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April Ross, left, and Alix Klineman will face the Netherlands, Spain, and China in Tokyo pool play/FIVB photograph

The swimming pools for the Tokyo Olympics seashore volleyball match are set.

Amidst a ceremonial backdrop that had the texture of a Nineteen Sixties-style sport present, hosted incongruously by a rustic, Russia, that’s within the midst of serving a four-year ban for doping in a years-long dishonest scheme, the drawing of “heaps” to populate the swimming pools for Olympic seashore volleyball have been introduced Monday.

Right here is how the 4 USA groups, two girls’s and two males’s, fared, together with their respective world and Olympic rankings:

Ladies
Pool B
Alix Klineman/April Ross (USA; third; 2nd)
Sanne Keizer/Madelein Meppelink (NED; 14th; thirteenth)
Liliana Fernandez Steiner/Elsa Baquerizo McMillan (ESP; 18th; twentieth)
Xue Chen/Wang Xinxin (CHN; twenty sixth; thirty first)
Pool D
Ana Patricia Ramos/Rebecca Cavalcanti Barbosa Silva (BRA; eighth; 4th)
Kelly Claes/Sarah Sponcil (USA; 4th; sixth)
Anastasija Kravcenoka/Tina Graudina (LAT; nineteenth; twenty first)
Gaudencia Makokha/Brackcides Khadambi (KEN; 99th; NR)
Males
Pool C
Cherif Younousse Samba/Ahmed Tijan Janko (QAT; third; third)
Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (USA; fifth; eleventh)
Adrian Ignacio Carambula Raurich/Enrico Rossi (ITA; 18th; 18th)
Adrian Heidrich/Mirco Gerson (SUI; nineteenth; twenty third)
Pool D
Alison Conte Cerutti/Alvaro Magliano de Morais Filho (BRA; 2nd; 4th)
Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen (NED; sixth; sixth)
Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena (USA; eighth; twelfth)
Julian Amado Azaad/Nicolas Capogrosso (ARG; thirty seventh; 53rd)

Seashore volleyball begins July 24. To qualify for the Olympics, one staff from the host nation of the Video games (Japan) is routinely in and so are the winners of the 2019 FIVB Seashore Volleyball World Championships, the 2 winners of the Olympic Qualification Match, 15 groups from the Olympic Rankings and an additional 5 from the Continental Cup Finals.

For every gender there are six swimming pools with 4 groups apiece.

To advance to the single-elimination stage within the second week of the Olympics (the primary week is strictly pool play with every staff taking part in three matches) a staff basically has to complete within the prime three of their pool, though half of the third-place groups should play an additional match in a “fortunate losers” format. However that’s hardly a loss of life sentence. Italians Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai superior from the fortunate losers in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 all the best way to a silver medal.

For the 4 American qualifying groups, the outcomes have been decidedly blended, the serpentine draw working for some and never others. The happiest of the bunch ought to be the general second seeds, Alix Klineman and April Ross, who it might seem have the best street to the one elimination stage.

The following highest seeds of their Pool “B” are the Dutch, the 11th-ranked staff of Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink. Additionally of their group are the veteran Spaniards, Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez (16th), in addition to China’s Chen Xue and Xinxin Wang (Continental Cup Asian qualifiers). None of these groups on paper are medal threats, though paradoxically, this pool has extra girls’s Olympic expertise than another.

Ross, a two-time medalist (silver with Jen Kessy in 2012 and bronze with Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2016) is competing in her third Video games, Keizer her second (2012), Meppelink her third, Baquerizo and Fernandez their third. In the meantime, Chen Xue gained a bronze in 2008 in her house nation on the age of 19 and Tokyo will signify her third Olympics. However the final time she stood on a World Tour podium of significance was in 2016 in Cincinnati. That is the primary Olympics for her accomplice Wang, 23.

Alix and April have performed every of those groups not less than as soon as and surprisingly their file in opposition to them will not be stellar: 1-2 in opposition to the Dutch, 0-1 versus the Spaniards and 1-0 in opposition to the Chinese language staff. However these outcomes are to be taken with a grain of salt as they haven’t occurred in a setting just like the Olympics, the place groups play one match basically each different day.

The “different” American girls’s entry is actually the most popular staff on this planet and their path into the knockout rounds also needs to be a relative breeze. Seventh-seeded Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil made it onto the USA staff below extraordinary strain profitable the final two FIVB four-star tournaments in Sochi and Ostrava by going undefeated in each.

