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Tokyo 2020

American Jewish athlete Alix Klineman wins beach volleyball gold in Tokyo

First-time Olympian takes gold with partner April Ross, who won silver in London and bronze in Rio de Janeiro

Gold medalists USA's April Ross (L) and Alix Klineman pose with their medals after the victory ceremony of the women's beach volleyball event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Shiokaze Park in Tokyo on August 6, 2021. (Angela WEISS/AFP)
Gold medalists USA's April Ross (L) and Alix Klineman pose with their medals after the victory ceremony of the women's beach volleyball event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Shiokaze Park in Tokyo on August 6, 2021. (Angela WEISS/AFP)

After failing to make the indoor volleyball team for the 2016 Olympics, Alix Klineman decided she would switch her sport to beach volleyball. She explained, “I looked at the beach as a new opportunity and a chance to chase my dreams without anybody having to give me approval or put me on a roster.”

The decision has paid off: At her first-ever Olympics in Tokyo, the Jewish athlete took home gold with partner April Ross on Friday.

Seeded second in the beach volleyball tournament, the team defeated an Australia duo 21-15, 21-16. Klineman and Ross dropped only one set in the entire tournament.

“I still don’t know if I really ever expected this to come true,” said Klineman. “It feels like such a fairy tale.”

Klineman, a 31-year-old California native who attended Stanford University, was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Hall of Fame in 2015.

Ross gave Klineman the credit for helping her finally win gold and relished presenting her with the medal.

April Ross, left, of the United States, places the gold medal around the neck of teammate Alix Klineman, after winning a women’s beach volleyball Gold Medal match against Australia at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

“I know that was a product of COVID, but it actually feels really special when you’re up there,” said Ross, who received her third Olympic medal from her third Olympic partner after a masked IOC official presented it on a tray because of pandemic protocols.

“I was like, ‘We get to award the medals to each other,'” said Ross, who won silver in London and bronze in Rio de Janeiro. “In my head, I was thinking, ‘Thank you, Alix.’”

They played the final in brutal conditions in 92-degree Fahrenheit (33-degree Celsius) temperatures — the US TV broadcast said it felt like 129 Fahrenheit (54 Celsius) on the sand.

Klineman, a first-time Olympian, never let her new prize out of her grasp while talking to reporters. She said she had watched individual sports, where winners put their medals around their own necks, and was excited when she realized she could do that for Ross after working four years together to get to the Olympics, and then win it all.

USA’s Alix Klineman celebrates winning their women’s beach volleyball final match between Australia and the USA during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Shiokaze Park in Tokyo on August 6, 2021. (Photo by Angela WEISS / AFP)

“I feel like we’ve both just tried to support each other and give this partnership as much as we have,” she said. “And so it was a really special moment.”

“I still can’t fathom that it worked out the way it did,” said Ross, who played with Jen Kessy in 2012 and Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2016. “It’s kind of a fairy tale story, going out there to try and get my gold medal. And the fact that it actually happened feels really special and surreal.”

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