April Ross and Alix Klineman are Olympic champions.
The United States’ top women’s beach volleyball pair took down Australia’s Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy in straight sets in Thursday night’s gold medal match.
Ross and Klineman, who dropped just one set the entire tournament, took the first set, 21-15, before sealing gold in the second, 21-16.
The first-ever gold for Ross and Klineman was never really in serious doubt in the final. In the first set, they jumped out to a 12-6 advantage and held a lead of at least five points the rest of the way.
They started the second set on fire, gaining an early eight-point lead at 10-2. The Aussies clawed back to within three at 16-13, but that’s as close as they would get.
“This is what we dreamed of, and this is why we sacrificed so much and worked so hard,” Klineman said. “But I still don’t know if I ever really expected this to come true, and it just feels like such a fairytale.”
The victory completed a perfect 7-0 run to the top of the podium for Ross and Klineman, who became teammates in 2017 after Klineman made the switch from indoor to beach volleyball.
They are the second Team USA women’s pair to ever go undefeated at the Olympics. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings accomplished the feat three times (2004, 2008, 2016).
Meanwhile, the United States’ streak of winning at least one beach volleyball medal — men’s or women’s — in each Olympics since the sport debuted in 1996 was kept alive.
Ross, who won silver with Jen Kessy in 2012 and bronze with Walsh Jennings in 2016, completed her Olympic collection with the elusive gold. In doing so, the 39-year-old topped Walsh Jennings’ record as the oldest woman to ever medal in Olympic beach volleyball. She also became the first beach volleyball player to win an Olympic medal with three different teammates.
Klineman, 31, was making her Olympic debut.
“For us to get here and do this, with this kind of competition, just blows my mind and I’m so grateful to everyone who helped us get here,” Ross said. “… To get a gold medal finally just feels so amazing.”
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