Catching Up with Todd and Phil

July 14, 2009

By John Zant, Santa Barbara Independent

In two Sundays of epic matches, the U.S. men almost took down Brazil's soccer kings, and Andy Roddick almost prevailed over Roger Federer. One upset did come through, however. For the first time in three years, Todd and Phil -- in Santa Barbara, their first names are sufficient -- did not win the biggest beach volleyball tournament.

The upstart German team of Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann knocked off Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser in the semifinals of the FIVB World Championships last Sunday at Stavanger, Norway. The scores were 21-16, 16-21, and 15-10--a rare instance in which Todd and Phil lost a three-setter.

Todd and Phil had reached the summit of their sport by winning the previous World Championship in 2007 and then claiming the Olympic gold medal in dramatic fashion at Beijing last summer. Last year, Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser came from behind to win the AVP tournament in Santa Barbara. No such luck this year at the FIVB World Championships, where the twosome fell to a German team.

There have been signs that a post-Olympic letdown is affecting the pair. They are not totally dominating the stateside AVP Tour, having lost in the finals of consecutive tournaments--Atlanta and Ocean City (Maryland)--to John Hyden and Sean Scott. It was sweet revenge for Hyden, who was up by a 14-9 score in the third game against Todd and Phil at the AVP's Santa Barbara Open last September, and never did score match point. Todd and Phil's crazy comeback victory put a cherry on top of their golden year.

Todd and Phil have worn their medals with grace and class. They engaged warmly with Special Olympics athletes at a recent fundraiser for the Santa Barbara chapter. Rogers gave a speech about the true value of his athletic endeavors. "The gold medal did not make me what I am today," he said. "It was all the experiences that went before it." He checked off the benefits of participating in sports--making new friends, opening doors of opportunity, and adopting a healthy lifestyle. When he's 60, he figures he'll be playing with the "Nooners" who show up at the East Beach volleyball courts every weekday lunch hour.

Of course, winning the Olympic gold brought Todd and Phil extra benefits. They stopped in New York on their way to Europe two weeks ago and were guests on the Today show, where they gave some pointers to hostesses Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford. They took it easy--a TV studio with expensive lighting equipment is not the best place to be smashing a volleyball around.

"All in all it was a good time," Rogers wrote in his blog. Then he continued: "Went to lunch at [AVP official Nick] Lewin's after that. He BBQ'd up some steaks and had some solid Margaux for us to taste-test. Steaks were great and the wine was awesome. We took off around 1:30 for our JFK flight to Frankfurt. Made it in plenty of time and we were both upgraded." Not a bad life, at all.

Todd and Phil sailed into the semifinals at Stavanger, a Norwegian seaport, but they took a broadside from Brink and Reckermann, who went on to defeat Brazil's Alison Cerutti and Harley Marques in the championship match. Todd and Phil stood on the podium after hammering another German team, David Klemperer and Eric Koreng, by scores of 21-11 and 21-16 in the bronze-medal match.

Remember Jen Kessy and April Ross, the pair who ousted Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh from last year's Santa Barbara tournament? It was not a fluke. Kessy and Ross won the women's world championship in Norway.

Todd and Phil are competing in the FIVB tournament at Gstaad, Switzerland, this week. They will return home and resume the AVP Tournament at the Manhattan Beach Open, happening from July 16-19.