The sand is being poured into the new, temporary stadium in Shiokaze Park, which means the competition is warming up as the beach volleyball athletes are preparing to play in the biggest tournament of the year: the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
With players coming from all around the world, they have a lot of talent coming with them as well. There are some young, new players who are in their first Olympics as well as veteran players coming back for a chance to win another gold medal.
So who should you be watching this year? If you can’t watch everyone, then these athletes are some great beach volleyball players to follow at the upcoming Olympic Games.
Debut beach volleyball players looking for success in their first Olympics
Alix Klineman is not new to professional volleyball after playing indoor on the USA women’s national team for seven years, yet she just started professionally playing beach in 2017. At the end of the year, she joined forces with April Ross, and they went on to win four tournament events in the 2018 AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour. Even though we won’t get to see Kerri Walsh Jennings play in this year’s Olympics, we can still watch some great USA volleyball with Klineman up at the block.
Duda Santos Lisboa
Duda Santos Lisboa is a great beach player, winning four World Tour events, a gold medal at the 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games and being named FIVB Top Rookie in 2016. This will be her first Olympic Games at the adult level, so it will be exciting to see her put her skills to good work against some of the best in the world.
Oleg Stoyanovskiy is only 24 years old, but has some awards that even veteran players haven’t won yet like gold medals at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship in Hamburg and the World Tour Finals in Rome. In 2019, he became the youngest world champion at age 22 after winning the tournament with his partner, Viacheslav Krasilnikov, who he’s playing with at the upcoming Olympic Games. These two are going to be a strong pair to beat as the competition begins at the end of July.
Anders Mol is one half of the Norwegian duo that is taking the beach world by storm. Mol and his partner, Christian Sørum, are making waves as the No. 1 ranked men’s beach volleyball team according to FIVB rankings. They became the first men’s beach volleyball team from Norway to earn a European Championship title. He finished the 2018/19 with four FIVB awards: Best Blocker, Best Setter, Best Attacker and Most Outstanding Player. Mol had a hip injury in 2020, but now he’s back and better than ever.
Veteran beach volleyball players coming back to the Olympic Games
Sarah Pavan is a beach player from Canada with a long history in volleyball, starting her career in indoor playing for the Canada women’s national volleyball team and moving to beach in 2013. Pavan also played indoor in college for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Huskers in the USA, where they won the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball tournament in 2006. At 1.98m tall, Pavan dominates at the net. She made it to the quarterfinals in the 2016 Olympics, falling to Ludwig and Walkenhorst from Germany, who went on to win the gold medal that year. She’s hoping to come back this year with her partner, Melissa Humana-Paredes, and with the No. 1 spot in the FIVB world rankings, they have a really good chance to get on that podium.
Agatha Bednarczuk is a force on the sand with the record to prove it. She earned a gold medal in the 2015 World Championships as well as a silver medal in the 2016 Olympic Games after beating the USA team of Kerri Walsh-Jennings and April Ross to get into the final match. Even though Bednarczuk and her teammate this year, Lisboa, have a 16-year age gap between them, their chemistry hasn’t faltered. Bednarczuk brings her years of experience to each match and it has helped her and Lisboa move into the No. 3 spot in the FIVB world rankings. Look out for this Brazilian duo as they take to the sand in Tokyo.
Phil Dalhausser is one of the older men in the beach competition at 41 years old, but age has not slowed him down. In fact, this USA athlete is like a good red wine; he only gets better with age. He has over 100 career wins and six gold medals in his repertoire, including one at the 2007 World Championship and one at the 2008 Olympics. Dalhausser and his partner, Nick Lucena, made it to the quarterfinals in the 2016 Olympic Games, falling to the Brazilian duo, Cerutti and Schmidt, who went on to win gold that year. But Dalhausser is looking better than ever, so he’s one to watch in Tokyo this year.
Alison Cerutti won the gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in his home country of Brazil, as well as a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics. He’s looking to come back and add another gold medal to his collection with his new partner this year, Álvaro Morais Filho. Cerutti is a monster at the net with his sheer height and size, so if he and Filho can connect, then Cerutti will be a fierce opponent again this year.
Who’s your favorite beach duo heading to the Olympics this year? What players are you excited to see play?