Jake Gibb grew up fitting tightly into the Mormon mold.

The youngest of 11, he grew up in Bountiful, Utah. He served a mission, married and received a degree in business from the University of Utah with the plan to become a loan officer.

Then he learned that he had a knack for spiking a volleyball, made his way to California, and has since become an internationally ranked player. Gibb will compete with teammate Shaun Rosenthal in Beijing this August during the 2008 Summer Olympics.

He has his mind set on one goal. "We're going to win a gold medal," Gibb said. "There's no other reason to go."

Gibb and Rosenthal are in the number 9 seed of 24 teams going to Beijing. "I think it's the perfect spot," Gibb said. "We get to go in and work as hard as we can and play hard and have fun."

Gibb, whose middle name is Spiker, his mother's maiden name, gained many of the qualities necessary for competitive beach volleyball from his mission in Costa Rica. He has "nothing but the greatest feelings" for his two-year service. "(The mission) prepares you for life," Gibb said. "It teaches you how to work for things, and about goal setting. All of those things transfer."

Gibb also says that working with missionary companions for two years prepared him to live and play with his volleyball partner, Rosenthal. "We joke around that I'm with him more than I am with my wife," Gibb said. "You learn how to get along with guys in the mission and you live with them and you love them. I learned that and it helped me."

Many athletes ask Gibb about his LDS mission, which gives him a chance to share his feelings for his mission and the church. He also has a chance to speak Spanish with people while traveling abroad in competitions.

Gibb grew up in Utah but currently lives in Costa Mesa, Calif. He left with his wife, Jane, for California with $1,600 to his name. She helped support him while he made a mark for himself on the California beaches playing volleyball. He has received various recognitions for his volleying skills, including the Association of Volleyball Professional's (AVP) Most Valuable Player in 2005.

Fame and fortune aside, Gibb credits his father as his constant role model. "He just lives the life that I would like to live," Gibb said. "He lives a simple life and a moral life. He lives right."

Gibb did not decide to pursue volleyball until after his mission. He believes that aspiring young athletes can accomplish anything, if they're talented and determined. "Decide if you have what it takes to do whatever you want to do," Gibb said. "If it's a pursuable goal, go for it with everything you have."

E-mail: amarshall@desnews.com