World Tour Finals

No Bronze For Gibb-Crabb, But Tons of Olympic Points


This is not a story about moral victories. About how Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb tried their hardest and lost, but gained something out of it. No, it won’t be one of those.

They lost a bronze medal match on Sunday. They lost it to Anders Mol and Christian Sorum. No matter if it’s the best team on the planet, it’s going to sting. There is no shame in that loss, not least of all when considering how clean a match it was.  

You might think it was ugly on Crabb’s and Gibb’s end, judging by the score, a 21-16, 21-15 win for Mol and Sorum that took all of 35 minutes. But look at the stats. They tell the story of the best team in the world playing like it.

Gibb and Crabb sided out at 57 percent in the first set. Their serve-receive was 94 percent accurate. Mol, the best blocker in the world, didn’t get them once. They simply sided out at 72 percent, a staggering clip at this level. They passed 100 percent, which is indeed as absurd as that sounds.

One team played better.

That’s the story.

One team came away with bronze, the other came away with a Coliseum’s worth of Olympic points, which is why this is no moral victory story, but one of a legitimate win.

The Olympic race is an odd one. When a team competes for a country as deep in talent as the United States, you are competing against the rest of the world, yes, but, namely, you’re competing against your countrymen.

And Gibb and Crabb smoked that field of four.

Billy Allen and Stafford Slick didn’t make it out of the qualifier. Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb didn’t make it out of pool. Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena didn’t make it out of the first round.

Meanwhile, Crabb and Gibb won. And won. And won some more.

They won against Italians Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo. They won despite being down 17-11 in the first set, a point when most fold and look towards the next. They won against a hot French team despite giving up the second set. They won a marathon against Spain despite needing 34 points to do so. There the winning stopped, though not because they suddenly began playing poorly.

In the semifinals, they played the World Championship silver medalists, Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler. And in the bronze medal match that ensued, they met the most dominant men’s team since perhaps Dalhausser and Todd Rogers.

They did not collect a medal, but they did collect a gargantuan 840 Olympic points, throwing them back into the thick of an Olympic race in which they had a delayed start. They trail Bourne and Crabb by 860, despite only having two less finishes. They trail Dalhausser and Lucena by 260 despite taking two months off the FIVB between Xiamen and Hamburg.

Simply put: Gibb and Crabb didn’t beat Norway.

But they beat the United States.

And in a screwy FIVB Olympic system, that’s more valuable than a bronze.