes later with just seven points to go, Ross and Klineman struggled to close the win -- but their wide lead gave them a comfortable cushion.
Team USA took the second set -- and match -- at 21-16.
"It was so tough," Ross, draped alongside her teammate in an American flag, said in a post-match interview. "It was such a shot in the dark. For us to get here and do this, with this kind of competition, just blows my mind, and I'm so grateful to everyone who helped us get here ... To get a gold medal, finally, just feels so amazing."
"This is what we dreamed of," Klineman added. "This is why we sacrificed so much and worked so hard ... It just feels like such a fairy tale. It was truly a team effort."
The U.S. has won a beach volleyball medal at every Olympics since the sport was first contested in 1996.
The Australians haven't won gold in the event since the Sydney Games in 2000.
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