SOCHI, Russia (May 29, 2021) – The four-star FIVB World Tour event in Sochi, Russia provided a shakeup to the Race to Tokyo this week as Kelly Claes/Sarah Sponcil won gold and took over the second qualifying position for the 2020 Olympic Games.
“We came in knowing what we had to do to try and qualify,” Claes told the FIVB after the match. “We had to get a medal, and that is what we did.”
Claes/Sponcil swept past Tanja Huberli/Nina Betschart of Switzerland, 2-0 (21-19, 21-17), to clinch gold, their first on the FIVB World Tour. With the finish, they added 320 points to their Olympic Ranking count and ended the tournament with 7,120 points, 160 more than Brooke Sweat/Kerri Walsh Jennings with one tournament remaining.
Claes/Sponcil dispatched five of the top 15 teams in the Olympic Rankings during their path to gold. Two of those opponents were fellow Americans Alix Klineman/April Ross (No. 1; quarterfinal round) and Kelley Larsen Kolinske/Emily Stockman (No. 14; second round). They also beat Brazilian pair and third-ranked Agatha Bednarczuk/Eduarda Santos Lisboa in pool play.
“This entire tournament, we’ve just been taking it one point at a time,” Sponcil told the FIVB. “There are so many great teams here, and it was a long road to the finish line, but I have an amazing partner and we just communicated really well and had faith in each other.”
On the men’s side, Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb reached the quarterfinal round, boosting their Olympic Ranking total by 80 points and remaining in contention for a berth to Tokyo. The pair will need to win the final tournament in Ostrava next week.
Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena advanced to round two before falling to Italy’s Adrian Ignacio Carambula Raurich/Enrico Rossi in a rematch of Cancun No. 3’s bronze medal match. Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb, meanwhile, fell in round one of the knockout stage to Qatar’s Cherif Younousse/Ahmed Tijan.
Sweat/Walsh Jennings advanced into Sochi’s main draw from the country quota and qualifier, but the pair exited the tournament after pool play.
With one more tournament left in Olympic Qualifying – a four-star in Ostrava, Czechia, June 2-6, here are the remaining Olympic qualification scenarios for the U.S. Beach National Team:
Alix Klineman/April Ross – 9,400 points
- Clinched an Olympic berth previously
Sarah Sponcil/Kelly Claes – 7,120 points
- Can clinch an Olympic berth with a second-place finish OR a Sweat/Walsh Jennings fourth-place finish or lower
Brooke Sweat/Kerri Walsh Jennings – 6,960 points
- Can clinch an Olympic berth with a third-place finish or higher
Kelley Kolinske/Emily Stockman – 6,360 points
- Eliminated from Olympic contention
Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb – 7,040 points
- Can clinch an Olympic berth with a fifth-place finish or higher OR a Bourne/Tr. Crabb second-place finish or lower OR by equaling Dalhausser/Lucena’s finish
Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena – 7,040 points
- Can clinch an Olympic berth with a fifth-place finish or higher OR a Bourne/Tr. Crabb second-place finish or lower
Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb – 6,680 points
- Can clinch an Olympic berth with a first-place finish AND a Ta. Crabb/Gibb or Dalhausser/Lucena ninth-place finish or worse