Lost in the sand during a Sunday match, the gold band is returned on Monday

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated August 11, 2008 02:15 PM
Credit: Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Kerri Walsh found one sure way to go for the gold at the Beijing Olympics – use a metal detector.

The American beach volleyball star lost her wedding band during a Sunday morning match as she went up for a block against Japan’s Mika Saiki and Chiaki Kusuhara, the Associated Press reports.

Although a metal detector could indicate where the ring was lost in the sand, the particles shifted considerably from the time of Walsh’s 9 a.m. match to the 3 p.m. search for the ring. Still, volunteer Song Zhendong dug up the ring after about 20 minutes of looking – and was due to return it to Walsh on Monday.

“It’s a plain gold band,” said Peter Paul Hreszczuk, the FIVB official manning the metal detector, “but obviously very precious.”

In all, some 17,000 tons of sand were imported into Chaoyang Park to create the beach volleyball venue. Besides the sheer quantity of sand, Paul Hreszczuk said, “We rake the court” – which helped further complicate the search.

As for Walsh, whose husband is fellow beach volleyball pro and former NCAA champion Casey Jennings, there may be more gold to come. Having taken the gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games, the 29-year-old California native and partner Misty May-Treanor are favored to repeat the feat in Beijing.

• From Olympic glory to heart-wrenching tragedy, these American athletes show their fighting spirit on the covers of PEOPLE