April Ross, a silver and bronze medalist at the last two Olympics, will try for gold in 2020 with a new partner who has no international beach volleyball experience.
Ross said she and Alix Klineman, a recent beach convert from indoor, are partnering for this Olympic cycle, beginning with the first FIVB World Tour event of 2018 in January.
“It was [either] the safe choice or the choice I thought was challenging but had the most potential,” Ross said on a podcast published Wednesday. “It came down to really intangible things. I decided to go with Alex Klineman, take a shot at Tokyo with her.”
The 35-year-old Ross won silver at the 2012 Olympics with Jennifer Kessy and bronze in Rio with Kerri Walsh Jennings.
Ross and Walsh Jennings split last spring. Ross paired with Rio Olympian Lauren Fendrick for the rest of the season.
They won silver at the world championships, when Ross said they would re-evaluate their partnership at the end of the season.
Ross said she trained with “a couple of people” before partnering with Klineman, a 27-year-old who primarily played indoor over the last decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10.
Klineman was the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school and the Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year for her senior season at Stanford.
She then gained some indoor national team experience, including playing as a reserve in the 2014 FIVB World Grand Prix but never at the world championships or Olympics.
Klineman also served a 13-month doping ban in 2013 and 2014 after testing positive for a banned substance found in one of her mom’s pills that she took. USADA, in announcing the 13-month ban, accepted that Klineman’s ingestion was inadvertent, and she did not intentionally cheat.
Klineman, who is 6 feet, 5 inches (three inches taller than Walsh Jennings), moved full-time to the beach in 2017, taking AVP Rookie of the Year honors but not playing any international events.
“I watched her a little bit, just after one season on the beach, I thought she was picking up some really good things, was a lot quicker than I expected her to be,” said Ross, who like Klineman played indoor volleyball in college in California (USC). “She has that chip on her shoulder a little bit. It reminds me of me when I got out onto the beach because I wanted to go to the Olympics indoor. I tried training with the national team a bunch and just felt overlooked, like all the time. Things weren’t objective. … She could keep playing indoor [professionally in Europe or Brazil] and keep making a good amount of money. She’s out here on the beach because she wants to go to the Olympics, and she has something to prove.”