Tokyo – When two-time Olympic medalist April Ross searched for a new partner four years ago, she had no idea where it would take her. Choosing Alix Klineman, a successful indoor player with less than a year of beach experience, turned out to be serendipitous.
The American pair fulfilled their dreams Thursday by claiming the gold medal with a 2-0 victory over Australians Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy, 21-15, 21-16. Klineman and Ross lost just one set in their seven matches en route to Olympic glory.
With the win, Ross became the first female beach athlete to win the full suite of Olympic medals. She won silver in 2012 with Jen Kessy, bronze in 2016 with Kerri Walsh Jennings, and now gold with Klineman.
After the match, Ross was still processing the fact that she suddenly had three medals in her collection.
“I’m so in the present moment here with this team and this medal,” she said. “I’m proud of my other ones, but just how this worked out, and the risk that Alix took to come on to the beach and her hard work … it doesn’t happen without that. I can’t fathom that it worked out the way it did. It’s kind of a fairytale story.”
Ross recalled the path that led her to Klineman, and then led the two of them to gold.
“When I was thinking about who I wanted to play with for the quad, in my head it wasn’t ‘who can I get together with and do well with right away,’” she said. “It was ‘who do I think I might have a chance of… going to the Olympics with and potentially winning a gold medal.’ I took a lot of care in talking to her (Alix) and practicing with her. Everything that she said and did was really impressive. It was a no brainer for me.”
For her part, Klineman understood that they both faced challenges when they paired up.
“People should realize what a risk April took taking me on as a partner,” she said. “When we joined together I had less than a year of experience on the beach and was not playing at a high level. She took my indoor experiences into account, and my goals and motivation. I think she felt how badly I wanted this. She saw something in me that no one else did. I’m so grateful that she was looking at my potential and took that bet on me.”
Klineman’s work ethic paid off, as the pair continued to improve every year, eventually winning silver at the 2019 FIVB World Championship. They’ve won six FIVB events overall.
In the Olympic final, Klineman and Ross were prepared for a battle, as they’ve had trouble with the Australians in previous matches. But they dominated in the first set, jumping out to a 7-2 lead and holding steady throughout. The second set started much the same way, although Artacho del Solar and Clancy made a late run to close the gap to 16-13. The Americans pushed back and never let their opponents get any closer.
“It didn’t feel dominant,” Klineman said. “We have to work so hard to win points against the Australian team. I’m just so proud that we believed that we could do it.”
The United States has won at least one beach medal in every Olympics since the sport debuted in 1996. U.S. women have won four gold medals, the most of any country.
Source: USA Volleyball
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