We’ve all been waiting patiently for the Olympic Qualification process to resume, and I am happy to announce – we made it!
As of now, there is only one tournament on the schedule – a 4-Star FIVB event set to take place in Doha, Qatar, in early March called the Katara Beach Volleyball Cup 2021. I recently had a chat with the FIVB Beach Volleyball Events Director Yu Cao about the Olympic qualification process, COVID-19 protocols, and future tournaments. Check back in the coming days for more on that. But for now – let’s focus on the one we know for sure is happening (knock on wood) – Doha.
If you can remember from last year, the Race to Tokyo on the American side is tight. The possibilities in Doha are nearly endless, so I’ve taken the time to outline some of the juiciest potential storylines below.
A note: while we are all hoping for a plethora of FIVB tournaments before the Olympics, the athletes are proceeding as if each tournament may be the last. Anything can change at a moment’s notice. So I’m taking their lead and treating Doha as an all-important, decision-making tournament. I am not intentionally overlooking any American teams going for the Olympics. For the purposes of this article, I’m only considering what could happen to teams in contention after the results of Doha.
I’ve worked out all of the relevant possibilities. So, before we send off our favorite AVP teams to the Middle East, let’s dive into the exciting potential of this first (and so far only) Olympic Qualification tournament of 2021.
To review, a team’s “points” place them in the Olympic Ranking (OR) – a sum of their 12 best finishes at FIVB World Tour tournaments. While there are secondary ways to qualify for the Olympics, primarily they need to finish in the Top 15 in the Olympic Ranking and be in the Top 2 of their country. Fully understanding the Olympic Qualification process is a game of Jenga; read here for a solid foundation.
Let’s start with the women, because there’s a lot of drama.
Top Four Women’s Olympic Hopeful Teams
April Ross/Alix Klineman – 8760
Kerri Walsh-Jennings/Brooke Sweat – 6960
Sarah Sponcil/Kelly Claes – 6640
Kelley Kolinske/Emily Stockman – 6080
The A-Team did their thing and got so far ahead of the competition that they really can’t be caught. So I’m fully acknowledging their amazingness here, and now we’re moving on to the other teams.
The other three teams are fighting for the ONE spot left. So intense.
These three teams have all participated in 12 or more qualifying tournaments. So from now on, the Women have to outperform one of their previous finishes in order to add points. Kerri/Brooke’s lowest finish is 480; Sarah/Kelly’s is 400; Kelley/Emily’s is 320. That means Kerri/Brooke have to get 4th or better to add points, Sarah/Kelly have to get 5th or better, and Kelley/Emily have to get 9th or better.
Though Kelley/Emily have the most to gain, they cannot overtake Sarah/Kelly in this tournament. The most they can add to their OR is 480 points, and they’re 560 behind. So, as we all are, they’re hoping for more tournaments.
For Sarah/Kelly and Kerri/Brooke, however, everything could be riding on Doha. It’s a pretty tall task for Team Slaes to overtake Kerri/Brooke for the USA’s 2nd Olympic spot in just one event, but here’s how it could happen:
- Sarah/Kelly get 1st & Kerri/Brooke get 5th or worse
THAT’S IT. Sarah/Kelly must win Doha for a chance to move ahead of Kerri/Brooke in OR. But there’s also a potential for a tie, which is just too exciting! There are two scenarios where these teams are tied after Doha:
- Sarah/Kelly get 2nd & Kerri/Brooke get 5th or worse
- Sarah/Kelly get 1st & Kerri/Brooke get 4th
What happens if two teams are tied for the USA’s 2nd Olympic Qualifying spot? Do they play a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match?! Or a series of matches? Ooh, maybe highest Skyball! Honestly, we have no idea, because there isn’t a defined tiebreaker. But wouldn’t that just be juicy?
Top Three Men’s Olympic Hopeful Teams
Jake Gibb/Taylor Crabb = 6680 points
Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb = 6360 points
Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena = 5840 points
It’s looking good that two of these teams, if not all three, will finish in the Top 15 in OR. But which two will finish higher is totally up in the air.
Phil/Nick have only played in 11 eligible tournaments. That means they will add the full amount of points earned from Doha to their OR. Whatever place Phil/Nick earn, they’ll add that many points.
On the other hand, since Jake/Taylor and Tri/Trevor already have 12 events, they need to get a better finish than one they’ve had in the past to add to their OR. Jake/Taylor’s and Tri/Trevor’s lowest finishes are both worth 320 points; Doha is a 4-Star tournament, so they’ll have to get 9th or better to add points.
4-Star Point Structure
17th = 320
9th = 400
5th = 480
4th = 560
3rd = 640
2nd = 720
1st = 800
One colossal factor is that Tri/Trevor won’t be playing in Doha.
They didn’t have enough Entry Points to get into the Main Draw (more on Entry Points in the next paragraph). Because of that – they had to play in a Country Quota (CQ) on Thursday, February 18th. CQs are played when more than four teams from one nation sign up for an FIVB tournament. Only four teams from any one country are allowed to compete in an FIVB (unless a Wild Card is granted; Wild Cards don’t count as a quota spot).
Tri/Trevor lost the CQ to Chaim Schalk and Theo Brunner in a tight 3-setter. So while I had all the potential scenarios worked up for their OR to change in Doha, they’re unfortunately not in the tournament.
Now, if you’re like me before I did a boatload of research for this article, you may be wondering why Tri/Trevor are above Phil/Nick in OR but didn’t get into the Doha Main Draw. That’s where the Entry Points come in, and those determine who gets in an FIVB Main Draw.
Entry Points are comprised of the best four finishes of the last six tournaments a team plays. Tri/Trevor’s Entry Points are too low to qualify them for the Main Draw by a whopping 50 points. After speaking with Tri recently, he reminded me their more recent finishes were worse because he was playing with an injured hand – after he punched a ref stand. Oops.
Because Tri/Trevor aren’t playing in Doha, Phil and Nick’s destiny lies entirely in their own hands. Phil/Nick are 840 points below Jake/Taylor and 520 points below Tri/Trevor. They can’t catch Jake/Taylor yet, but they can pass Tri/Trevor. Phil and Nick have to get a 4th place finish or better to overtake Tri/Trevor for the second American Men’s quota spot.
I’m sure the Hawaiians will be glued to the live stream, crossing their fingers that Phil/Nick don’t make it to the Semifinals. But with how Phil/Nick played in the Champions Cup Series… anything can happen.