Kelly Claes: USC Beach Volleyball Star Jul 28, 2021 0:21:55 GMT
Post by Admin on Jul 28, 2021 0:21:55 GMT
From an outside perspective, this year’s Olympic Games might not be ideal as an athlete’s first. Due to COVID-19, the games are happening a year later than scheduled, no spectators are allowed — including athletes’ families — and the Olympic Village is set up to reduce interaction among athletes.
But for U.S. beach volleyball player and former Trojan standout Kelly Claes, the unconventional setup might be an advantage.
“I love the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss,’” she said. “It’s not like we’ve been to an Olympics before and have been able to experience that enormous, packed stadium with family being there. It feels just the same as what we’ve been doing.”
As the youngest duo to ever represent the U.S. in beach volleyball at the Olympics, Claes, 25, and her partner Sarah Sponcil, 24, won gold at the FIVB Beach World Tour in Sochi, Russia, earlier this summer and earned a trip to Tokyo. The following week, the duo took gold at another event at Ostrava, Czech Republic, where American beach volleyball legend Kerri Walsh Jennings and her partner Brooke Sweat were upset in the qualifying rounds by a team from the Netherlands.
“When it came down to that last tournament, I had this super romanticized idea of how it would end,” she said. “It was such a tight race, and we were so close on points in the tournament, that I imagined both of us in this final battle, blood, sweat and tears, whoever’s left standing is going to the Olympics.”
Though earning a spot as the youngest duo ever and watching a living legend of the sport lose may seem like surreal moments, Claes has done her best to block out the noise. Despite her age, she displays an unwavering level of professionalism and confidence.
“I have so much respect for [Walsh Jennings and Sweat], and Kerri’s done so much for the sport,” she said. “Yes, it is crazy that she’s not in this Olympics, but we earned our spot after a long and grueling process.”