Paris 2024: Olympic Beach Volleyball Rankings, updated November November 27
November 27, 2023
October 1, 2023
On Saturday evening, after a pair of semifinal demolitions at the Paris Elite16 kudos of Ana Patricia Silva and Duda Lisboa (21-16, 21-12 over the Netherlands), and Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth (21-13, 21-17 over Italy), Rich Lambourne wondered aloud on Volleyball World TV what it might look like if both teams were to deliver similarly strong performances against one another in Sunday’s finals.
For 15 minutes Sunday, it appeared viewers would not be treated to such a final.
Brazil whacked the USA, 21-10, in the opening set of the gold-medal match. Such a score is not unusual for Ana Patricia and Duda. They entered the match having won 26 of their previous 27, and in their five matches before the final in Paris, they had won sets by scores of 21-14, 21-13 (twice), 21-12 (also twice), and 21-10 over one of the best teams in the world in Melissa Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson.
They were the best team in the world playing very much like the best team in the world.
Before that opening set, however, Nuss and Kloth, the third-ranked team in the world, had played very much like the No. 2-ranked team in the world. Like Ana Patricia and Duda, they hadn’t dropped a match in Paris. Like Ana Patricia and Duda, only one team had managed to claim a set off of them entering the final. Like Ana Patricia and Duda, their semifinal win was as smooth and easy as a Sunday stroll.
The final was the No. 1 seed vs. the 2, and, in Paris at least, there was a significant gap between them and every other team in the field.
But a 17-6 run by Brazil to close the first set made a convincing case that they were the 1 seed — and held a significant gap between every other team in the field. Brazil piled up nearly as many aces (8) in the first set as the USA did points.
If there’s an Achilles Heel to Duda and Ana Patricia, it is of the first-world variety. Big leads occasionally precede lackadaisical play. In the Tepic Elite16, they beat fellow Brazilians Barbara and Carol, 21-13, and wound up losing the ensuing set and the match. Later, in the gold-medal match, a 21-15 second-set win over Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes was followed by a 10-15 snoozer in the third. A 21-13 opening-set win in Gstaad against Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles wasn’t sustained, and they went three, just as they did in Montreal after winning the first, 21-14, though they wound up losing in Montreal, giving up a 14-9 lead in the third set.
It’s picking at nits. If building massive leads and sometimes losing focus in the aftermath is arguably the biggest flaw in Ana Patricia and Duda’s game, it is an enviable problem to have. And it wasn’t as if they played poorly in the second set in Paris, more a regression to the mean for both teams; eight aces, is, after all, a staggering number in a single match, much less a single set.
Nuss and Kloth turned the tide, delivering on what Lambourne had requested to see:
Both teams playing their particular world-class brands of beach volleyball.
Where Ana Patricia and Duda win on predominantly side-out and power, Nuss and Kloth lean on defense and craft. The second set was an excellent bout that ended in a 21-18 win for the USA. As four of the previous seven matches had gone between the two, Brazil and the USA were going three.
The beginning of the third set was evidence enough that when Brazil is at its best, there is no doubting who is the best team in the world. A 3-0 lead stretched to 5-1 with ace No. 11. A blend of sharp angle swings and a variety of high lines from Ana Patricia frustrated the team that is arguably the best defensive duo on the planet.
But Nuss and Kloth do have perhaps the strongest argument as the best defensive duo on the planet, and big leads are, funny as it may sound, no safe space for Brazil. A 5-1 run from the USA tied the score at nine apiece, delivering everything Lambourne could have wanted and then some.
“Nuss looking massively dialed in,” Simon Golding said on Volleyball TV. “Getting some touches, something she didn’t much get in the first set but now it’s a USA scoring machine.”
Brazil just has a habit of shutting down the machine. Nuss and Kloth have never beaten Ana Patricia and Duda.
Sunday would not be the day.
A side-out preceded a tremendous dig and putaway from Ana Patricia, which led to another dig and transition from Duda, all of which was followed up, devastatingly, with an error from Nuss. A 10-10 tie slipped into a 10-14 deficit for Nuss and Kloth.
“Brazil has woken up in set three when it really mattered,” Golding said.
“It comes on so fast in beach volleyball,” retired German player Chantal Labourer added.
Indeed — and it can flip equally as fast, especially when these are the two teams on the court.
Nuss and Kloth did their damndest, scoring three in a row to put the pressure back on. Twice, Nuss dug Ana Patricia on what would prove to be the final rally. A near-perfect high line was saved by a diving Duda, whose dig shot into the left hand of Ana Patricia. All the Brazilian blocker could do was take a windmill swing, opposite handed, which was, strangely yet perfectly, given the staggering athleticism of this team, how the match ended: A brilliant run snuffed one point shy, a 15-13 gold medal victory, the match that the Parisian fans deserved.
“It’s always hard to play against that team,” Ana Patricia said. “It’s always a battle.”
Paris marks the fourth gold medal of the year for Brazil, who remain the only team in the world to win multiple Elite16 events. Nuss and Kloth’s silver medal solidifies their status as the second-most decorated team in the world, with five medals in nine events.
For their efforts, the Brazilians took home $30,000, while TKN earned $20,000.
Bronze was won by the Netherlands’ Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon, who swept Italians Marta Menegatti and Valentina Gottardi (21-17, 22-20) to claim their second medal of the year and first since a gold at the season-opening Doha Elite16 in February.
The men’s final, too, was a battle. Germans Clemens Wickler and Nils Ehlers, seeking the first gold medals of their careers, gave themselves a proper shot at one, claiming the first set over the Czech Republic’s Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner, 21-16. It was only the second set that Schwiner and Perusic had lost in the tournament, the other coming in the opening round of pool to — guess who? — Ehlers and Wickler.
Just as they did in pool play, Perusic and Schweiner rebounded from an opening-set loss to win the following two, 21-19, 15-11, sealing up their second gold medal of the season.
The win vaults the Czechs from No. 29 to No. 19 in the Olympic rankings despite having just five finishes to their name, due to an injury to Perusic earlier in the year.
Bronze was won by Robert Meeuwsen and Alex Brouwer of the Netherlands, their first medal of the season and first since a silver medal in Paris a year ago. It’s a crucial results for their entry points, picking them up out of qualifiers, where they began this tournament, for the foreseeable future. The points earned by Julian Horl and Alex Horst, who fell to the Netherlands for bronze, are critical as well, as they will now be closer to the golden position of directly into the Elite16 main draws.