The unpredictable was a, if not the key component of the beach volleyball experience in Tokyo this Olympics.
Whether upset losses or just the wild wind, occasional rain, and piping hot sand temperatures, there wasn't much that went according to script in either the men's or women's tournament.
Youth served as Norwegians set the stage
Norway’s kids are alright.
Staring down some of the biggest names in men’s volleyball, 24-year-old Anders Mol and 25-year-old Christian Sorum didn’t blink and claimed gold in surprise fashion.
Not on account of talent or wherewithal, mind you, but considering their start of pool play, which wasn’t a good barometer for most of the field if we’re being honest.
Mol and Sorum worked hard to beat the last-place Australian duo in their opener, then fell to Russian Olympic Committee duo Konstantin Semenov and Ilya Leshukov 2-0 in the pool finale.
They wouldn’t lose the rest of the way, sweeping aside Semenov and Leshukov in a quarterfinal rematch before beating the other ROC team of Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy.
Speaking of Krasilnikov, he was the only repeat medalist from 2016 and, in fact, the only repeat semifinalist.
Neither Brazil’s Alison nor Bruno Schmidt made the semifinals with their new partners after splitting since Rio, and both American teams were bounced in the Round of 16.
Even Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan of Qatar, so dominant for much of the tournament en route to bronze, threw up a stinker in falling at the semifinal step.
Maybe the tender ages of Mol and Sorum will allow for something more predictable come Paris 2024. But do we hope so?
While the youngsters triumphed on the men’s side, a queen finally got her Olympic crown on the women’s side.
Thirty-nine year old April Ross completed her full set of medals when she found the right chemistry with 31-year-old Alix Klineman, Team USA’s so-called “A-Team” living up to the billing in Tokyo.
Ross and Klineman lost just one set during the games, only surprising in that many suspected that the other American team of Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil would be the team to tempt gold.
Instead Claes and Sponcil lost at the Round of 16 stage, one of several surprises as Brazil’s Ana Patricia and Rebecca joined Canada’s Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes in eyebrow-raising quarterfinal exits.
Men's beach volleyball medalists
Gold: Anders Mol and Christian Sørum, NOR
Silver: Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy, ROC
Bronze: Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan, QAT
Women's beach volleyball medalists
Gold: Alix Klineman and April Ross, USA
Silver: Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar, AUS
Bronze: Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré, SUI