There are two names of particular interest on the upcoming Doha 4-star entry list: one is an omission, the other we haven’t seen since this exact tournament a year ago.
The first name of note is Anders Mol, currently the unanimous and almost inarguable best player in the world. Two years in a row, he’s been named the Best Offensive Player; two years in a row, he’s been voted as the Best Blocker; two years in a row, he has won Most Outstanding.
Yet you will not find his name on the Doha entry list.
Mol’s been having some light hip issues the past year or so. Not that it has impacted his effectiveness much – Mol and his partner, Christian Sorum, won their third consecutive European Championship last September, the only tournament they played in 2020. So Mol’s sitting Doha out, while Sorum is subbing in Svein Solhaug, a 29-year-old from Oslo whose best career finish is a fourth in Espinho, also with Sorum.
But here’s the thing: Mol doesn’t really need to play. Prior to the Tokyo Olympics, as far as points go, he and Sorum don't really have to play anything at all.
Our prior stories in the Tokyo Tracker have been on the teams who have already assured themselves a berth into the Olympic Games, regardless of what happens in 2021:
Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan, and Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy did so by winning the World Championships.
Italians Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo, Latvians Edgars Tocs and Martins Plavins and countrywomen Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka, and Spaniards Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez punched their tickets at the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Haiyang.
Mol and Sorum, meanwhile, technically speaking, do not have a bid sealed up. But they essentially do. It’s just basic math: They have 10,440 points in the provisional Olympic ranking, over 1,000 more than Russia and nearly 3,000 more than Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek and Michal Bryl.
It is impossible for the requisite 15 teams to surpass them prior to Tokyo - 15 teams qualify via Olympic ranking, 1 via World Championship, 2 via Olympic Qualification Tournament, 1 via being the host country, and 5 via Continental Cup - no matter how many events are held before mid-June, the qualification deadline.
Which brings us to the next name of interest in Doha: Grzegorz Fijalek (Note: Poland's Grzegorz Fijalek and Michal Bryl have now withdrawn from the event.)
Fijalek and Bryl forfeited out of their final match in the 2019 World Tour Finals, and we’ve only seen Fijalek twice since, the final of which came in Doha a year ago. They won, beating an impressive list of teams to do so: Mexico’s Lombardo Ontiveros and Juan Virgen, Spanish Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera, Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins, Nicolai and Lupo, and the upstart Mexican team of Josue Gaxiola and Jose Rubio in the finals.
That win, among an excellent stretch of finishes in 2018 and 2019, put Bryl and Fijalek in a position similar to Mol and Sorum. While they do not technically have an Olympic spot shored up, there is little pressure to perform in whatever this 2021 season may look like prior to the qualification deadline.
They simply have enough points to be all but assured a berth to Tokyo.
Only two other teams on the men’s side can readily claim the same: Germans Clemens Wickler and Julius Thole, and Dutchmen Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen. Beyond that, the race is still close enough where teams currently ranked below the cutoff could still reasonably close the gap.
With high-powered teams such as Adrian Heidrich and Mirco Gerson, Germans Lars Fluggen and Nils Ehlers, Polish Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak, Italians Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi, all on the outside looking in, anything below the top six or seven in the points race is still no place to rest easy.
But for Mol and Sorum, and Fijalek and Bryl, and perhaps Brouwer and Meeuwsen and Wickler and Thole, the pressure is off. They can rest, take off virtually whatever tournaments they’d need.
The goal, after all, is Tokyo.
They’ve all but secured it.
Go to: Katara Beach Volleyball Cup 2021
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour