April Ross and Alix Klineman have the opportunity to complete an unlikely dream on Friday as the duo competes in the gold medal match of the Olympic women’s beach volleyball tournament in Tokyo.
Ross and Klineman will take on Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar in the best two-of-three set final.
Unlikely duo becomes beach volleyball powerhouse
Neither of the Americans knew they’d make it this far, especially four years ago. The 31-year-old Klineman specialized in indoor volleyball through 2017 before switching to the beach game, despite never having played it before. She found a willing partner in Ross, a 39-year-old beach volleyball veteran who already won silver in 2012 and bronze in 2016.
Now, the two will come into the gold medal match in Tokyo as the favorites to complete Ross’ collection.
“I knew her story,” Ross told Sports Illustrated of partnering with the inexperienced Klineman. “I knew that you know she was coming out to the beach to make the Olympics. To take such a risk for herself, I knew that was going to be a huge motivating factor.”
With Klineman lacking any beach volleyball experience, the duo had to work their way up through the qualifiers of early tournaments. But it quickly became apparent that the team simply worked. They won their first tournament in the Netherlands in 2018, and then it was off to the races. Ross and Klineman even won silver at the 2019 world championships.
Now, the two are on the verge of winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s the most amazing feeling and we dreamed of this,” Klineman told USA Today. “This is what we worked for every single day. But just cause you work for it and just cause you do everything you can doesn’t mean it happens. So the fact that everything is falling into place, it feels so magical.”
Australians knock off Canada to reach medal rounds
Meanwhile, Artacho del Solar and Clancy have made a memorable run to reach the women’s beach volleyball final. The Australians knocked off the No. 1 ranked team from Canada in the quarterfinals, then beat a Latvian squad in straight sets to reach the gold medal game.
“Gold, baby,” Artacho del Solar said after the semifinal win. “We came here for gold. It’s going to be a good game.”
|Olympic Beach Volleyball Odds – Women’s Gold Medal Match (via DraftKings Sportsbook)|
|Artacho del Solar/Claney (Australia): +160||Ross/Klineman (USA): -220|
The Americans enter the matchup as clear favorites, but not overwhelming ones. DraftKings Sportsbook rates Ross and Klineman as the -220 pick to win gold in women’s beach volleyball, with the Australian pair at +160.
The US team has only dropped one set in the entire women’s beach volleyball tournament, a surprising lapse in their first pool play match against a Dutch team that ultimately went 0-3 in the event. Conversely, Artacho del Solar and Clancey went 2-1 to finish second in their pool, but have been dominant in the knockout rounds, dropping only one set to the Canadian duo of Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes.