FIVB Tokyo Four-Star

FIVB Tokyo Four-Star: Only One Shot at a Podium, But Fifths Are Good Finishes In Olympic Race


It’s not that there is any satisfaction in fifth – another fifth, the third in a row for Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat – but, when taken with the long view in mind, a fifth is yet another step forward in this Olympic race, one that now has less than a year to go.

It’s unlikely that you’ll ever hear Walsh Jennings say that she’s stoked on a fifth, or anything outside of gold. But progress was, once again, made in Tokyo for the Four-Star Olympic test event. Again, they finished as one of the top two American teams, which is, ultimately, what matters in this race. Especially when the only U.S. team ahead of them, April Ross and Alix Klineman, has such a substantial lead in the race that, at this point, it’s mostly a battle for the second spot.  

Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil likewise made the quarterfinals, losing a thriller to Canada’s Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson, 21-23, 21-17, 13-15. It’s a points boost for Claes and Sponcil who, outside of Ross and Klineman, may be making the biggest strides and improvement as a team among the Americans. And it is a jump for Claes and Sponcil, too, for they outperformed Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman, who took ninth, while Sara Hughes and Summer Ross withdrew due to an injury.

So, on a whole, as competitive as Claes and Sponcil and Walsh Jennings and Sweat are, no, you will not hear any shouts for joy at a fifth-place finish. But in the long run? It’s another small win, and it’s small wins, stacked up one upon the other, that matter in this Olympic race. Well, for most, at least.

Ross and Klineman, winners at the Gstaad Major, are in the finals once more, against Brazilians Agatha and Duda, the same team that knocked out Walsh Jennings and Sweat.

The men, though, again have no team to contend for a podium. Just two more fifths to show for another FIVB, which is, like the women, a small win for Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb. Again, they challenged Anders Mol and Christian Sorum, losing 22-20, 17-21, 13-15, in similar fashion as the bronze medal match at World Championships in Hamburg. And, again, they were the top finishing American team, which is, in the context of an Olympic race, a type of podium in and of itself.

Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, too, finished fifth, dropping, again, to Dutch Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, which is, while not a finish befitting Dalhausser and Lucena, a jump for them, as they outperformed Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb and Reid Priddy and Theo Brunner.

Fourth fifths are not what the Americans are looking for, no, but when taken in the long view, they’ll do the job just fine for this Olympic race.

For now, per usual, it’s up to Klineman and Ross to bring home the hardware, the type that, with both long- and short-term goals, are what they’re looking for.