Manhattan Beach’s Alix Klineman Returns Home After a Medal-winning Performance in Tokyo

Serving gold.

  • Category
    People
  • Written by
    Kat Monk
  • Above
    Photo by Sean M. Haffey, Getty Images

At 6’5”, Manhattan Beach native Alix Klineman always had a dream to compete in the Olympics. After playing indoor volleyball for Mira Costa High School, Stanford University, Team USA and professionally overseas, Alix took off her volleyball shoes to dip her toes in the golden sand.

Photo by Elsa, Getty Images

She quickly discovered that sand is a much different beast to tackle and is not nearly as easy as players make it look. At first glance, many may think that indoor volleyball and beach volleyball are relatively similar—just fewer players. However, moving through and jumping in sand makes it a much different playing experience.

After a chance encounter at the Stagecoach Festival, Olympic medalist April Ross challenged Alix to improve her game and dangled the opportunity to play together on the professional circuit. The winner of two medals thus far—silver with Jen Kessy and bronze with Kerri Walsh—April was a highly sought-after defender in beach volleyball. An opportunity Alix was not about to pass up, this challenge provided the necessary motivation to dive in 100%.

Above: Photo by Sean M. Haffey, Getty Images

•••

The night before Alix officially met April to discuss the reality of their potential partnership, Alix texted a friend explaining how nervous she was and confided that maybe April wouldn’t like her. Inadvertently, Alix sent the text to April rather than the friend. April felt it was this type of character, combined with her playing potential, that would be well suited for a 2020 Olympic run. The “A Team” was born.

“Alix and April took the gold medal with final scores of 21-15 and 21-16, having only dropped one set the entire tournament.”

Dedication and preparation became Alix’s game as she started a regimen of consuming beach volleyball. In addition to intense training, she educated herself by watching videos and talking to anyone knowledgeable of the sport.

Along the Olympic path, the pair incurred a loss at the finals of the Beach Volleyball World Championships in Hamburg, Germany, against 6’5” player Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes from Canada. Although the A Team didn’t win the final, it was a defining moment for Alix. She knew they had what it took to play at that level.

Above: Photo by Sean M. Haffey, Getty Images

•••

Soon after, the pandemic would upend the world and cancel most events. The bright line for the A Team was that the pandemic precipitated a one-year delay of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to August 2021. The delay was a blessing in disguise as it afforded them an extra year of preparation. Alix and April were the first team to lock in their ticket to Japan.

The A Team played seven games to make it into the Olympic finals. The weather proved to be quite burden-some, with temperatures well over 100º—making movement in the sand even harder. They also played a couple of their matches in the pouring rain. Alix said these matches were more advantageous, though extremely competitive, because the rain quelled the heat.

April was virtually shut out at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and rarely received a serve. In Tokyo she started to see opposing teams serving her—a testament to how much Alix had improved since their partnership began just a few short years before.

Photo by Elsa, Getty Images

Olympic finals were played against a talented and competitive Australian team. The Australians appeared to struggle on their own serve. Typically having the serve is an advantage, but as they served the A Team, they were consistently met with an “in-system” return of the ball. In system means without error—a very smooth and consistent pass, set and hit. Alix and April took the gold medal with final scores of 21-15 and 21-16, having only dropped one set the entire tournament.

Adorned with their new hardware, April told Alix, “Take this in, every moment of it. It is the best part of the Olympics.” With that, Alix achieved her goal of not just competing at the Olympics but bringing home the gold. With the games behind her, she is tying the knot with former professional hockey player and fiancé Teddy Purcell.

Could we see the A Team in Paris 2024? More to come!

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