TOKYO (August 4, 2021) – The athlete’s village, COVID precautions, oppressive heat and humidity and a hugely talented tournament field; these are all things Alix Klineman and April Ross have had to overcome during the Olympic Games of Tokyo 2020.
So far, so good. They’re in the semifinals anyway.
The A-Team will face Switzerland’s Anouk Verge-Depre/Joana Heidrich at 5 pm Pacific/8 pm Eastern on Wednesday, August 4 (9 am on August 5 local) for a spot in the gold medal match. Entering the tournament as the 12-seed, Verge-Depre/Heidrich will be feisty competitors. They serve tough – they lead all teams with 24 services aces – play strong defense – 96 digs also top the field – and have beaten three teams ranked among the world’s top 15 in Tokyo.
“They’re a very good team, and they’ve been playing really well and doing well in the last couple tournaments,” Ross said. “We’re gonna bring everything we can against them.”
“Everything we can” is a lot in the A-Team’s case. Ross is fourth in the tournament with 98 total points, and Klineman is in the top 20 as well. Together, they lead the field in attack efficiency, scoring on two-thirds of attack attempts. They’re ranked fifth in the world by the FIVB and earned three podium finishes at FIVB World Tour tournaments earlier in the year.
While their success isn’t exactly surprising, Klineman is appreciative to still be in Tokyo, her first Olympic experience.
“Going into this, I knew we were capable of doing really well, but to make it this far? I feel really lucky,” Klineman said. “There are a lot of teams playing really good right now. The field is super deep; it could have gone a million ways at any different point in time.”
But it didn’t, not for the A-Team. They won their pool, taking all but one set along the way. In the Round of 16, Klineman/Ross dispatched Cuba’s Lidianny Echevarria Benitez and Leila Consuelo Martinez Ortega, 2-0 (21-17, 21-15). In the quarterfinals, they lined up against reigning gold medalist Laura Ludwig of Germany and her new partner, Margareta Kozuch. Klineman/Ross outlasted the Germans 2-0 (21-19, 21-19).
Now Ross is the lone returning Olympic medalist left. She won silver at 2012 London and bronze at 2016 Rio.
The winner of this and the other semifinal contest – Mariafe Artacho del Solar/Taliqua Clancy of Australia vs. Tina Graudina/Anastasija Kravcenoka of Latvia – will play for gold on Thursday, August 5 at 7:30 p.m. Pacific (11:30 a.m. August 6 local). The bronze medal match will begin at 6:00 p.m. (10 a.m. local).