Alix Klineman’s mornings start at 7:30 on a South Bay beach. After two hours of practice, she and teammate April Ross move to the USA Volleyball Beach Headquarters in Torrance for video review and gym work.
Then there’s a session of physical therapy and a trip to the sauna — the former to nurse her body, which the 30-year-old Klineman half-jokingly laughs is “getting old and temperamental”; the latter to prepare for the warm Tokyo climate that she and Ross seem almost certain to reach for the 2020 Olympics.
This all comes second-nature to Klineman now. The 6-foot-5 Manhattan Beach native often forgets about the time it ever felt new. The former indoor volleyball player has wholly embraced the beach volleyball world.
Kerri Walsh Jennings has long been the face of the beach volleyball world.
“It feels like such a distant memory,” says Klineman, who played indoor at Stanford and professionally before switching to beach full time in 2017. “That was my life from age 8 to 26. That was all I lived and breathed. And now, I almost can’t remember it.”
Klineman and Ross are the current American leaders in Olympic qualifying points. For Ross, who won a silver medal in 2012 with Jennifer Kessy and a bronze in 2016 with Kerri Walsh-Jennings, it would be a third trip to the Olympics. But for Klineman, who wasn’t picked for any of the past three U.S. indoor Olympic teams, qualification would fulfill a lifelong dream.
“Some people ask me like, ‘Oh, you’re basically qualified,’” she says. “I don’t want to even think like that because I feel like that’s bad karma. But, you know, I’ve tried so many times for the Olympics. A lot of people are saying, ‘Oh, you’re young and you’re new to the game.’ But I’m not that young, and I’ve pursued this dream for a really long time. It will feel surreal when it finally does happen.”
She describes her new reality, which includes close oversight from Kessy, who coaches her and Ross, as “an environment where it’s in everybody’s best interest to get me to play as good as I possibly can.”
It has resulted in a near-flawless Olympic qualifying campaign; now Klineman and Ross simply need to maintain their standing as one of the top-two ranked U.S. teams through the end of the qualification period on June 15.
“It really appealed to me on the beach that, if you get the results, nobody gets to say no to you,” Klineman says. “If you don’t do well, it’s on you, sure … but it’s been extremely gratifying to put in a ton of work and see the results and then be able to run with it.”
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