Clancy and Artacho del Solar in action

Australian pair Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar will be in action during the beach volleyball tournament at Tokyo 2020. Photo: Volleyball Australia Twitter

There are 48 pairs competing for two gold medals in beach volleyball at Tokyo 2020. Can an Australian duo finish on the podium?

There are 48 pairs competing for a gold medal in both the men’s and women’s beach volleyball at Tokyo 2020. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Beach volleyball, a game of athleticism, skill and precision, is played by two teammates on sand.

After debuting as a demonstration sport at Barcelona 1992, beach volleyball became part of the official Olympic program in Atlanta 1996. 

Beach volleyball is played as best of three sets. Each set is played to 21 points with a two point advantage, however, the third set is first to 15.

The event will be held at Shiokaze Park, a beautiful part of Shinagawa City, where a temporary venue has been set up. 

As it is played outside and weather can impact the game, teams switch sides when the sum of the two teams’ scores reaches multiples of seven, or five in the final set.

In Tokyo, there are 24 pairs in each of the two draws, split across six pools. During the preliminary rounds, the teams will play the other members of their pool.

From there, the top two from each pool go through to the Round of 16, as do the two best-ranked teams in the third spot.

The other four teams who finish third will play for the final two lucky loser spots.

From the Round of 16, it becomes a knock-out tournament through to the gold and bronze medal matches.

Preliminary matches will be played from July 24 to July 31, with finals to occur across the following week. The women’s medal matches will be played on August 6, with the men’s on August 7.

Men’s beach volleyball

Regardless of the teams on court, the athleticism and the way these athletes dive to the sand only to jump up and spike the ball will have you invested from the moment you start watching.

At Rio 2016, Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt from Brazil beat Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai of Italy for Gold, two sets to zero. Netherlands pair Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen won the Bronze.

Of the Rio medallists, two pairings remain the same. However, the Brazilian duo has separated – Alison Cerutti now plays with Alvaro Filho (Pool D), while Bruno Schmidt is paired with Evandro Oliveira (Pool E)

Top-ranked team Anders Mol and Christian Sorum from Norway headline Pool A. Australian pair Chris McHugh and Damien Schumann are also in this preliminary group.

In Gstaad, Switzerland, the final World Tour tournament before the Olympics has produced an unexpected result.

Qatar’s Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan (Pool C) lost to unqualified Dutch pair Stefan Boermans and Yorick de Groot, to take home the silver medal.

Current world champions Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Viacheslav Krasilnikov, who will start in Pool B at Tokyo 2020, secured their first podium finish in 2021. They are coming into form at the right time.

The other medal favourites, including Mol and Sorum, didn’t make it to the semi-finals at this tournament.

Historically, the USA and Brazil have dominated Olympic beach volleyball. The USA has won three gold medals in the men’s since Atlanta, while Brazil has won six medals, including two Gold.

A new era has begun though, as at the 2019 World Championships neither the USA or Brazil won a medal. Instead Russia, Germany and Norway took him the medals.

Making it through the preliminary matches is the first goal, as through the knockout stage anything can happen at Tokyo 2020.

Men’s pools

Pool APool BPool C
Mol/Sorum (NOR)Krasilnikov/Stoyanovskiy (ROC)Cherif/Ahmed (QAT)
Semenov/Leshukov (ROC)Perusic/Schweiner (CZE)Gibb/Crabb (USA)
Herrera/Gavira (ESP)Plavins/Tocs (LAT)Carambula/Rossi (ITA)
McHugh/Schumann (AUS)Gaxiola/Rubio (MEX)Heidrich/Gerson (SUI)
Pool DPool EPool F
Alison/Alvaro Filho (BRA)Fijalek/Bryl (POL)Gottsu/Shiratori (JPN)
Brouwer/Meeuwsen (NED)Evandro/Bruno Schmidt (BRA)Thole/Wickler (GER)
Lucena/Dalhausser (USA)Grimalt/Grimalt (CHI)Nicolai/Lupo (ITA)
Azaad/Capogrosso (ARG)Elgraoui/Abicha (MAR)Kantor/Losiak (POL)

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Women’s beach volleyball

There are also 24 teams vying for Gold in the women’s competition. The powerful and smart serving, blocking skills and ability to cover the court, is incredible viewing.

