Alix Klineman and April Ross dominated the Tokyo Olympics, cruising to beach volleyball gold in commanding fashion. The partners, however, have an unlikely origin story, making their Olympic run even more impressive.
Before Ross ever entered Klineman’s life, the 31-year-old had to first make the switch from indoor volleyball to beach volleyball. Klineman had played indoor volleyball in high school, at Standford, professionally and for Team USA until 2017.
It was a slow transition, at first, to beach, with Klineman describing her first beach volleyball tournament as humbling.
“I think I got like a seventh my first tournament, but it was such bad volleyball,” Klineman tells Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sports podcast.
The gold medalist says at first, she dove into the sport, unafraid to make mistakes, but her trajectory completely changed after a chance meeting with Ross at the music festival Stagecoach.
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“We were at Stagecoach, and like I said, we had some mutual friends. And we had both had a few drinks, and at one point she comes up to me, and her and Kerri [Walsh Jennings] had just broken up, and so she was like, ‘hey you know I see you are playing beach volleyball — I am going to need a partner for Tokyo.’”
Klineman was gobsmacked at first, thinking, “I suck at beach volleyball right now.”
She accepted Ross’s proposal anyway, though Ross quickly made an amendment to her offer, telling Klineman, “you need to get better first.”
The following day, Klineman was in disbelief, wondering, “did I just have too many drinks.” Klineman did, however, remember the night correctly, and she used Ross’s interest as motivation to improve.
“It was a huge risk for her to take me as a partner,” said Klineman, who had zero points on the AVP circuit, meaning the duo would have to qualify for their first tournaments together through risky single-elimination games.
The gamble, however, paid off, and the rest is history. The cherry on top? Klineman said Stagecoach caught wind of her and Ross’s meet volleyball cute and have since reached out to “take care of” the teammates for the upcoming summer.
Hear more about Klineman’s path to gold on the Just Women’s Sports Podcast here.