Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Olympic Rankings Shaken Up as Claes/Sponcil Take Gold in Sochi

The recent four-star FIVB World Tour event in Sochi, Russia has brought excitement and changes to the Race to Tokyo. Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil emerged victorious, winning the gold medal and securing the second qualifying position for the 2020 Olympic Games.

“We knew what we had to do to try and qualify,” said Claes. “We had to get a medal, and that is exactly what we did.”

Claes and Sponcil displayed exceptional performance, defeating Tanja Huberli and Nina Betschart of Switzerland with a 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) scoreline to claim their first gold on the FIVB World Tour. This achievement propelled them to accumulate 320 points towards their Olympic Ranking, bringing their total to 7,120 points. They now hold a 160-point advantage over Brooke Sweat and Kerri Walsh Jennings, with one tournament remaining.

Throughout the tournament, Claes and Sponcil overcame formidable opponents, including top-ranked teams in the Olympic Rankings. Notably, they triumphed against fellow Americans Alix Klineman and April Ross in the quarterfinal round, as well as Kelley Larsen Kolinske and Emily Stockman in the second round. Additionally, they secured a victory against the Brazilian pair of Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Santos Lisboa during pool play.

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“We took it one point at a time throughout the entire tournament,” said Sponcil. “With so many great teams competing, it was a challenging journey, but my partner and I communicated effectively, believed in each other, and ultimately triumphed.”

While Claes and Sponcil excelled, the men’s team of Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb reached the quarterfinal round, boosting their Olympic Ranking by 80 points. They remain in contention for a Tokyo berth and will need to secure a victory in the final tournament in Ostrava next week.

In round two, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena advanced before losing to Italy’s Adrian Ignacio Carambula Raurich and Enrico Rossi, while Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb fell in the first round of the knockout stage to Qatar’s Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan.

Unfortunately, Sweat and Walsh Jennings exited the tournament after pool play, despite advancing into the main draw from the country quota and qualifier.

With one tournament left in Olympic Qualifying – a four-star event in Ostrava, Czechia, from June 2-6 – let’s take a look at the remaining Olympic qualification scenarios for the U.S. Beach National Team:


  • Q: Will Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes qualify for the Olympics with their second-place finish in Sochi?
    • A: Yes, Sponcil and Claes can secure an Olympic berth with a second-place finish or if Sweat and Walsh Jennings finish fourth or lower.


In conclusion, the FIVB World Tour event in Sochi witnessed Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil’s remarkable triumph, earning them the gold medal and propelling them to the second qualifying position for the 2020 Olympic Games. Their outstanding performance against top-ranked opponents showcased their determination and skill. As the race to Tokyo continues, we eagerly anticipate the final tournament in Ostrava, where the remaining Olympic qualification scenarios for the U.S. Beach National Team will unfold. Stay tuned for more thrilling beach volleyball action!

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