Tricky Olympic beach qualifying process explained (with caveats)

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Olympic qualification-Phil Dalhausser-2008 Olympics-Gold Medal-Beijing
Phil Dalhausser, shown here blocking the final point of the 2008 Olympics, is still the USA's best chance for a gold medal/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo might be almost two years away, but qualification for beach volleyball has already begun. For that matter, the p1440 tournament October 17-21 in Las Vegas will serve as an FIVB qualifier.

Just 24 teams per gender will compete for that elusive gold medal. Aspiring Olympians have five ways to qualify:

No.1 — Be the host country. That guarantees Japan one Olympic berth per gender. This is good news for the USA in 2028, when Los Angeles will be the host for the 34th Olympic games.

No. 2 — Win the World Championships in Hamburg, Germany, June 28-July 7, 2019. The 2019 world champions will have the advantage of early qualification, while the remainder of the Olympic hopefuls scratch and claw within the world rankings. In 2015, Brazil’s Evandro Goncalves and Pedro Solberg, Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas earned the first 2016 Olympic berths at the World Championships in the Netherlands.

No. 3 — Finish in the top 15 of the rankings as of June 15, 2020. Teams that have played a minimum of 12 tournaments in the FIVB Olympic qualification period between September 1, 2018, and June 14, 2020, will earn Olympic berths. Expect the competition in FIVB four- and five-star events to amp up as teams strive to position themselves throughout the qualification process. There are only two four-star-plus events remaining on the 2018 calendar, in Yangzhou and Las Vegas.

(Caveat No. 1: As the 2019 world champions have already qualified, they will not count in the top 15 qualification, likely extending the cut-off to the 16th-place finisher.)

(Caveat No. 2: As the Olympics encourages international participation, each country is limited to a maximum country quota of two teams per gender. Historically, this has had profound implications for Brazil (both genders), Germany (women), and the United States, as teams must compete not only to reach the top 15 but to exceed the results of their countrymen. For example, John Hyden and Tri Bourne tied for 15th in 2016, but failed to catch either Dalhausser and Nick Lucena or Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson, and did not qualify despite having more points than those who got in. Note that if a team fails to qualify due to country quota, the next highest team will be selected.)

No. 4 — Win the Continental Cup. In order to further promote international competition the Olympics is divided into five zones or confederations: AVC (Asia/Australasia), CAVB (Africa), CEV (Europe), CSV (South America), and NORCECA  (North and Central America/Caribbean). Each zone has its own competition, dates and sites TBA. The five Continental Cup winners per gender advance to the Olympics. This process results in teams qualifying that would not normally make a main draw FIVB four-star event, creating an Olympic tournament weaker than most Olympic qualifying events. For example, Egypt’s Doaa Elgobashy and Nada Meawad earned an average of only 13 points/set in their 2016 Olympic pool after qualifying through the African zone.

No. 5 — Make the finals of the FIVB World Continental Cup. This is it, the last chance! Teams finishing second or third in the five zonal Continental Cups will play off against each other, with both finalists securing the final berths in the 2020 Olympics.

The USA won gold in 2012 when Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor continued their domination of the sport. The last American men to win were Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers in 2008. In the last Olympics, in 2016 in Rio, Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt and Germans Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst won gold. Walsh Jennings and April Ross took bronze, but the American men were shut out.

1 COMMENT

  1. I’ve got a question about the Olympic rankings. For World Rankings, only the top 8 performances in the last year are considered. Is it the same for Olympic rankings with only the top 12 throughout the qualification period considered? Or can a team gain as many points as possible by entering every FIVB tournament and just piling up the points? In other words, could a team that has 45 seventeenth place finishes end up higher than a team that only enters 12 events and always finishes in the top 5?

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