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Sean Rosenthal is a beach volleyball player competing at the 2012 London Summer Olympics for the USA.

After finishing fifth at the 2008 Olympics, Sean Rosenthal makes his second Olympic appearance in London with Jake Gibb, his partner since 2006. The duo clinched a spot in the London Games at the FIVB World Tour Rome Grand Slam, the last Olympic qualifying tournament, after a tight battle with compatriots Matt Fuerbringer and Nick Lucena for the second U.S. men's berth. Rosenthal and Gibb secured enough points by reaching the event's semifinals, but they also went on to win the tournament, dominating reigning world champions Emanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti of Brazil in the final (21-13, 21-12). At the Beijing Games, the No. 7-seeded Rosenthal and Gibb won their group and advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Emanuel and Ricardo Santos, the 2004 Olympic champions.

In 2009, Rosenthal and Gibb played only six international tournaments, winning just one bronze medal, because they spent most of their time stateside on the AVP Tour. They made it to five finals that year but won only once, albeit in the most prestigious American tournament, the Manhattan Open. They didn't win another tournament until Rome in June 2012, their first career Grand Slam title. Rosenthal and Gibb competed in six AVP events in 2010 before the tour collapsed, placing second once and third twice. On the World Tour that year, they failed to make the semifinals in 10 appearances. The duo appeared 14 times internationally in 2011, with its best finishes being a silver and bronze. At the world championships, Rosenthal and Gibb placed 17th, their worst showing after taking ninth in 2009 and fifth in 2007. But Gibb and Rosenthal improved dramatically in 2012, winning medals at five of the 10 tournaments they played before the Olympics (two gold).

The reason for their resurgence in 2012 could be related to 1996 Olympic silver medalist Mike Dodd returning as their coach. He led them in 2008 and 2009, but then left to become the AVP commissioner in 2010 and the Italian beach volleyball coach in 2011. Neither Rosenthal nor Gibb had traditional volleyball training growing up, as neither played for high school or college indoor teams like many beach volleyball pros. "We're both kind of these unschooled athletes and we come in and get taught by this master (Dodd)," Gibb says. "It's really a cool thing where we both kind of learn together." While both players say they may be physically healthier now than if they'd played indoor volleyball growing up, they both say they had bad habits that could've been eliminated by coaches earlier.

Rosenthal and Gibb teamed up in 2006, a year after Gibb finished No. 1 on the AVP Tour with Stein Metzger. After the 2005 season, Metzger's childhood friend, Mike Lambert, approached him about teaming up to go to the Olympics together. So despite being on the AVP Team of the Year, Metzger dumped Gibb to join Lambert. Gibb's first choice as a replacement was Rosenthal. "Before I played with him he was the kind of guy that I would go watch when I wasn't playing in my matches because he's super exciting and fun to watch," Gibb says of Rosenthal. The duo won their first tournament together, the Fort Lauderdale Open in March 2006, defeating — who else? — Metzger/Lambert in the final. Rosenthal was selected as the FIVB Tour's top rookie in 2006 and the AVP's best defensive player in 2007.

In the U.S., beach volleyball is generally looked at as a California sport. And Californian players take pride in their sport, especially when someone from mountainous Utah is trying to take it over. It took a while for Rosenthal to warm up to Gibb. "I heard about him and I've been out here playing for 11 years or something," Rosenthal said. "I'm like, 'Who's this guy Jake?' And all of a sudden he's climbing up the ranks real fast and I'm playing him and he's blocking me all the time. I'm like, 'Oh I hate this guy from Utah.'" Rosenthal says he didn't really hate Gibb, but didn't get to know him until about a year later.

Never very interested in school, Rosenthal spent much of his childhood at the beach and essentially taught himself how to play volleyball. As a 16-year-old playing with his boss, Rosenthal qualified to play in the 1997 Manhattan Open; he was the youngest player to make the main draw since the AVP began handing out prize money. "I was having such a good time and I was in such shock I got to miss school and go down to this tournament," Rosenthal says. "I was in this tent looking all kind of nervous I'm sure, and just went out there and did well. I thought I played pretty well against some of those top teams. I was like, 'I want to do this, I'm gonna keep trying to do this.' The next couple of years I didn't make it and then qualified again when I was 19 and then have been playing ever since."

Before finding volleyball at age 14, Rosenthal played basketball, soccer and baseball. He now plays golf frequently with Gibb. Rosenthal is the second-oldest child of Laura Hurlburt, who had seven children with four different fathers. A former methamphetamine addict, Hurlburt found it hard to keep a job, so she and her kids lived on welfare in a three-bedroom house that was owned by her mother. In high school, Sean worked an early morning job before classes to help pay for his family. Sean's father was an alcoholic and is now deceased. Rosenthal, who never earned a high school diploma, tried out for the volleyball team at El Camino (Calif.) Community College, but quit once classes began.


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Age: 36 years old
Birthday: June 19, 1980
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 190 lbs.
Birthplace: Redondo Beach, CA
Current Residence: Corona Del Mar, CA

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