HAMBURG, Germany — The 2019 FIVB World Beach Championships, overall a tremendous tournament for the American contingent, ended with two exciting matches Sunday as the every-other-year tournament came to a close.
That included the last USA pair remaining, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, who lost in three in the bronze-medal match but split $28,000 and gained 1,120 FIVB qualifying points.
Bourne and Crabb, seeded 13th and serving notice they are a team that can be in the hunt for gold any time out, fell to one of the hottest teams on tour, top-seeded Anders Mol and Christian Sorum of Norway 19-21, 21-15, 15-10.
Third-seeded Russians Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy won the gold, beating 12th-seeded Germans Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler 19-21, 21-17, 15-11. Most significantly, the winners clinched an automatic berth into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, split $60,000 and gained 1,600 qualifying points.
It was evident that there is a youth movement on in men’s beach volleyball, with 22-year olds Stoyanovskiy, Mol, and Thole, 23-year old Sorum, and 24-year old Wickler.
Krasilnikov is the grizzled veteran on the medal stand at age 27.
“He feels like my father,” joked Stoyanovskiy.
The World Championship is the third gold for Krasilnikov and Stoyanovskiy, following The Hague and Xiamen.
Stoyanovskiy, the youngest world champion at 22 years, 9 months, was happy to survive the third-set scare by the Germans.
“It was a great game, Julius and Clemens are great players, they put a lot of pressure on us with their service and side out, we had to use something new to beat them.”
Krasilnikov was mostly in a state of disbelief.
“I just don’t believe it, I’m a champion right now,” Krasilnikov said. “I think I will have more words to say tomorrow.”
Silver medalists Thole and Wickler, the darlings of the home crowd, earned their second silver of the year after taking one in the Hague.
Wickler, the second oldest on the medal stand, was grateful for the 12,000-plus fans who packed Am Rothenbaum stadium, with thousands more waiting outside.
“I think our first game of the tournament today was our best game against the best team in the world at the moment. The third set was crazy, I think Oleg had three aces in a row.”
Mol and Sorum have dominated the tour much of the year, with consecutive gold medals in Itapema, Jinjiang, and Ostrava, taking a step down with silver in Warsaw.
“From day one, we got better, day by day, set after set,” Mol said. “We improved a lot, we made it to the semifinal, we met these guys, and we had a great fight. Today I’m happy that we won the bronze medal, and I’m happy to be sitting here with these guys because I think we all did a great job this winter and I’m glad to be here with these young players. Except one.”
Despite their disappointment at not making the medal stand, Crabb and Bourne found much to be grateful for, not the least of which is $28,000 and 1,120 points, vaulting them ahead of their compatriots in the Olympic qualification race.
Bourne and Crabb had 3,160 points in seven events before the World Championships, so the 1,120 points is huge.
The pair’s best finish in 2019 was a fourth in the four-star Jinjiang event.
Crabb downplayed the value of this tournament in the grand scheme of Olympic qualification.
“It’s a year long process, and we’re heading into the high-value five-stars. It’s just one tournament.
Bourne thinks that the pair is on the right track, even though they fell short in three sets in both the semifinals and bronze medal matches. Their three losses were to each of the three World Championship medalists: Thole and Wickler in pool, Krasilnikov and Stoyanovskiy in the semifinals, and Mol and Sorum in the bronze medal match.
“We’re giving ourselves chances to win. That’s what we want to do. As long as we give ourselves chances, the wins will come.”
Unusually on the world tour, Crabb and Bourne split block, alternating playing blocker and digger.
“The advantage is that we’re constantly giving the other team different looks,” Bourne said. “We’re constantly putting a different combination in front of them, and not allowing them to get in a rhythm. We also save ourselves a lot of energy by not having to run up to the net constantly.
“The disadvantage is that we don’t get to specialize, so we each have more things to work on.
The FIVB World Tour stays in high gear, moving to the five-star Gstaad (Tuesday through July 14), four-star Espinho (July 17-21), the four-star Olympic test event in Tokyo (July 24-28), and the five-star in Vienna (July 30-August 4).