This isn’t the sunny, Olympic beach volleyball anyone had envisioned.
There was no roaring crowd as the athletes’ names were announced on Friday at Shiokaze Park. Instead, Olympians ran out onto soaked, packed sand through a human tunnel of clapping stadium staff members.
The music may have been blasting through the speakers, but the booming bass was drowned out by even louder thunder.
Despite the pouring rain, which caused a technical timeout during their match, Team USA stars April Ross and Alix Klineman persisted to remain unbeaten in Tokyo.
The Americans are now 3-0 in pool play after they defeated the Dutch team of Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink on Friday. After their win, Ross and Kleinman spoke to CNN about how much they miss the fans, dealing with the pressure and controversy over women’s bikini rules.
There’s nothing like playing for fans and this stadium is amazing, so I can only imagine what it would’ve been like with all of the Japanese spectators,” said Ross. “At the same time, I think we feel really grateful just to be competing here.”
Mental health has become a huge focus of the Games, with US gymnast Simone Biles pulling out to protect her mental — and physical — health.
“We’re seeing how important it is in elite sports, and all sports, and life in general. It’s something I’m constantly working on,” said Ross, who added she reads, keeps a journal, and meditates to take her mind off the pressure. “It’s an every day practice. It can be really tough.”
Uniform comfort: Focus has also been on athletes wearing non-traditional uniforms with more coverage, such as the German women’s gymnastics team. The Norwegian beach handball team was previously fined by the European Handball Federation for wearing shorts instead of the required high-cut, tightfitting, briefs.
I really think people should be able to wear what they’re comfortable in. I think that’s the bottom line,” said Klineman. “I really respect the athletes who are speaking up and saying that they’re uncomfortable.”
“For us personally, I think we feel comfortable in our suits. We are lucky we got to work with our sponsors to design the cut and fit of our suits.”
As beach volleyball is often played in sweltering hot conditions, “wearing full clothes is not always comfortable or realistic,” she added.