Feature | Beach Volleyball

Olympic beach volleyball at Tokyo 2020: Top five things to know

The best beach volleyball players in the world will compete at Tokyo 2020 in 2021: who are the favourites to become Olympic champions? When and where will beach volleyball take place? Find out here.

By Lorena Encabo ·

Beach volleyball makes its seventh appearance as a medal sport at the Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020 this summer in 2021. The sand of a temporary arena at Shiokaze Park will welcome the 48 athletes of the sport, in which strategy and team work are the keys to win.

Here's what you need to know about beach volleyball at Tokyo 2020.

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Top Olympic beach volleyball players at Tokyo 2020

The final teams competing at Tokyo 2020 will only be confirmed in late June 2021, through the FIVB Beach Volleyball Olympic Ranking and the different Continental Cups. For now, only eight teams – four in each competition – have secured their ticket.

Brazil are beach volleyball powerhouses with 13 medals in total. They have reached the podium in every single edition of the Olympics. Will they repeat that success at Tokyo?

Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt won gold on home soil at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The pair split in 2018. Since then, Cerutti has played along with Alvaro Filho and Schmidt with Evandro Oliveira. The teams are ranked world numbers three and four respectively, so we could see them competing against each other.

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Two other Brazilian pairs in the women's side will be the ones to watch out for:

Ágatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda 'Duda' Santos are world ranked third. Bednarczuk won silver in Rio with Barbara Seixas, and is now playing with rising star Santos, 15 years younger.

Tokyo will be Duda's first senior Olympics after clinching gold at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. She wanted to go further, as she told the Olympic Channel in an interview:

"I always want to exceed my limits."

Ana Patricia Ramos, who was Duda's partner in Nanjing, will have the chance to qualify for Tokyo with Rebecca Cavalcanti, as they are ranked number four.

At the 2019 World Championships in Hamburg, Canadian women's team Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes claimed gold and their direct ticket to Tokyo 2020.

Elsewhere, three-time Olympic champ and beach volleyball legend Kerri Walsh Jennings from the U.S. is now teaming up with Brooke Sweat. "Playing with Kerri at the beginning, I wasn't sure what to expect and I put too much pressure on myself to be perfect," Sweat told the Olympic Channel. However, they are yet to qualify for Tokyo.

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Fellow American pair April Ross and Alexandra Klineman are the 2019 world silver medallists and one of the favourites to fight for the medals in Tokyo. If they qualify, Ross would be participating in her second Games (she won bronze at Rio with Walsh-Jennings) and Klineman, who switched from indoor volleyball to beach in 2017, her first.

Rio 2016 Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany won the first Olympic gold for their country in the women's tournament that year, and in 2017 they became world champions. It was their last big title together.

Since then, they have split up, with Ludwig taking a break in 2018 before enlisting the services of Margareta Kozuch in a bid to defend her title. Walkenhorst, meanwhile, does not have enough ranking points with her new partner to be in contention to qualify.

Back on the men's side, Anders Mol and Christian Sorum have the opportunity to win Norway's first beach volleyball medal at the Olympics. The world number one pair have put their country on the map and are one of the favourites to make history at Tokyo.

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Italy's Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolo lost the Rio 2016 final, clinching the first medal for their country. They have secured their spot at the next Olympics, where they will try to repeat their feat from 2016.

Another men's pair to watch out for will be ROC pair Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Viacheslav Krasilnikov, who booked their ticket to Tokyo as world champions.

Olympic beach volleyball schedule at Tokyo 2020

The beach volleyball event will start one day after the Opening Ceremony, on 24 July 2021, and will conclude on 7 August one day before the Closing Ceremony.

*All times in Japan Standard Time (UTC +9 hours)

Saturday 24 July 2021 - Saturday 31 July 2021

  • Men's and Women's Preliminaries

Sunday 1 August 2021 - Monday 2 August 2021

  • Men's and Women's Round of 16

Tuesday 3 August 2021

  • Women's Quarterfinals

Wednesday 4 August 2021

  • Men's Quarterfinals

Thursday 5 August 2021

  • Men's or Women's Semifinals

Friday 6 August 2021 10:00-12:50

  • Women's Bronze Medal Match
  • Women's Gold Medal Match
  • Women's Victory Ceremony

Saturday 7 August 10:00-12:50

  • Men's Bronze Medal Match
  • Men's Gold Medal Match
  • Men's Victory Ceremony

Olympic beach volleyball venue at Tokyo 2020

A temporary venue located in the Shiokaze Park will be exclusively used for beach volleyball. The park is located very close to the Tokyo Bay and with amazing views of Tokyo's iconic Rainbow Bridge.

In July 2019 there was a test event with the world’s best beach volleyballers having their first look at the Shiokaze Park arena, and they’ve given the Olympic Games venue a big thumbs up.

Olympic beach volleyball competition format at Tokyo 2020

The Olympic format features 24 teams in six round-robin pools, with 16 pairs moving on to the single elimination knockout phase.

Players play on a sand court of 16m x 8m in beach volleyball, with every match is played to the best of three sets (in indoor volleyball, matches can go on for up to five sets).

The first team to two sets wins the match. The first two sets are played until one team reaches 21 points; if there is a tie and a third set is needed, one is played to 15 points.

As in many other sports, a team has to have a lead of at least two points to win the set.

Both players on the team have to serve alternatively after every change in serve upon winning a point.

When the sum of the two teams' scores reaches multiples of seven (five in the final set), teams switch sites to neutralise any effects of weather like rain, sun or wind, which can have a positive or negative impact on the game.

Olympic beach volleyball history

It was in Barcelona 1992 when beach volleyball appeared at the Olympics for the first time, but it was as a demonstration sport. Its official debut came four years later in Atlanta 1996.

USA's Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes on the men's side and Sandra Pires and Jackie Silva of Brazil in the women's became the first Olympic champions in history.

Since then, USA and Brazil have dominated the tournaments: 10 medals (including six golds) in total for the Americans and 13 (three golds) for the Brazilians. Both nations have reached the podium in every edition of the Games. Will they repeat medal success again in Japan?

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