Look closely at the picture on the left. What do you notice? Better yet, what don’t you notice? Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings are sprawled out in the sand, a position they find themselves in more than a dozen times per match. They’re surrounded by their sport’s playing surface and it’s kicked up all around them. But look at Kerri’s legs. Check out Misty’s arms and take special notice of her feet. There’s no sand anywhere.
I go to the beach, carefully sit down on a chair and somehow manage to get sand on my arms, behind my knees and on my neck. It manages to find its way into every opening of my iPhone and in between pages of books I haven’t even opened. But somehow beach volleyball players who dive head first into sand are clean? Check it out the next time you watch a match from London. It’s uncanny. If you didn’t know better, you’d think the court was a special effect and they were playing in front of a green screen.
How do beach volleyball players manage to avoid the billions of granules of sand that cover their sport’s playing surface? Because it’s not the same sand that gets between your toes when you go on vacation. The sand used in competition is heavily regulated by the International Volleyball Federation. There are no pebbles or bits of shells. The shape ensures a smoother grain. The size is Goldilocks style: not too small or too big. Why doesn’t it stick? Because it’s designed not to.
Nothing is perfect, of course, so sand is bound to find its way in between articles of clothing and on the skin. That’s why some athletes use a special towel to clean themselves during changeovers.
Do you admire the genius behind the idea of sand that doesn’t stick even on sweaty skin? Share with us other uncanny details you have noticed in the London Olympics!