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Jake Gibb sets record as oldest man to win beach volleyball World Tour event

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Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb won their first FIVB World Tour event together and jumped to the front of the line of Olympic qualifying Sunday at the four-star event in Chetumal, Mexico.

Gibb is 43 years old and will be 44 when the Olympics start next year in Tokyo. He is aiming for his fourth appearance in the Olympics, having reached the quarterfinals in 2008 and 2012 with Sean Rosenthal and played in 2016 with Casey Patterson.

Gibb teamed up with Crabb in 2017 and found immediate success on the AVP Tour. This year on the AVP circuit, the pair won four of six events and never missed the podium.

Until Sunday, their best finish in FIVB play was fifth. In Mexico, after dropping a match in pool play, the pair rallied for a three-set win over the second seeds, Poland’s Michal Bryl and Grzegorz Fijalek, then took two straight-set wins before defeating top-seeded Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands 21-16, 16-21, 15-12 in the men’s final.

The win was worth 800 points in Olympic qualifying, moving the duo up to eighth overall and first among U.S. teams. Only two teams per country can qualify.

Crabb’s brother, Trevor Crabb, is in position to go to the Olympics as well. He and Tri Bourne took bronze in Mexico to move into second among U.S. teams.

The qualification chase still has a long way to go. The final rankings will be posted June 15. Lurking behind the Crabb brothers and their partners is the veteran duo of Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser, who reached the 2016 Olympic quarterfinals and had a torrid run in 2016-17 but struggled internationally this year. Lucena and Dalhausser will each be 40 years old during the 2020 Games.

In women’s play, Sarah Sponcil/Kelly Claes and Brooke Sweat/Kerri Walsh Jennings each placed fifth. April Ross and Alix Klineman are the top U.S. pair in the qualifying rankings, having won a Major Series event last year over Sweat and three-time Olympic champion Walsh Jennings, who stand fifth overall with Sponcil and Claes chasing them for the second U.S. berth.

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Russian men take beach volleyball world title; U.S. gets 4th

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Russia had not put multiple beach volleyball teams into an Olympics until 2008. It didn’t make an Olympic quarterfinal until 2016. But now it has a world title.

Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy ended a Cinderfella run by Germans Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler, taking gold, 19-21, 21-17, 15-11, in Hamburg on Sunday.

The Germans, without any international event titles, were looking to become the youngest male or female team to win an Olympic or world title. Instead, Krasilnikov, 28, and Stoyanovskiy, 22 and the youngest Olympic or world champion in history, scored a breakthrough for Russia.

Krasilnikov, who is 6 feet, 5 inches, had earned bronze at the 2017 Worlds and finished fourth at the Rio Games with different partners. He and the 6-foot-9 Stoyanovskiy paired 10 months ago and have reached the semifinals in seven of their nine international events.

Thole and Wickler nearly completed an incredible week.

In the four previous playoff rounds, the Germans beat 2013 World champions Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, 2016 Olympic champion Alison and his new partner, Alvaro, 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena and the world’s alpha team, Norwegians Anders Mol and Christian Sørum.

“In no other stadium we would have won this game,” Wickler said of beating the Norwegian Beach Volley Vikings.

Mol and Sorum, who came into worlds having won eight of their last 11 international events, rebounded for bronze. They denied Americans Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb a surprise medal and extended the U.S. men’s Olympic and world podium drought to 10 years.

Bourne and Crabb’s best finish among the U.S. pairs boosts them in Olympic qualifying, which is past the halfway point. They’re in the mix with Dalhausser and Lucena and three-time Olympian Jake Gibb and Bourne’s brother, Taylor Crabb for a maximum of two Olympic spots.

The FIVB World Tour continues with a five-star event in Gstaad, Switzerland, this week, featuring all of the major U.S. teams.

MORE: Kerri Walsh Jennings has earliest Olympic/worlds exit of career

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LA traffic ends U.S. Olympic beach volleyball partnership

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Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson have been nearly inseparable as neighbors in Huntington Beach, Calif. since teaming up in 2013.

They can often be found playing co-ed beach volleyball with their wives. They even take their kids to the same preschool.

But when Patterson moved roughly 75 miles to Thousand Oaks for a new job recently, the 2016 AVP Men’s Team of the Year decided to end their partnership.

“It’s about a two-hour drive north, at best,” Gibb said in a phone interview. “We could have tried to make it work, but it just didn’t make sense.”

They considered breaking up even before the partnership became geographically undesirable when Patterson accepted the Beach Volleyball Director position at Sports Academy, a sports and fitness facility that he describes as a “Disneyland for athletes.”

They underwhelmed at the 2016 Olympics, finishing last in their pool after arriving in Rio as the No. 6 seed out of 24 teams. By the end of the 2016 international season, Tri Bourne and John Hyden had passed Gibb and Patterson in the standings as the second-best U.S. team, behind Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena.

“We needed something to change to ignite the fire again,” Patterson said.

The offseason after an Olympics often turns into a drama-filled frenzy as beach volleyball players search for new partners for the next quadrennial. Kerri Walsh Jennings famously approached rival April Ross at the net after the 2012 Olympic gold medal match to discuss a potential partnership.

Patterson reached out to Dalhausser, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist. Patterson revealed that he had decided to become a defensive specialist with the goal of eventually partnering with Dalhausser, a dominant blocker. Dalhausser listened, but ultimately remained with Lucena.

“Both of those guys are so rad that the thought of attempting to break them up was tough for me,” Patterson said. “But you have to try.”

Patterson also approached Tri Bourne, Theo Brunner and Ryan Doherty. Once the partnership carousel stopped spinning, Patterson aligned Brunner, Lucena’s former teammate.

“It’s like the ‘Real Housewives of Beach Volleyball,’” Patterson said. “There’s so much drama when guys are trying to find a new partner.”

Gibb will play with Taylor Crabb, who was named the 2016 AVP Defender of the Year. Gibb said that Crabb reminds him of Sean Rosenthal, his partner when he finished fifth at both the 2008 and 2012 Games.

“[Crabb] is incredibly gifted,” Gibb said. “His beach IQ is through the roof.”

Gibb and Patterson are expected to debut with their new partners on Feb. 7 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Gibb will be 44 years old during the 2020 Tokyo Games. He would become the oldest Olympic beach volleyball player of all time if he represents the U.S. in Tokyo.

“I can’t turn away from this sport as long as I think I can still win,” Gibb said. “I still feel like I can, so I am going to keep playing.”

U.S. beach volleyball teams (Partners since)

Tri Bourne/John Hyden (2013)
Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena (2015)
Ryan Doherty/John Mayer (2015)
Theo Brunner/Casey Patterson (New)
Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (New)
Trevor Crabb/Sean Rosenthal (New)

MORE: Kerri Walsh Jennings ponders future with April Ross starting a family