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Olympic Obsession: Day 11

Marriage counseling has helped America's powerful beach volleyball team back to the gold medal match.

Faced with a major challenge in Tuesday’s semifinals, beach volleyball players Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor were forced to dig into every bit of their experience to advance to the gold medal game.

Their two gold medals. Their years of dominating opponents. Their marriage counseling.

Yep, you read that one right: Marriage counseling.

The long-time partners on the beach – faced with not playing their best volleyball leading into the Olympics – sought professional help together before coming to London.

And it seems to have worked. Despite losing their first set in their three Olympics, the duo are on the doorstep of a third gold medal in Wednesday’s final match against fellow Americans April Ross and Jennifer Kessy, who upset the world’s top team from Brazil in the other semifinal Tuesday.

The story of marriage counseling was something that was talked about earlier in the games, as people waited to see if the two-time gold medalists could get their game going on the biggest stage.

You’d think that wouldn’t be a problem. Athletes work their whole life to get to the top of their sport. But having been to the top – not just once, but twice – probably makes that mental challenge harder. Add in the life-changing moments in each of their home lives – both are mothers of children – and well, sometimes you maybe don’t talk about the issues that may get in the way of reaching your goals.

It’s easy to think that for these elite athletes, it should just be as easy as flipping a switch. But sometimes, that switch is a dimmer, and reaching that right brightness takes a little time. And if seeing a counselor together is what it was going to take to win another gold medal, then who is to argue about the results?

SOCCER FOLLOW: People were still buzzing in the wake of Monday’s classic game between Canada and the United States.

And with all that smoke, there was a little bit of fire.

First off, all the Canadian complaints about the referee were brought into sharper focus. Especially when people realized that Melissa Tancredi introduced her foot to Carli Lloyd’s head. The incident could be reviewed by FIFA for supplemental discipline.

FIFA is also considering whether or not to discipline Canada for its comments after the game. Yes, the call that led to the tie was ticky-tack. But to question the referee the way they did was cheap (it’s like it was the first time in their life they’ve ever had a bad ref).

And if you were wondering about how the game played north of the border, well, the headlines were much more, well, angry, especially compared to those in the U.S.

THE MEN PLAY, TOO: And we’ll get an all-Americas final as Brazil will face Mexico.

This one burns a little, since Mexico is the big rival, but they looked good Tuesday morning. The final goal in injury time was just a magical run through the tired Japanese defense.

Meanwhile, Brazil started slow, but must have found their game in beating South Korea. It should make for a good final.

Amazingly, both teams are seeking their first gold medal in soccer (not that Brazil’s complaining with all their World Cups).

KNOW THE RULES: Just about to wrap up a spot in the women’s water polo gold medal game, the U.S. team nearly threw it away.

In a scene that college basketball fans equate with Chris Webber at the University of Michigan, U.S. coach Adam Krikorian called a timeout when his team did not have possession – a rule violation. Australia converted a penalty shot with one second left to send the game to overtime.

Luckily for Krikorian, his team picked him up, scoring twice in the first half of extra time, then ran out the clock for an 11-9 victory.

The U.S. will play Spain in Thursday’s final.

OTHER QUICK HITS: Jordyn Wieber’s coach says that her sub-par performance at the Games may be attributed to a possible stress fracture. So, high marks to her for working through the pain.

• Speaking of pain, a German weightlifter probably was feeling some after a barbell fell on the back of his neck during competition Tuesday.

• The 100-meter breaststroke winner, Cameron van der Burgh, used the “it’s-not-cheating-if-everyone’s-doing-it” excuse while explaining that he illegally used too many dolphin kicks during his gold-medal winning swim. And I’m cool with that.

• Grenada’s Kirani James, who already had won the hearts and minds for exchanging bibs with double amputee Oscar Pistorius, not only won his country’s first-ever gold medal by winning the 400 meters. He also gave the rest of his nation the day off. After his win, the Prime Minister declared the rest of the day a holiday.

• And, if you're like me, and many other dads and moms out there, then you're missing an important sport in your life at these Games: Softball. It's a shame that it was knocked out (and unfairly paired with baseball) of the Olympics. Learned something new about the vote that knocked it out: A rare ethical decision led to it being ousted by one vote.

UPCOMING: Men’s basketball starts its quarterfinals throughout the day, with the U.S. tipping off at 2:15 p.m. against Australia. Meanwhile, if you don’t want to wait for primetime, you can see the women’s beach volleyball match live online 1 p.m. Track and field’s marquee event will be the women’s 200 meter final, and that will also take place at 1 p.m. The U.S. men’s volleyball and water polo teams play in their quarterfinals Wednesday, with volleyball at 8 a.m. against Italy and water polo playing Croatia at noon.

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