Nicole Branagh may not have been golden at the Beijing Olympics, but that doesn’t mean her summer is tarnished.
The Orinda native and her teammate, Elaine Youngs, finished fifth in Beijing, capping off a memorable two weeks at the celebrated games.
“I think that the Olympics were amazing — the people were so accommodating,” Branagh said. “There were so many volunteers doing everything that you could imagine. I was thrilled to be representing the country.”
Her star might just be taking off.
Back on American soil, Branagh and Youngs pulled off a stunning upset of Beijing golden girls Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor last week in the Association of Volleyball Professionals Crocs Cup Shootout in Mason, Ohio. Branagh and Youngs’ 21-19, 10-21, 25-23 victory snapped the gold medalists’ 112-match winning streak, which included 19 titles.
Branagh is hoping a little home cooking keeps her luck going. The former Miramonte High School of Orinda star, who played collegiately at the University of Minnesota, returns to San Francisco next weekend for her second year of competition at Pier 30-32.
Last year, as the second-seeded team, Branagh and Youngs were upset in the first round.
“I remember playing at St. Mary’s, my first time playing close to home,” Branagh said of her time with the Golden Gophers. “It was just awesome, the amazing support from friends and family. We had so many people there. It’s great to come back where I grew up.”
While Walsh, a former Stanford star, and May-Treanor plan to take time off from volleyball to start a family and compete on “Dancing with the Stars,” respectively, Branagh is enjoying her busy playing schedule.
“I can’t remember the last time that I had a weekend off,” said Branagh, who will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday’s 12:45 p.m. game between the Giants and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
And she doesn’t expect much time off in the near future. As the 25th season of the AVP winds down at the end of the month, Branagh will be embarking on the international tour with a couple of towering partners. In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 6-foot-2 Branagh will team up with the 6-3 Walsh. In tournaments in Thailand and China, 6-1 Tyra Turner will be Branagh’s partner in the sand.
“This is what I’m supposed to be doing,” Branagh said. “I’m blessed to be doing something that I love and really enjoy. … As long as I’m happy doing something that makes me happy, I’m going to keep doing it.”
AVP in San Francisco
WHERE: Pier 30-32, S.F.
WHO: The top men and women of the AVP Crocs Tour
Friday: 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Men’s final, 2:30 p.m.
Women’s final, 3:45 p.m.