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2021 Tokyo Olympic Updates: Cancun Hub Frequently Asked Questions

I have a lot of questions about the Cancun Hub three-tournament series. 

Can the A-Team April & Alix make it five tournament wins in a row? Will the reigning World Champs Sarah & Mel steal it from them? How will the Australian powerhouse duo of Taliqua & Mariafe shake things up after missing Doha?

Will Tri & Trevor break out of the Country Quota this time to get back into the Race? How close can Phil & Nick get to that first-place spot? Will the defending Most Outstanding Player in the world, Anders Mol, return from injury in peak form?

Of course, these questions cannot be answered before play begins. But there are myriad other things I’m curious about, inquiries that actually have answers. Read on for all your questions answered regarding the first-ever back-to-back-to-back Olympic Qualifying Hub.

When are these tournaments happening again? 

 

April 16 – 20

April 22 – 26 

April 28 – May 2 

 

Notice – there is only ONE day between the finals of one event and the start of the next. That one day will hold the Country Quota (CQ). There is a chance, a very realistic one, that a team will play in the Finals or Semifinals and then be playing in the CQ the next day. 

It is possible that a team would compete every single day they’re in Mexico from April 15 – May 2. Eighteen straight days of volleyball competition. This would happen if a team plays in and wins every CQ, every Qualifier, and also makes it to the Semifinals in each of the three tournaments. It may seem like a long shot, but that’s what the teams in the CQ are hoping for. 

 

Will there be a CQ before each event? Or one CQ for all three? Will they be in the US or on-site in Cancun? 

 

There will be three separate Country Quotas all held in Cancun. All three will take place on the day before the Qualifier of the upcoming tournament. 

 

Who’s in the USA CQ? 

 

The CQs in Cancun will be the exact same as in Doha (excepting the 2nd event, which I’ll cover in the next FAQ) and will feature two USA teams with Tokyo aspirations. Bourne/Crabb will play Schalk/Brunner. Budinger/Patterson go against Kolinske/Evans. Sponcil/Claes will take on the winner of Reeves/Cannon vs. Hughes/Day. 

Luckily for Bourne/Crabb and Sponcil/Claes, each of these Olympic hopeful CQ teams recently won a stacked exhibition tournament on 16th Street in Hermosa. The April 1-2 event was epic, with some of the top teams in the world battling it out for bragging rights and reps. 

I watched the majority of this 8-team-per-gender tournament. The most noteworthy matches in regard to the CQ were as follows: 

  • In the very first match, Sponcil/Claes pulled out a close one against Hughes/Day, 15-13 in the third. They never matched up against Reeves/Cannon. 
  • Though Bourne/Crabb didn’t face Brunner/Schalk during the tourney, Brunner/Schalk lost early on Friday. Bourne/Crabb dominated the tournament, winning their matches pretty easily and handily beating Patterson/Budinger in the finals. 

These two teams have a taller order than the other American Olympic hopefuls, but they’re both playing excellent volleyball. 

**Things have changed since the posting of this piece. Patterson/Budinger have withdrawn from the 1st and 3rd Events, so they will not be at any Cancun Hub events. This means, Bourne/Crabb will automatically advance through the CQ into the Qualifier, and Kolinske/Evans will take on Schalk/Brunner. Huge news for the Hawaiians. Note: Bourne/Crabb will still play Benesh/Allen in the 2nd Event CQ because Patterson/Budinger were not signed up for that tournament.

 

Will teams be reseeded between tournaments? 

 

Not inside the CQ. The same Women’s matchups will occur for all three events. On the men’s side, however, Budinger/Patterson won’t be at the 2nd event. So the Men’s CQ will shift. In Budinger/Patterson’s place, Allen/Benesh will get one chance at the Cancun Hub. So the 2nd Event CQ will be Bourne/Crabb vs. Allen/Benesh and Kolinske/Evans vs. Schalk/Brunner.  

