Alix Klineman spoke the words shortly after she and April Ross claimed the Tokyo 2020 Olympic title in women’s beach volleyball. It was not the first time. And obviously, she was saying them in gratitude to her partner.
April & Alix: A risk that really paid off
How a pairing that looked like a gamble turned into the perfect match
Published 02:08, 06 Aug 2021
“People should realize what a risk April took taking me on as a partner because when we joined together I had less than a year of experience on the beach, not playing at a high level…”
“She just took my indoor experience into account, and my goals, and my motivation… I think she felt how badly I wanted this. But at first we had to play in country quota matches and, had that not gone well, we could have been playing a lot of qualifiers for a long time. She saw something in me that no one else did, and I’m just so grateful that she was kind of looking at my potential and took that bet on me,” Alix continued.
April Ross is a 39-year-old American beach volleyball star, as of today a three-time Olympic medallist. She earned silver at London 2012, bronze at Rio 2016 and gold at Tokyo 2020. Among the numerous achievements that illuminate her career on the sand are an FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship title in 2009 and two consecutive silver medals in 2017 and 2019. She earned the latest medals at each of these competitions alongside Alix.
Until about four years ago, Alix was a successful professional indoor volleyball player. She had made the US national team and played for top-level clubs in Italy and Brazil, but then decided to chase her Olympic dream on the beach. In 2018, she was partners with April, playing on the FIVB World Tour and collecting medals. But what did April see in her?
“So many things!” April said. “Beyond her physicality, her work ethic, her intelligence, her intensity is huge. And when you’re working for something like this you need somebody who is going to work their butt off every day and have a fire under their butt. And I knew her story. I knew she was coming out to the beach to make the Olympics and, to take such a risk for herself, I knew that was going to be a huge motivating factor. I took all that into account and it all just held up.
“I think our success is also a testament to Alix’s work ethic. I don’t think you should look at her story and say, ‘oh, it’s easy to transition to beach volleyball’, because it’s really hard and a lot of people have not been able to do it. So the fact that she has been able to succeed at it is just a testament to everything that she has put in the last couple of years.
“Our communication and respect for each other is really, honestly off the charts. I haven’t really played with anyone who is so open and honest, and wants to communicate this much and figure things out. If things aren’t working, we problem-solve together. If I am doing something that’s bothering her, she brings it to my attention. I try not to get upset and we try to work it out together, and vice versa.
“Sometimes it’s hard. There are so many emotions and so many ups and downs, but we really stay on the same team and have that mutual respect for each other. I think that’s huge! I think that’s a big part of why we got to where we’ve gotten.”
“I’m not surprised at April’s success,” said Alix. “I trained with her every day and I am around her all the time and I just see how motivated and driven she is in all the aspects of her life, whether it’s reading some book about how to get a better mindset, or listening to a podcast on how to recover better… She’s just always trying to be at her best. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she’s been here three times. I have a lot of respect for her. She’s taught me a lot on this journey, so I’m really grateful to be by her side.”
April and Alix's journey started just ahead of the 2018 beach volleyball season. At their very first World Tour event together, the Hague 4-star in January, they topped the podium. An immediate success.
Later that year they also won the NORCECA Continental Tour Finals. In 2019, they added three golds and a silver to their World Tour collection and reached the final of the World Championship in Hamburg. The 2021 international season started for them with a Doha 4-star gold, went through two bronze medals in Cancun and peaked with the Olympic gold in Tokyo.
“It just still seems so surreal to me. I was so proud of every other medal. It wasn’t like I felt that I had to get back to the Olympics to avenge anything. I was so happy with those experiences that I just started dreaming to go for another one,” said April. “And then I found Alix, and we started doing well, and she started getting so much better, and it kind of materialized, ‘oh, maybe we have a shot at a gold medal at the Olympics’. But without Alix and all the hard work she put into our team, I don’t know if it was possible. So I’m just elated and so grateful that it worked out.”
“It was awesome being able to award each other with the medals,” added Alix. “I know how hard April has been working and she knows what I put into it, so it was such a special moment for us to be up there on the podium together, giving each other that medal. We wanted this so badly, we’ve dreamed of this and we worked so hard for this that it was just an amazing moment.”