The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are just weeks away. And yes – they’re officially sticking to the 2020 moniker. The four USA teams are solidified, and now it’s time to get to know each of them a little better.
It’s only fair to start with the oldest Olympic beach volleyball player of any country or any gender ever – Jake Gibb and his partner Taylor Crabb.
Jake and Taylor joined forces after the 2016 Rio Olympics. Jake, who competed in the Games with Casey Patterson, was 40 years old and considering one more Olympic run. He and Casey had just had an extremely tough Olympic pool in Rio and missed out on the playoffs. Taylor Crabb was a fresh-faced newbie who made a name for himself on the AVP Tour playing behind his brother Trevor Crabb. Though the Crabb brothers were a highly marketable team, they didn’t experience the success that either of them wanted. Both Jake and Taylor were looking for something new.
They’d heard of each other, of course. Jake Gibb is a volleyball legend – a three-time Olympian, two-time cancer survivor, and AVP stud. His first year on the AVP Tour was the first of the new millennium – he and his wife Jane moved from Bountiful, Utah, so Jake could try his hand at beach volleyball. It took a couple of years to find his footing, but Jake earned AVP’s Most Improved in 2004 and MVP in 2005 after partnering with a very talented Stein Metzger. Since then, he’s qualified for every Olympics (with three different partners) and won 34 AVPs.
Jake Spiker Gibb is the youngest of eleven children. He and all his brothers have the same middle name – his mom’s maiden name – and an ironic allusion to Jake’s eventual career. Interestingly, Jake didn’t play competitive beach until he was 21. He’s one of the few beach athletes who didn’t grow up playing the game or ever play organized indoor volleyball. Maybe that’s why he’s so good; he didn’t have to unlearn any indoor habits. Jake also beat testicular cancer and skin cancer while continuing to play, never missing a year of competition. To say this guy is a superhuman is an understatement.
At 16 years his junior, Taylor Crabb has some superpowers of his own. This Hawaiian came out of the gate early in his career with mind-blowing defensive moves and hard-hitting offensive moments in almost every point. Growing up in a supremely athletic family on the shores of Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii, Taylor spent his childhood playing beach volleyball. His pickup games included AVP pros like his brother Trevor, Tri Bourne, and the McKibbin brothers Maddison and Riley. No wonder Taylor stormed onto the AVP scene.
Jake had an illustrious career, Taylor had a promising future, and they had a coach in common – USA Volleyball’s Tyler Hildenbrand. Tyler had coached Taylor in college at Long Beach State and had just coached Jake and Casey in Rio. After those 2016 Games, Tyler connected Jake and Taylor, setting up a meeting to discuss a future partnership.
While the official intention of the meeting was to discuss goals, those beach volleyball partnership coffee dates are always about chemistry. Will this person work as hard as I do? Will I want to eat all of my meals on the road with them? How will our personalities gel (or not)?
Jake and Taylor knew immediately that their chemistry was a sure thing. With laid-back attitudes and solid work ethics, these two got on right away. They won two of their first four AVPs together and quickly became one of the USA’s best teams. During the Race to Tokyo, they were the only USA Men’s team to control a qualifying spot throughout the entire Olympic Qualifying Period. And if you’re wondering about those meals on the road, Taylor says they eat together 99% of the time on the road together. So sweet.
In their five-year tenure, Jake and Taylor have won an AVP in New York, Hermosa, Seattle, Chicago, Huntington Beach, Austin, and Waikiki. If anyone is keeping track, that’s a win in every city the AVP has traveled to during their partnership. Except for one, the big one, the Wimbledon of Beach Volleyball – the Manhattan Beach Open. In an AVP Instagram video, Jake talks about how badly he wants his name on the Manhattan Beach Pier with Taylor. That would be four (!!) different partners that Jake’s won the MBO and received a memorial plaque solidified in the very heart of Beach Volleyball Mecca, USA. As 2021 is Jake’s proclaimed final year playing beach volleyball, this venerable duo has one last chance for their name on the Pier and an AVP city sweep this August 20-22.