Volleyball Opens The World To Wong

Kevin Wong. Nathalie Walker photo nwalker@midweek.com

Beach volleyball Olympian Kevin Wong, who was born and raised in Hawaii and graduated from Punahou School, is dedicated to giving back to the sport he says has given him so much.

He played at UCLA, where he was a three-time All-American and helped the Bruins win two NCAA championships (1993 and 1995). He competed on the world beach tour for the last 15 years, and is a King of the Beach winner and two-time Manhattan Beach Open champion. At the Sydney 2000 Olympics, he finished fifth with partner Rob Heidger, and at the recent London Olympic Games he moved from the sandy court to the press box as an analyst for NBC Sports.

“Through volleyball I got to travel around the world, I’ve gotten a great education, I got to represent my country, and I have a platform,” says Wong. “During the gold medal women’s match (in London) 30 million people were listening to it, and one of the coolest things about the Olympics is that it’s not your typical sports fan. It’s multigenerational watching. It’s parents watching with their kids and grandparents.”

While he’s not officially retired from the sport, Wong, 40, has expanded his role to broadcaster (he also commentates for OC-16 Sports, NBC and women’s volleyball on the new Pac-12 network) and to coach, working with children age 5 to 18 through his Spike and Serve program. He also teamed up with NFL veteran Rich Miano to start Spike and Speed geared to promote volleyball for Hawaii’s youths. In the last year, they’ve already produced more than 60 days of beach volleyball events in Waikiki, and are starting junior leagues in Kapolei and Salt Lake.

“I’m a shy guy, I was an economics major, but when I had the opportunity come up, it was just too good to pass,” says Wong about becoming an on-air personality. “Sometimes in life, you put yourself in the right place and things happen that you don’t even pre- dict.”

Two years ago, he and wife Sherry Harper Wong started Spike and Serve, offering a free program for fourth-graders at Ala Wai Elementary School twice a week for three months. Through that, he discovered a love for coaching and for kids, and they started offering affordable Spike and Serve volleyball clinics at Star of the Sea Gym.

“I want to be in Hawaii forever,” notes Wong. “It’s a privilege and I’ve had to really work hard and juggle a few different things to be able to stay here in Hawaii.”