Bay Area's Olympians ease back into life after games 

In the last month, U.S. beach volleyball icon and Olympic gold medallist Kerri Walsh has been everywhere and back again — from the Bay Area to the international spotlight of the Olympic Games in Beijing, to the gold medal stand for the second time, back to the United States for “Oprah” and every other major show on “the circuit” and finally back to her Bay Area home. On Wednesday, she threw out the first pitch at the San Francisco Giants’ game.

As she prepares for a professional beach volleyball tournament this weekend in San Francisco, Walsh said she could finally breathe easy being back at home. That is, until she takes a step out into public.

“Yes, it’s hard to eat a meal these days,” Walsh told reporters in San Mateo on Wednesday near a line of kids and adults who were already lining up in anticipation for an autograph session later.

Walsh, who already stands out at 6 feet 3 inches tall, said since returning from Beijing she has been swarmed by fans everywhere she goes — even inside public bathrooms.

“It’s hard when you have a grumpy day,” said the Stanford University graduate and Saratoga native.

Dozens of Bay Area athletes are returning home, and back to their normal lives, after starring in Beijing.

Millbrae resident and U.S. Olympic baseball team outfielder John Gall said most athletes from the area develop a connection with one another on the U.S. team.

“There’s so many different athletes from different sports, it’s one more added level of diversity in this area,” said Gall, a member of the Florida Marlins’ Triple-A team in Albuquerque, N.M., and cousin of former Oakland A’s outfielder Eric Byrnes.

Walsh said she was offered a chance to take that diversity to another level through a role on an upcoming season of the NBC show, “The Apprentice.”

Unlike her volleyball partner, Misty May-Treanor, who accepted a spot on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” Walsh turned down her chance for reality TV fame, saying it would be too stressful.

Instead, she said she would continue with volleyball and have fun by going to local parks, reading and catching up with old friends in the area.

“Anywhere in this area is home. I can breathe easier up here,” Walsh said. “I love where I’m from.”

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

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Mike Rosenberg

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