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The tall and short of Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss’ unique path to Olympic beach volleyball

Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss are going to their first Olympics as the first U.S. beach volleyball team to clinch a spot in the Paris Games, a team like no other in Olympic history.

Kloth and Nuss, 26-year-olds who began competing together in 2021, mathematically clinched the first of two U.S. women’s spots for Paris with nearly three months left in Olympic qualifying.

They rank second in the world behind Brazilians Ana Patricia and Duda. Yet they have the least combined tour-level experience of any U.S. Olympic beach team in 24 years.

Kloth, a 6-foot, 4-inch South Dakota native, and Nuss, a 5-foot, 6-inch New Orleans native, will be the first U.S. Olympic women’s beach volleyball team that doesn’t primarily train in California.

Kloth played four years of indoor volleyball at Creighton, graduated and then spent three years on the beach at LSU.

Nuss is set to become the shortest U.S. Olympic beach volleyball player since Barbra Fontana in 1996.

Kloth and Nuss’ height difference is the largest for a U.S. Olympic beach team.

They paired up during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, went 36-0 in their one season together at LSU, turned pro in 2021 and have continued to live in Baton Rouge since.

They began 2023 having to go through qualifying to earn main draw spots at international tournaments.

They finished the year with five titles between the domestic AVP and international FIVB tours, plus took bronze at October’s world championships after losing a tight semifinal to eventual champions and countrywomen Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes.

Cheng and Hughes, who rank third in the world, can mathematically clinch the second and final U.S. Olympic women’s spot early this spring.

The 2024 U.S. Olympic team roster of athletes updated as they qualify.

The U.S. won at least one women’s or men’s beach volleyball medal at every Olympics since the sport’s debut in 1996, including gold at six of those seven Games.

Tokyo Olympic champions Alix Klineman and April Ross stepped away from competition after those Games. Each had her first child last year.

Competition for up to two U.S. Olympic men’s spots is tighter. Andy Benesh and Miles Partain, would-be first-time Olympians, are the top team in qualifying so far.