Nearly one year since the COVID pandemic shut down the FIVB Beach world tour, Olympic qualification resumed where it paused in Doha, Qatar. Doha is the only four-star event on the Olympic qualification schedule, although the new updated schedule will be released Thursday we will have it for you.
After Tuesday’s first day of pool play, three of the six remaining USA teams have earned valuable byes into the second round of Wednesday’s playoffs: Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb, Alix Klineman and April Ross, and Kelley Kolinske and Emily Stockman.
Fourth-seeded Crabb and Gibb won pool D in straight sets, defeating both Turkey’s Murat Giginoglu and Volkan Gogtepe (21-13, 21-10) and Switzerland’s Mirco Gerson and Adrian Heidrich (22-20, 21-16).
Crabb and Gibb are the current USA Olympic points leaders, ranked eighth with 6,680 points. Their pool victory guarantees them at least a ninth-place finish, which will enhance their qualification points.
Klineman and Ross first dispatched Brazil’s Victoria Lopes and Taina Silva (21-14, 22-20). Fellow Americans Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Brooke Sweat then gave them a stout three-set battle for control of the pool and the bye (21-17, 20-22, 15-10).
Klineman and Ross will need two more wins to pad their substantial Olympic qualification lead.
The USA’s No. 4 team, Kelley Kolinske and Emily Stockman, won their pool by defeating Italians Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth (21-19, 21-17) and then Russians Mariia Bocharova and Aleksandra Ganenko (16-21, 21-19, 15-11). The Russians previously upset third-seeded Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Lisboa Duda (21-19, 13-21, 15-10).
Kolinske and Stockman have earned their way to at least a ninth-place finish, which is likely to help them cut into Walsh Jennings’ and Sweat’s 880-point Olympic qualification lead.
The two remaining USA women’s teams — Walsh Jennings and Sweat and Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes — both await Wednesday’s draw determining their first-round opponents.
Walsh-Jennings and Sweat kicked off 2021 by defeating Germany’s Kim Behrens and Sandra Ittlinger (21-18, 21-13). Their subsequent loss to Klineman-Ross puts them in the first round of elimination playoffs.
The three-time Olympic gold medalist Walsh Jennings and Sweat will need three playoff wins to advance their points and qualification hopes.
Walsh Jennings’ and Sweat’s closest competitors, Sponcil and Claes, also ended up in the first round of playoffs, defeating Austria’s Lena Plesiutschnig and Katharina Schutzenhofer (21-14, 21-10) before losing a squeaker to top-seeded Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes (24-22, 18-21, 16-14).
Sponcil and Claes need at least a fifth to narrow the gap between Walsh Jennings and Sweat.
The USA’s third-place Olympic men’s team, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, lost a tough three-setter to France’s Quincy Aye and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat (21-17, 22-24, 25-23), setting up a matchup with Austrians Christoph Dressler and Alexander Huber at 12:30 p.m. local/1:30 a.m. Pacific, with only the winner advancing to playoffs.
Despite the urgency of the match, Dalhausser and Lucena will still reduce Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb’s lead, with that duo sidelined in the country quota match. The finish will complete Dalhausser-Lucena’s 12-match resume, so every point will aid their cause.
The five other teams earning first-round byes Tuesday are second-seeded Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler of Germany, No. 14 Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner of the Czech Republic, No. 17 Gustavo Carvalhaes and Evandro Goncalves of Brazil, top-seeded Humana-Paredes and Pavan of Canada, and No. 4 Nina Betschart and Tanja Huberli of Switzerland.
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