Amidst all the chaos brought about by the coronavirus, things were actually going quite well for Mike Boag. For the past year, he had slowly been working his way up the FIVB ladder, competing in NORCECAs and one-stars, traveling, traveling, traveling. Alas, his break had come when Bill Kolinske partnered with him for the FIVB three-star tournament in Coolangatta, Australia, that was scheduled for this week.
It would only be the second three-star in which Boag had cobbled enough points to enter. When multiple teams withdrew, citing coronavirus concerns, he and Kolinske wouldn’t even have to compete in the country quota against David Lee and Reid Priddy, and Chaim Schalk and Chase Budinger. Instead, they’d be straight into a watered down qualifier.
And then, late Saturday night, the promoters called it off.
Coolangatta became the latest in a string of FIVB tournaments to be cancelled or postponed. This one, though, may have stung the most. While the various other tournaments to be altered — Siming, Jinjiang, Yangzhou, Cancun, Singapore — were announced well before the tournament, this came just days prior. The vast majority of the athletes in the competition were either already in Australia, like Boag and Kolinske, or in transit. Schalk was in the air when the decision to postpone was made. He didn’t find out until he landed.
“We came out here to Australia because we love to play volleyball and wanted to show the world it’s worth the risk to support our sport and all the people that make these tournaments possible,” Boag said as he attempted to find a return flight home.
“I obviously feel like the decision should have gone the other way, primarily because there are already a lot of teams out here for the event. I think everything would have been smoother if the decision was made three to five days ago.”
With the FIVB allowing decisions regarding tournaments to be made on a case-by-case basis, athletes were unsure whether or not to travel. The American women’s teams who registered had a call together prior to the tournament, looking to make a unified front. Three teams — Sara Hughes and Lauren Fendrick, Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes, Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman — remained in the field. Sponcil and Claes heard the news just in time, hours before their red-eye flight on Saturday was scheduled to depart.
“While Volleyball Australia, supported by Queensland Government, had planned preventative measures to protect the wellbeing of all those involved, the FIVB and the organizers recognize that there are international travel limitations and other restrictions in different parts of the world that impact the ability of some of the participants to take part in the event,” the FIVB wrote in a statement.
“The health of athletes, officials and fans is the FIVB’s top priority, and the mutual decision to postpone the event was made in the best interests of all parties. The FIVB and Volleyball Australia will work together to identify dates later in 2020 when the event can be held and will communicate this at a later stage.
“The FIVB is monitoring the situation in regard to the rapidly evolving coronavirus on an hour-by-hour basis and is in full cooperation with the World Health Organization and other international and national health and sports authorities. The FIVB acknowledges that it is likely that there will be further changes to the beach volleyball calendar and is therefore already in contact with the IOC about potentially revising the beach volleyball qualification system for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
A multitude of tournaments have also been canceled or postponed, making the next scheduled FIVB events the week of May 6-10 in Jurmala, Latvia, for a three-star and Itapema, Brazil, for a four-star.
“At the end of the day,” Boag said, “we really wanted to compete and be tested to see the results of all the hard work we’ve been putting in.”