Getting to Gold

AVP Sails into Huntington Beach

Olympic gold medalist Dain Blanton returns to professional volleyball
Thursday, 08 May 2008

By Frederick D. Nash

The AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) has returned to the west coast. Top male and female athletes compete for points, prize money and a potential gold medal, in this Olympic qualifying year. 2008 also marks the reunion of Dain Blanton and Erik Fonoimoana who took home Olympic gold medals from Sydney, Austrailia in 2000.

Dain Blanton, who's family moved from New York to Laguna Beach would watch his older brother play volleyball and began to play himself in the 5th grade. A superior athlete, Blanton excelled at basketball and volleyball in high school. The love of the game propelled Dain to play club volleyball, where he developed into one of the best players in the nation. Although he played in a State CIF Championship in basketball at Laguna Beach High School, he chose volleyball in college and played at Pepperdine.

After a successful college career, Blanton was motivated to become the only successful African American to compete on the professional tour. In 1997 he won a Grand Slam event at Hermosa Beach, which marked the launch of a great career. With the growth and popularity of the sport in the United States and worldwide, Dain's career grew with it. Broadcast television dollars, fashion and California lifestyle have merged into the AVP Tour.

Due to geography and general exposure, Dain has accepted the challenge to get more minority kids exposed to the game. Minority involvement and difficult access for young players helped launch "Dain's Day at the Beach" an organization targeted to address the lack on minority opportunity in the sport. Dain also support his playing partner's organization "Dig for Kids" founded by Erik Fonoimoana. Dain continues to look for other opportunities to inspire young kids and expose them to the game he loves.

OLYMPIC CHAMPION - Two time Olympian and Gold medalist (Sydney 2000) Dain Blanton greets Chelsea Winston of Valencia.

Dain Blanton loves the competition and the bigger than life atmosphere of championship professional volleyball. Sponsored by Oakley, Dain holds claim to the distinction of the only African American to compete and win a gold medal in Olympic competition. Blanton's take on the race issue is that he doesn't focus on it. "If I break records or win on the Olympic stage, then everyone understands how difficult and rare the gold medal is. People who normally don't watch volleyball would see how special that accomplishment is."

Dain has recently started another chapter by picking up the broadcast michrophone at Fox. For now, look for he and his playing partner Erik Fonoimoana as they try to re-capture the magic that propelled them to Olympic gold.

In Sunday's results, Blanton/Fonoimoana were eliminated in the challengers bracket. The AVP number 1 team of Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser dominated all comers to take the Cuervo Gold Crown. For the women, Jenny Johnson Jordan and her partner Annette Davis, the premier African American women's team, made it to the quarter finals, where they were beaten in three sets. The number 1 women's team of Misty May and Kari Walsh beat Wachholder and Turner to take the crown.

The tour now travels to Charlotte, North Carolina. Look for these fine athletes when they head back to the west to San Diego, Hermosa and for the granddaddy AVP tournament and one million dollars of prize money at Manhattan Beach.