In Tokyo, the penultimate stop on the FIVB World Tour for 2018-19 was also the test event for the 2020 Olympic beach volleyball tournament and it was a perfect rehearsal for Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum.
They came away with their sixth win of the season by defeating Germans Nils Ehlers and Lars Fluggen in the final, 21-17, 21-18. And after just 26 starts together in FIVB tournaments, they already have their ninth victory. The pair are just 22 (Mol) and 23 (Sorum) years old.
Although they won the bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships, they will – barring injury – roll into 2020 as the Olympic favorites.
The other no. 1-ranked team was also in action Sunday in Tokyo, American women Alix Klineman and April Ross. Their rehearsal went well, but not quite as well, with a tense, 21-19, 21-18 loss to the Brazilian duo of Agatha Bednarczuk (36) and Duda Lisboa (20).
“After losing twice in the pool [matches], we had to do something,” said Agatha. “We had good discussions with our coaches, and we came back and played smarter. You saw the worst of us early, and the best of us in the last four matches. This is a big win for us as we are battling the other good teams in Brazil for a spot in Tokyo 2020.”
It will not be easy for whichever Brazilian duos make it to Tokyo next year, but Agatha and Duda was clear favorites and among the most consistent players on tour. They started playing together in 2017 and in 28 World Tour entries, they have won 13 medals, including five golds.
It was hardly a wasted week for Klineman and Ross, who continued to play at a high level, making the championship final in their third tournament in a row, including the World Championships in Hamburg in July.
There is one more tournament left, the Vienna 5-star Major, which begins on Wednesday. Summaries from Tokyo:
FIVB World Tour
Tokyo (JPN) ~ 24-28 July 2019
(Full results here)
Men: 1. Anders Mol/Christian Sorum (NOR); 2. Nils Ehlers/Lars Fluggen (GER); 3. Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen (NED); 4. Alison Cerutti/Alvaro Filho (BRA). Semis: Mol/Sorum d. Brouwer/Meeuwsen, 2-0; Ehlers/Fluggen d. Alison/Alvaro Filho, 2-1. Third: Brouwer/Meeuwsen d. Alison/Alvaro Filho, 2-0. Final: Mol/Sorum d. Ehlers/Fluggen, 2-0 (21-17, 21-18).
Women: 1. Agatha Bednarczuk/Duda Lisboa (BRA); 2. Alix Klineman/April Ross (USA); 3. Heather Bansley/Brandie Wilkerson (CAN); 4. Karla Borger/Julia Sude (GER). Semis: Klineman/Ross d. Borger/Sude, 2-0; Agatha/Duda d. Bansley/Wilkerson, 2-0. Third: Bansley/Wilkerson d. Borger/Sude, 2-0. Final: Agatha/Duda d. Klineman/Ross, 2-0 (21-19, 21-18).