German pair Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst won Gold at Rio 2016, defeating Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas de Freitas. April Ross and Kerri Lee Walsh Jennings from the United States won bronze.

However, none of these medal-winning pairings will take to the court in Tokyo. Ludwig, Agatha and April will be there, but in new combinations.

Agatha and new partner Eduarda “Duda” Santos Lisboa are currently the number one ranked team on the World Tour in 2021.

They’re in form and have won the Gstaad World Tour event against countrywomen Ana Patricia Ramos and Rebecca Cavalcanti.


Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes automatically qualified for Tokyo 2020 after their World Cup title in 2019 and headline Pool A. They are ranked number two in the world and finished with Bronze in Gstaad.

In the women’s draw, Pool D is made up entirely of Olympic debutants.

One of the debuting teams is Brazil’s Ana Patricia and Rebecca, who are already firming as a favourite for a podium finish in their first Games. They took Silver in Gstaad.

Women’s pools

Pool APool BPool C
Pavan/Humana-Paredes (CAN)Alix/April (USA)Agatha/Duda (BRA)
Heidrich/Vergé-Dépré (SUI)Keizer/Meppelink (NED)Bansley/Brandie (CAN)
Sude/Borger (GER)Liliana/Elsa (ESP)Wang/Xia (CHN)
Stam/Schoon (NED)Xue/Wang (CHN)Gallay/Pereyra (ARG)
Pool DPool EPool F
Ana Patricia/Rebecca (BRA)Clancy/Artacho Del Solar (AUS)Ishii/Murakami (JPN)
Claes/Sponcil (USA)Makroguzova/Kholomina (ROC)Betschart/Hüberli (SUI)
Kravcenoka/Graudina (LAT)Menegatti/Orsi Toth (ITA)Kozuch/Ludwig (GER)
Makokha/Khadambi (KEN)Lidy/Leila (CUB)Hermannova/Slukova (CZE)

Australia at Tokyo 2020

Australia earned two qualification spots in the Tokyo 2020 beach volleyball competition, one in the men’s and one in the women’s.

Chris McHugh and Damien Schumann have been selected for Australia in the men’s beach volleyball after the pair combined with Max Guehrer and Zach Schubert to defeat Indonesia to gain the final quota place.

Australia has not featured in the men’s tournament since Beijing 2008 when Andrew Schacht and Joshua Slack made it through to the Round of 16.

Schacht is now head coach at the South Australian Sports Institute and has been working with the four current Australian athletes in Adelaide.

In an Instagram post, Schumann articulated the challenging journey the past 15 years has been for him to reach his goal of the Olympics.

The duo won gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018 but played in different combinations through 2019 before reuniting in 2020.

McHugh and Schumann played in the Continental Cup in Thailand in June to qualify, finished a fortnight in quarantine and will head back overseas to Tokyo.

Their preparation has been different from the other teams who have played on the World Tour, however, the Aussies will go in with nothing to lose. If they can get through the group stage, anything can happen.

Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar will compete in the women’s competition for Australia, beginning in Pool E.

Clancy and Artacho del Solar were silver medallists at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and bronze medallists at the 2019 World Championships.

The duo was ranked fifth in the preliminary Olympic standings, but in 2021 are currently ranked 25 in the world.

After winning the third event at Cancun, Clancy and Artacho del Solar took two months off. They have returned to the World Tour in Gstaad, where they won two games against two separate Swiss pairs.

After their quarterfinal appearance in Rio 2016, Clancy and Artacho del Solar will be pushing for a semi-final appearance and even a medal in Tokyo 2020 beach volleyball.

The Tokyo 2020 beach volleyball commences on July 24 and will conclude with the men’s medal matches on August 7.

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