The International Olympic Committee and FIVB on Wednesday announced updates to the beach volleyball Olympic qualification system. 

The Olympic ranking qualification deadline has been extended to June 13, 2021 (from June 14, 2020), as well as extending the Continental Cup qualification deadline to June 27, 2021 (from June 28, 2020).

The announcement alleviates a degree of uncertainty, as beach volleyball athletes now know the end date of the qualification period, which has been extended one year. The postponement has created the longest Olympic qualification period in history, which started June 1, 2018. Click here for our primer on Olympic qualification. 

What is still unknown, of course, is how many events of significance remain in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, since every event from this April through June has been either canceled or postponed. The Beach Major Series has canceled Rome, Gstaad, Vienna, and Hamburg, with no three-, four-, or five-star events currently listed on the schedule.

“We believe that these changes to the beach volleyball qualification system for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 represent a balanced, fair and universal approach which will ensure that top performing athletes have the opportunity to qualify for the Games,” FIVB President, Dr. Ary S. Graça said in a news release. 

“With this announcement, we are giving beach volleyball players certainty of the roadmap for the lead up to Tokyo 2020, and so they continue to focus on maintaining their health and wellbeing at this time.”

The changes affect two types of Olympic qualifiers: Teams subject to country quota (historically the United States, Brazil, and to a lesser extent Germany), and teams on the bubble of the top 15 in the Olympic provisional rankings.

Depending upon the world’s recovery from the Coronavirus, teams may be able to take advantage of postponed events as well as a full schedule in March through June.

Top teams like the USA’s April Ross and Alix Klineman, ranked second in the world with 8,760 points, need not worry. Two other American teams would need to get into seemingly every final on the schedule in order to unseat them.

For other Olympic contenders, the extension amps up their 2021 travel plans, forcing them to criss-cross the globe battling for an additional year. This group includes the tightly grouped USA men’s field of Jake GibbTaylor Crabb (6,680 points), Tri Bourne-Trevor Crabb (6,360 points), Phil Dalhausser-Nick Lucena (5,840 points).

For Gibb’s part, he’s happy to have some idea what’s next.

“It’s exciting to be out of the darkness,” Gibb said. “It’s exciting to know what is next, and to plan our year now. It’s pretty much what we expected. In my mind it’s the fair and right thing to do.”

For the women, that group of contenders includes Kerri Walsh Jennings-Brooke Sweat (6,960 points), Sarah SponcilKelly Claes (6,640 points), and Kelley Larsen-Emily Stockman (6,080 points).

Depending on the number of events available, the extension could even open the door for new teams like Sara Hughes-Lauren Fendrick (one event, 400 points) or Chase BudingerChaim Schalk (no events). 

“For me, it doesn’t really have an effect on me right now. Just because even though the guidelines are set in place, we still don’t know when we’re going to be able to play again,” Hughes said.

“It’s nice to know that we have another year, but at the same time, we don’t know when we’ll be able to get out there on the beach and play again, and will there be enough tournaments? So it’s still all up in the air now.

“So right now I’m just trying to focus on what I can control right now, and that’s just getting stronger and becoming a better player, and when an opportunity to get on the court presents itself, I want to be ready.”

The FIVB also said in its news release, “The FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour is currently suspended until July 2020 with many events postponed or cancelled due to the global coronavirus pandemic, and the Beach Volleyball Olympic qualification will only restart when it is safe to do so and allows all potential eligible athletes to participate. Meanwhile, the FIVB continues to work closely with National Federations and event organisers to develop the 2020-2021 beach volleyball calendar, and further details will be communicated at a later stage.”


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