USA’s April Ross and Alix Klineman Win Gold in Beach Volleyball

TOKYO — Just four years after her transition to beach volleyball, US Alix Klineman won the gold on Friday with her partner April Ross, who took home her third Olympic medal.

The Americans won by beating Australia’s Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy 21-15, 21-16 on an extremely hot day at Shiokaze Park. The Australians especially struggled to score points on their serve: An American goose, set and dunk seemed to be waiting for them all the time.

When Ross won his final Olympic medal with Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2016, Klineman hadn’t even played beach volleyball.

She was a professional indoor volleyball player who played internationally for teams in Italy and Brazil. In 2017, Klineman envisioned a future in beach volleyball and dreamed of the Olympics. He started studying crafts.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, was watching. He saw the potential of the 31-year-old Klineman and cited a list of qualities: his physicality, work ethic, intelligence and intensity, to begin with.

“The Alix game has worked harder than anyone I know,” said Ross, 39. Go home and watch the video too.’”

Without fans in the stands in Tokyo, it was easier to capture the couple’s enthusiasm and communication at the stadium. If it wasn’t for the cheers, they would have made up for it by encouraging each other even louder on the way to gold.

“I can’t believe it,” said Klineman moments after they had won their place in the final. “It’s the most amazing feeling. You know, we dreamed about it and worked for it every day. But just because you’re working for it and doing everything you can to it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”

They performed exceptionally well at the Tokyo Olympics and won a non-set gold medal in any of their four matches in the sweltering heat. Domination was the result of Klineman’s transition to a new sport and Ross’ bet on a new player.

“When you’re working for something like this, you need someone to get your ass up every day,” Ross said. “I knew he was coming to the beach to do the Olympics. And I knew it was a motivating factor for him to take such a risk.”

“Everything went well,” he said, looking at the six-foot-tall Klineman.

For Ross, the gold medal is the culmination of a career occasionally lost in the long shadow of Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, the greatest US beach volleyball players who won gold in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Ross won the silver medal with Jennifer Kessy on his first Olympic trip in 2012 and lost the final to the legendary duo. When May-Treanor retired, Ross joined forces with Walsh Jennings to win the bronze medal in 2016.

Now he has the full set.

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