Two tournaments in two weeks to determine the two teams from two genders competing in the 2021 Olympic Games. Woah.
After an almost three-year-long qualification period, in just TWO WEEKS we’ll know which four USA teams will represent our flag in Tokyo in the highly-anticipated Summer Olympics. I have goosebumps.
The first of two back-to-back European events will take place from May 26-30 on the shores of the Black Sea in Sochi, Russia. The players’ accommodations, courts, and dining are all encompassed in the Bubble; they have the entire high-end sport-focused hotel all to themselves.
As of this article’s publication, temperatures look mild throughout the five days of competition. We may see rain on Saturday and Sunday, only dramatizing the crucial matches even more. After Cancun’s brutal winds and heat, the weather could basically be anything, and the athletes would be grateful.
I cover all the point breakdowns and scenarios in my Cancun Recap, so I encourage referencing that article for all the deets. But I’ll include a quick cheat sheet here.
USA Women’s Olympic Standings
April Ross/Alix Klineman – 9400
Kerri Walsh-Jennings/Brooke Sweat – 6960
Sarah Sponcil/Kelly Claes – 6800
Kelley Kolinske/Emily Stockman – 6360
Ross/Klineman need to get 3rd or better to increase their Olympic Ranking. Walsh-Jennings/Sweat and Sponcil/Claes need to get 4th or better. Stockman/Kolinske need to get 5th or better.
In this penultimate event, only one potential scenario for both Women and Men could switch up the USA quota spots. Sponcil/Claes are within 160 points of Walsh-Jennings/Sweat. If Team Slaes earns first or second and Walsh-Jennings/Sweat gets fourth or fifth, they overtake the second spot in the Tokyo Games.
Walsh-Jennings/Sweat are in the Country Quota for both of the last two events. They won their CQ match against Aurora Davis/Sarah Schermerhorn and will compete in the Qualifier the following day to make it back into the Main Draw. Their US rivals Sponcil/Claes made three of the four Main Draws in 2021 when they had this same path. Team Slaes’ impressive 5th-place finishes in those three tournaments earned them a safe spot in the Main Draw.
Stockman/Kolinske must medal in both events. They have to get a 1st and 3rd place or a pair of 2nd-place finishes in these final two events to overtake the spot.
USA Men’s Olympic Standings
Jake Gibb/Taylor Crabb – 7040
Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena – 7040
Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb – 6600
All three teams need a 5th or better to increase their Olympic Ranking.
I love a tie; so dramatic. An OR tie is broken by the number of tournaments played during the Qualification Window, which would go to Gibb/Crabb. At this point, it doesn’t matter other than Olympic seeding because both teams would both go to Tokyo.
Dalhausser/Lucena have been on a roll, leaving Cancun with some impressive wins and hardware. Gibb/Crabb had an underwhelming performance in Mexico, which undoubtedly motivates them even more. I’d put money on one or both of these teams changing their OR in the last two tourneys. There’s about as good of a chance that they’d enter the Games tied as not.
If Bourne/Crabb get 5th place in Sochi, they have to win the final event in Ostrava to earn their spot in Tokyo. They can also get there with a 2nd/4th or 3rd/3rd. In good news for the Hawaiians – they’re out of the CQ for both events. Those high finishes are easier to envision with two fewer days of fierce competition.
Play starts on Tuesday, May 25 with the all-important CQ. Catch all the action on the FIVB Beach YouTube Channel. Check back here after the event for a post-tourney recap and preview for the final (ahh!) qualifying event in Ostrava, Czech Republic.