US wins beach gold, Ross completes set


TOKYO—April Ross now has the complete set of Olympic beach volleyball medals: silver in London, bronze in Rio de Janeiro and a gold she won with Alix Klineman at the Tokyo Games on Friday with a victory over Australia.

The Americans beat Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy of Australia 21-15, 21-16 under a blazing sun in a match that was mercifully quick for the biggest crowd yet at Shiokaze Park—about 60 people in the temporary stadium that seats 9,600.

Playing in 92-degree Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) temperatures under the hot Tokyo sun, the Americans finished off the Aussies in 43 minutes. In the bronze medal match earlier Friday, Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland cruised to a straight-set victory over Latvia.

The silver for Australia was its first beach volleyball medal since Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst took gold on Bondi Beach in 2000. But they were never really close against the Americans, who tied for the top spot in the Olympic qualification points race and lost just one set in seven matches in Tokyo.

With side changes every seven points and technical timeouts every 14, the players retreated to benches, where an awning was rolled up over their heads for shade. A towel covered the seat so they wouldn’t stick to the hot cushion; support staff put icepacks on their heads, or wrapped them in wet towels.

And then there was hydration. So much hydration.

Klineman, a first-time Olympian, and Ross, who has three medals in as many trips to the Summer Games, needed just 20 minutes to claim the first set. They fell behind 2-0 in the second before scoring 10 straight points to pull away.

That silenced the chants of “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!” from the Australians in their bright yellow shirts and brought out the cheers of “U-S-A!” from those in the red, white and blue. Australia survived three championship points before Artacho del Solar served into the net to seal the US victory.

After a long hug, Klineman went to the bench to douse herself in water, then the pair went over to the stands and posed with an American flag.

The Swiss cruised to a straight-set victory over Latvia to claim the first Olympic medal ever for their country’s women on the beach. They edged Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka 21-19 in the first set before opening a 5-1 lead in the second and pulling away to win 21-15.

Graudina was the first person to make the Olympics after coming up through an NCAA beach volleyball program that started in 2012. She played at Southern California, where she was the 2019 national player of the year and led the Trojans to the 2021 national championship.

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