Americans Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb didn’t get the bronze medal Sunday at the FIVB World Tour Finals in Rome. No, they lost to Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum 21-16, 21-15 in just 35 minutes.
Gibb and Crabb sided out at 57 percent in the first set. Their serve-receive was 94 percent accurate. Mol, the best blocker in the world, didn’t get them once. They simply sided out at 72 percent, a staggering clip at this level. They passed 100 percent, which is indeed as absurd as that sounds.
What Gibb and Crabb did get, however, was 840 FIVB points and they’ll split $16,000. Mol and Sorum got 960 points and $20,000.
“I’ll tell you what, we’re taking nothing but positives from this week,” Gibb said. “This is a five-star, as big as it gets. All we want are chances to medal. We gave ourselves a chance this weekend so I’m stoked.”
The big prize of $40,000 went to Russians Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy, who get 1,200 points. They won the gold-medal match 21-16, 21-16, beating Germans Julius Thole and Clemens Wicker ($32,000, 1,080 points)
On the women’s side, Germans Margareta Kozuch and Laura Ludwig, who were seeded 20th, took gold when they Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Lisboa 21-19, 21-17, while in the bronze-medal match, Brazilians Rebecca Cavalcanti and Ana Patricia Silva downed Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland 19-21, 21-18, 21-13. Points and payouts are identical for the women.
The Olympic race is an odd one. When a team competes for a country as deep in talent as the United States, you are competing against the rest of the world, yes, but, namely, you’re competing against your countrymen.
And Gibb and Crabb smoked that field of four.
Meanwhile, Crabb and Gibb won. And won. And won some more.
They won against Italians Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo. They won despite being down 17-11 in the first set, a point when most fold and look towards the next. They won against a hot French team despite giving up the second set. They won a marathon against Spain despite needing 34 points to do so. There the winning stopped, though not because they suddenly began playing poorly.
In the semifinals, they played the FIVB World Championships silver medalists, Thole and Wickler. And in the bronze-medal match that ensued, they met the most dominant men’s team since perhaps Dalhausser and Todd Rogers.
“It’s huge. The last two tournaments we won our pools finally, kind of got in the tournament and felt we were involved and moving places,” Gibbs said. “That’s the feeling we want.”
They did not collect a medal, but they did collect those 840 Olympic points, throwing them back into the thick of an Olympic race in which they had a delayed start. They trail Bourne and Crabb by 860, despite only having two less finishes. They trail Dalhausser and Lucena by 260 despite taking two months off the FIVB between Xiamen and Hamburg.
Simply put: Gibb and Crabb didn’t beat Norway.
But they beat the United States.
And in a screwy FIVB Olympic system, that’s more valuable than a bronze.