Once a team wins a CQ, they will be reseeded in the Qualifier. Once a team qualifies, they’ll be reseeded within the Main Draw. Entry Points don’t change between tournaments, but seeding points do. That fact is especially important for Sponcil/Claes. If countries were allowed four teams into the Main Draw based on Entry Points, Team Slaes would be right below Canadians Wilkerson/Bansley at the 18-seed. 

 

Normally there are penalties for withdrawing 21 days before an FIVB tournament. Are those rules relaxed for the Cancun Hub? 

 

According to the FIVB, a team can withdraw up to 5 days before an event with no penalty only if they’re approved by the FIVB (including a positive Covid test, injury, and travel restrictions). 

 

Do the teams have to pay for their room and board at the event? Or does the FIVB cover everything?

 

In short – it depends on if you’re a Main Draw athlete or in the Quali/CQ. With that being said, every team will be on the hook for at least a couple of nights on their own. 

In long – Main Draw accommodations are covered by the FIVB from the night of the Qualifier through the morning after a team’s elimination from any of the three individual events. Once a team loses, they have to pay out of pocket (or their federation’s pocket) until the night before the next event. Even the teams that win a tournament have to pay for one day in between events. 

It costs $190 USD per team or $95 per person to stay on-site in a double occupancy room and have three meals provided. This means Quali/CQ teams that stay for the entire Cancun Hub but don’t make at least one of the three Main Draws will be out about $2,000 per person for room and board. 

CQ teams will also have to pay for at least two mandatory Covid tests if they don’t make it out of the CQ and into a Qualifier. Team staff (coach, trainer, sensei, etc.) accommodations are not paid for by the FIVB.

 

Will spectators be allowed? 

 

I’m sad to report that no spectators will be allowed to watch the Cancun Hub in person. The FIVB thinks it would just be too much risk to the athletes in this extremely important series of events. 

 

Will the matches be streamed? 

 

It’s my great pleasure to report that YES! All matches will be streamed on FIVB’s YouTube channel here

 

How many people can each team bring? 

 

Two additional team members are allowed in the Bubble. Most teams are taking at least one coach. 

 

How will the Bubble work? The hotel is huge and open to other guests. Will the athletes be cordoned off? Will the courts be fenced off? 

 

The Bubble comprises a little less than half of the sprawling Grand Oasis Cancun. Athletes may move freely about the Bubble as long as they wear masks (no fabric masks allowed). Teams are barred from eating with anyone outside of their team unless granted special permission. Fortunately, The Bubble includes restaurants, part of a pool, and plenty of places to train. Plus – the athletes have premier hotel rooms, some of which are facing the ocean. Not too shabby. 

There looks to be a generous amount of outdoor space and even monitored ocean hours. The courts are on the beach, sectioned off from other beachgoers and hotel guests. There are four courts of action plus two warmup courts. I’m not sure if the courts will be visible from the public part of the beach. But since there are no spectators allowed, I’m guessing there won’t be much opportunity to sneak a peek. 

 

Are there any COVID-19 protocol exceptions for vaccinated individuals? 

 

Nope! Everyone follows the same rules. 

 

Can you leave the Bubble and come back? 

 

Only if you have special dispensation from the FIVB. For instance – Budinger/Patterson will not be at the 2nd event, but they will play in the CQs for the first and third. They received special permission from the FIVB to skip the middle tournament. 

If you’re really asking if teams can momentarily leave the Bubble for a night out in Cancun, the answer is an emphatic, no. Bummer, but I mean, duh.

 

Do you have to play in all three tournaments? Or can you pick and choose? 

 

The FIVB wants all participating athletes to play in the first tournament. That way, all athletes are tested at the same time and remain inside the Bubble. They’re fine if people leave, but they don’t really want them coming back. Adding new athletes presents an added risk. But, similar to the previous question, special FIVB permission can be acquired to skip the first and play the second and/or third. 

Almost every team that’s playing in Cancun is signed up for all three tournaments, though teams weren’t restricted from signing up for just one or two. The only thing the FIVB didn’t allow, without dispensation, was a team to sign up for the 1st and 3rd events and skip the 2nd.

 

 

Now that all the basics are out of the way, check back tomorrow for standings, potential scenarios, and the Master Table release.