There will be a fifth USA women’s team at the World Championships this October.
Alix Klineman is officially back.
The entry list for the World Championships was released on Friday morning, and Klineman and Hailey Harward were awarded a wild card. They are currently seeded 41 in the 48-team tournament that will be held in Tlaxcala, Mexico, October 6-15, though those seedings will change prior to the actual event, taking into account points won and lost during the Paris Elite16 at the end of September.
They will join Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth (2), Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes (3), Terese Cannon and Sarah Sponcil (12) and Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles (14) as a five-team American contingent. The news presents a significant change in the landscape of the Olympic race. Klineman is one of the most accomplished blockers of this generation, an indoor convert who, just two years after winning the AVP Rookie of the Year in 2017 was named the USAV Women’s Beach Player of the Year in 2019. In four years with April Ross, from 2018-2021, Klineman collected 12 AVP titles and six gold medals on the Beach Pro Tour, including the 2021 Olympic gold in Tokyo.
This past June, however, Klineman had her first child, Theo.
“Right now my priority is having a healthy pregnancy and doing everything I can to deliver a healthy baby, but if everything worked out perfectly and magically maybe there would be a chance to make a last-second run at the Olympics,” she said when she announced her pregnancy in January. “I’m still holding out hope for that but at the same time I don’t feel comfortable saying 100 percent I’m doing this because I don’t know how my body is going to react, I don’t know how I’m going to feel emotionally after everything so I just feel like I have to take it one step at a time.
“You just hear so much about how it changes your world and I’m sure it’ll change mine. It’s just something I’m going to have to wait and see. Initially we were hoping this would have happened a little bit earlier just to give me a bigger and better opportunity to come back for Paris but life has its own plans so we’re just happy to be expecting a boy and to become parents and all that.”
Thus far, everything has worked out as well as anyone could have hoped. Both Klineman and Theo are healthy, and she has been practicing on the beach for several weeks now. That said, a few more drops of magic certainly wouldn’t hurt.
It is late to be entering an Olympic race, particularly a race in which the top two American teams are also among the top four in the world. In order to qualify for the Olympics, a team is required to have at least 12 finishes, to be ranked in the top 17 in the Olympic rankings, and to be one of the top two teams in a country’s federation. It is, suffice it to say, no small order.
Neither, of course, was winning Tokyo just four years after making her professional debut on the beach.
At the moment, Klineman and Harward are also signed up for the Paris Elite16 at the end of September. Their total of 1,260 entry points is unlikely to be enough to get them into the qualifier, so another wild card would be needed. Should they be awarded either a main draw or qualifier wild card, it would be vital to their Olympic hopes, as a pair of finishes at the top level of the game, where points are highest, could vault them into Elite16s or Challenge main draws moving forward.
The other foreign wild card granted for World Champs went to Brazil’s Agatha and Rebecca, a pair of massively talented players with lengthy — and Olympic — resumes as well. Both the USA and Brazil — the two federations with the tightest and deepest Olympic races — then will have five teams competing for a World Championship come October.
Few surprises on the men’s side for World Championships
The men’s side, meanwhile, is the 48-team roster most could have safely expected. Three USA teams qualified via points — Andy Benesh and Miles Partain (3), Trevor Crabb and Theo Brunner (18), and Tri Bourne and Chaim Schalk (19). Just missing the cut is Chase Budinger and Miles Evans, who are No. 1 on the reserve list.
In the 2022 World Championships, Bourne and Crabb also began on the reserve list but decided to make the trip to Rome anyway, just in case (they were already in Europe). They were rewarded in kind, the only team on the reserve list to show up and replace Sweden’s Jonatan Hellvig and David Ahman, who had to withdraw to due injury. They wound up finishing ninth, forfeiting due to COVID. While unlikely, it is far from impossible for Budinger and Evans to slip into World Championships and make the USA Olympic race a good deal more interesting.
The foreign wild cards were awarded to Portugal’s Joao Pedrosa and Hugo Campos, the Cinderellas who won gold at the Edmonton Challenge after coming out of the qualifier, and France’s Julien Lyneel and Remi Bassereau, who have been awarded more wild cards than any team since pairing up last fall.