Whereas they’re driving a 12-match profitable streak and their pool in Tokyo is a blended bag, that includes one “layup,” with the Kenyan staff of Gaudencia Makokha/Brackcides Khadambi, the African Continental Cup champions who’ve by no means performed on the FIVB World Tour.

Sponcil and Claes ought to get a stiffer check from the 17th seeds, Latvia’s Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka. Graudina and Claes have been nearly teammates at USC, Claes graduating in 2017 and Graudina’s freshman marketing campaign commencing the next 12 months. Now they’re opponents in Pool “D.” The Latvians are inconsistent, able to excessive finishes and head scratchers in equal measure.

The very best seeded staff in Pool D (fourth) are the Brazilians Ana Patricia Silva and Rebecca Cavalcanti. They’re additionally a little bit of a mysterious staff. Whereas they took third and first within the final two Brazilian tour stops in June, they’ve underwhelmed on the FIVB tour, taking fifths in Doha and Cancun I after which a 17th in Cancun II.

They elected to skip the third Cancun occasion in addition to the European jaunt by Sochi and Ostrava. One of many tales circulating was that as a result of earlier COVID restrictions on the FIVB tour, the Brazilians weren’t allowed to deliver their entourage of trainers and coaches…and that was contributing to their poor performances. It is going to be attention-grabbing to see how they carry out in Gstaad, a significant FIVB match this week, the place they’re entered … together with Sponcil and Claes.

It isn’t a stretch to imagine that Crew Slaes can win this pool. Their physique of labor in opposition to the groups within the pool is proscribed, 1-2 in opposition to the Brazilians and 0-1 versus the Latvians however these outcomes have been all earlier than the People caught fireplace this summer season.

One of many extra controversial points of the draw was the “awarding” of the sixth seed to the house nation outfits, the 66th-ranked Yosuke “Gottsu” Ishijima and Katsuhiro Shiratori and the 23rd ranked girls Miki Ishii and Megumi Murakami. This apply of non-merit primarily based excessive seeding has gone on indirectly form or kind because the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, when the host nation’s Julien Prosser and Lee Zahner have been prime seeded regardless of no discernible outcomes to assist.

Now, the 66th-ranked Gottsu and Shiratori have, in impact, pushed People 2008 Olympic gold medalist Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from a second-pool seed to a third-pool seed, which has had a deleterious impact on their draw for Tokyo.

They’re now in a gaggle with the reigning Olympic gold-medalist Alison Cerutti and his present accomplice, Alvaro Filho, in addition to the defending Olympic bronze-medal Dutch staff of Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, contemporary off a win within the final FIVB tourney in Ostrava. Brouwer and Meeuwsen have performed 127 tournaments collectively, one in all which was the 2013 World Championships, the place they gained the gold from Filho after which accomplice Ricardo Santos. The Dutch even have a long-standing rivalry with 41-year-old, four-time Olympian Dalhausser and Lucena, with the Floridians having a 6-5 benefit.

The excellent news for Dalhausser and Lucena is that the fourth staff of their group, Julian Azaad and Nicolas Capogrosso mustn’t pose a lot of a risk. The People are 3-0 lifetime versus the Argentinians, whose finest end in a significant FIVB match is 13th. Nevertheless, Dalhausser and Lucena should play higher than their late Could/early June swing by Europe after they completed ninth in Sochi and 25th in Ostrava.

On the boys’s aspect, each American groups ought to advance to not less than the fortunate losers spherical, however it will be robust, particularly for 45-year-old, four-time Olympian Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb. Their Pool “C” options two of the most popular groups within the World, the third-seeded Qataris Ahmed Tijan and Cherif Samba, in addition to the Italian “don’t let the seeding idiot you” 16th-ranked staff of Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi. As well as, the Continental Cup Swiss qualifying staff of Adrian Heidrich and Mirco Gerson has a good likelihood to steal a win within the pool.

The general third seeds, Samba and Tijan have everybody enthralled within the seashore volleyball world after their scintillating performances of late. Among the many finishes of their final seven tournaments are two firsts and two seconds. They’re 4-0 lifetime in opposition to Gibb and Crabb. Carambula, some of the electrical gamers within the sport, along with his distinctive skyball and shot-making capabilities, has discovered maybe his finest accomplice in Rossi. They’d a fifth and three consecutive fourths to start out off the 12 months and might be thought-about a really harmful staff.

Crabb and Gibb have a 3-0 benefit over the Swiss staff, however the People have struggled on the World Tour this 12 months after a powerful begin with a bronze in Doha. Since then, a procession of ninths, seventeenths and one 25th.

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