April Ross and Alix Klineman of the U.S. Win Beach Volleyball Gold

April Ross and Alix Klineman of the U.S. Win Beach Volleyball Gold
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April Ross and Alix Klineman of the U.S. Win Beach Volleyball Gold

April Ross and Alix Klineman of the U.S. Win Beach Volleyball Gold

TOKYO – Just four years after making the transition to beach volleyball, American Alix Klineman won gold on Friday with partner April Ross, who won her third Olympic medal.

The Americans won 21-15, 21-16 over Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy of Australia on an extremely hot day at Shiokaze Park. The Australians particularly struggled to gain points on their serve: an American dig, set and spike always seemed to be waiting for them.

When Ross won his last Olympic medal with Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2016, Klineman didn’t even play beach volleyball.

She was a professional indoor volleyball player, playing internationally for teams in Italy and Brazil. In 2017, Klineman envisioned a future in beach volleyball and dreamed of the Olympics. She began to study the trade.

Ross, two-time Olympic medalist, watched. She saw potential with Klineman, 31, citing a list of attributes: his physique, work ethic, intelligence and intensity, to begin with.

“Alix has studied the game more than anyone I have ever known,” said Ross, 39. “She would come home and watch a ton of video, and I was like, ‘Well, I have to come home and watch the video too.

Without supporters in the stands in Tokyo, it was easier to capture the enthusiasm and communication of the duo in the stadium. If it weren’t for the cheers, they would make up for it by encouraging each other even harder on the path to gold.

“I just can’t believe it,” Klineman said minutes after securing their spot in the final. “It’s the most incredible feeling. You know, we dreamed about it, and that’s what we worked for every day. But just because you work for it, and just because you do all you can, doesn’t mean it happens.

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They had an extraordinary run at the Tokyo Olympics, winning gold without losing a set in any of their four games in sweltering heat. Domination was the reward for Klineman’s transition to a new sport and Ross’s bet on a new player.

“When you work for something like this, you need someone who is going to work hard every day,” Ross said. “And I knew she was coming to the beach to compete in the Olympics. And I knew taking such a risk for herself was a motivator.

“It all held up,” she said, looking up at Klineman, who is 6 feet 5 inches tall.

For Ross, the gold medal is the culmination of a career sometimes lost in the shadow of America’s greatest beach volleyball players, Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, gold medalists in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

On his first Olympic trip, Ross won silver in 2012 with Jennifer Kessy, losing the final to the legendary duo. When May-Treanor retired, Ross teamed up with Walsh Jennings to win bronze in 2016.

Now she has the full set.

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