They had an extraordinary run at the Tokyo Olympics, winning gold without dropping a set in any of their four matches in blistering heat. The dominance was the payoff for Klineman’s transition to a new sport and Ross’s bet on a new player.
As she walked through the media zone, Klineman held on tight to her gold medal.
“People are realizing what a risk April took to hire me as a partner,” she said. “I had less than a year of experience and I didn’t play at that high level.”
The duo said they took every opportunity to improve, including the one-hour warm-up before each match. It was a grind, they said, practice — not just warming up — until the whistle.
“When you work for something like that, you need someone who works hard every day,” Ross said. “And I knew she would come to the beach to make it to the Olympics. And I knew it was a motivating factor to take such a risk for oneself.”
“It all held up,” she added, looking up at Klineman, who is six feet tall.
For Ross, the gold medal is the culmination of a career that has sometimes been lost in the long shadow of America’s greatest beach volleyball players, Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, the gold medalists in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
On her first Olympic trip, Ross won silver with Jennifer Kessy in 2012, losing the final to the legendary duo. When May-Treanor retired, Ross joined forces with Walsh Jennings to win bronze in 2016.
Now she has the full set.
“I still can’t believe it happened,” Ross said shortly after Klineman put the gold medal around her neck. “It’s a bit of a fairy tale, going out at 39 to try and get my gold medal. The fact that it actually happened feels so special and so surreal.”