Jon Ackerman, NBC Olympics
Finally, at long last, we know who will play who in London. The FIVB held its Olympic draw Thursday in Klagenfurt.
And at first glance, Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal got a tough draw. The Americans are in the midst of the best stretch of their careers — winning two of the last three tournaments and placing second in the other — but they’ll have to knock off some tough teams to get out of their pool in London.
Gibb and Rosenthal are the No. 4 seed, and they’ll be joined in Pool D by Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel, who finished seventh in Olympic qualifying and took the bronze medal last week in Berlin. Also in the group are Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Ruslans Sorokins of Latvia, who were 13th in qualifying but have earned four fifth-place finishes this year.
Rounding out the pool are Freedom Chiya and Grant Goldschmit of South Africa, who were the first team to qualify for London and probably will be the first to get eliminated. They have yet to qualify for a main draw at an FIVB event this year.
With the No. 2 seed, defending Olympic champs Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser figure to get their toughest pool match-up from Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera of Spain. They finished 10th in qualifying, but have missed the past three events due to an undisclosed injury.
On the women’s side, two-time reigning Olympic champs Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings also received a fairly favorable draw. The No. 3 seeds will face Kristyna Kolocova/Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic, who ended up 11th in qualifying; Doris Schwaiger/Stefanie Schwaiger of Austria (13th); and Australia’s Natalie Cook/Tamsin Hinchley, who qualified through the Continental Cup. Cook will become the first female to appear in all five Olympic beach volleyball tournaments; she won bronze in 1996 and gold in 2000, but her better days are clearly behind her.
And with the No. 4 women’s seed, Jen Kessy and April Ross will find their toughest pool match-up to be Sanne Keizer and Marleen Van Iersel of the Netherlands, who were seventh in qualifying. So far, the Dutch duo has had a better season than Kessy and Ross, garnering two medals and three final-four appearances in six events. Kessy and Ross have only one medal this season, a bronze from their lone semifinal appearance.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.