CM – Games in Tokyo: Olympic beach volleyball shows college stars


Three of the four players in the US victory over Latvia came through an NCAA beach volleyball program that has only existed since 2012.

Published: July 26, 2021 11:33 AM |

Last updated: July 26, 2021 11:3333

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Kelly Claes (left) from the USA and her teammate Sarah Sponcil react during a women’s beach volleyball game against Latvia at the 2020 Olympic Summer Games. (Photo | AP)

TOKYO: The future of beach volleyball has become on Monday morning in Shiokaze Park for the Olympic debut of the Americans Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil.

Three of the four players in the US victory over Latvia came through an NCAA beach volleyball program that has only existed since 2012. Claes and Latvian Tina Graudina both went to Southern California, and Sponcil played for rival UCLA. (USC coach Dain Blanton, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist, worked on the field for NBC.) For previous generations – like the other US women’s team, 39-year-old April Ross and her 31-year-old partner Alix Klineman – college beach volleyball was not an option.

« I think a lot of athletes in the US are following this younger generation because of the NCAA, which is super exciting, » said Claes after triumphing over her colleague Trojan and Anastasija Kravcenoka. « I’m really excited to see how the sport will continue to grow as a result. »

Since beach volleyball was added to the Olympic Games in 1996, it has relied on players who played indoor games in college and maybe even beyond in European or Brazilian professional leagues have changed. But the university beach volleyball program gave Claes (25) and Sponcil (24) an option that was not available to their predecessors. (Men still don’t have a college beach program in the U.S.)

Americans are hoping that by starting at the beach earlier, they’ll be able to dominate the sport again, as they did when Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May- Treanor has won Olympic gold medals three times in a row. In Rio de Janiero, Walsh Jennings and Ross won bronze for the only American medal – the worst US trophy of all time.

« It was really cool to see how the beach volleyball pendulum has shifted around the world », said Claes. “The US has been on the front lines for so long with Misty and Kerri. And then I think the rest of the world has caught up with us and passed us. With the NCAA there will be this huge new generation of great athletes. And I think we’re going to do that kind of push-back. ”

Sponcil said growing up in Phoenix, younger girls would compete indoors in school and maybe only get a chance to play on the beach in the summer. There were no beach volleyball clubs in the area; now there are 10 or more.

« The girls start much younger. It’s crazy, ”she said. “And people just choose that as their sport. It’s really cool that so many girls go to the beach from the start, and they’ll be a lot better when they get into college and into professional life. ”

And when she went to college, it was Claes who did her sheltered and showed them around. She chose USC and led the Trojans to this year’s national championship; Claes and Sponcil won consecutive NCAA titles during their school years.

Though rivals on football weekends, it was Claes and Sponcil who stood out for the 21-13, 16-21, 15-11 win on Monday have teamed up, scored the last six points of the third set and won with a little USC-on – USC crime: A tip from Claes that crashes Graudina.

« We have the last two times (on the international tour) lost to them so a lot of vengeful thoughts went into the game, ”said Claes. « But it was really exciting, a little nerve-wracking to start with. »

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