Mol and Sorum celebrate their win over Brouwer and Meeuwsen

When the final ball landed and this long and winding and weird but wonderful 2021 season was finished, it seemed less celebration than monumental relief for Anders Mol and Christian Sorum. They didn’t run victory laps after claiming gold in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Finals. They didn’t high-five fans and whoop and holler and hug everything in sight. They simply looked to the sky, looked to one another, and collapsed.

The Beach Volley Vikings had done it again.

This season has been Norway vs. the World. The World threw everything it had at the Norwegians. It threw an unbelievably improved Qatari team at them. It threw a collective strategical move against them. It threw Russia and Germany and the Czech Republic and Russia again. It didn't matter.

Norway won.

Sure, the Norwegians ceded ground, finishing three straight tournaments leading up to the Olympic Games without a medal. To most, this is quite normal, hardly anything over which to worry. But Norway is not normal. What Norway has done during this Tokyo Olympic quad is unprecedented. So for Mol and Sorum, three consecutive tournaments without a medal – after winning back-to-back events in Cancun – was strange.

That was the last inch of ground they’d cede.

Mol and Sorum adapted to the world’s adapting of them. You want to serve Mol every ball all of a sudden? No matter. They'd figure it out. And they did. They won gold at the Tokyo Olympics, becoming the first Norwegian beach volleyball team to medal on the sport’s biggest stage. Then they won gold again the next week, claiming their fourth consecutive European Championship, a record that continues to run. Less than a month later, they prevailed once more, winning the World Tour Finals.

“We knew we had to play our best game today and we’re tired of course,” an exhausted Mol said after defeating the Czech Republic’s David Schweiner and Ondrej Perusic, 22-20, 23-21. “It’s been a long year. A long season. Now we can take a well-deserved vacation.”

Becoming the greatest team in beach volleyball history – and there is increasingly little doubt that Norway is the owner of that title – is a brutally tiring endeavor. Theirs will be a vacation well-earned.

A medal finish fitting a tremendous season for Perusic and Schweiner

It’s a shame, what happened before the Tokyo Olympics even began: David Schweiner and Ondrej Perusic, one of the hottest teams in the world, were put into COVID protocol. A positive test placed the Czech Republic into a strange beach volleyball limbo: they were uncertain whether they’d be able to play in the Olympics at all, much less break a nasty pool that featured the eventual silver medallists from Russia, fourth-place pair from Latvia, and the new No. 1 team in Mexico.

A forfeit to Martins Plavins and Edgars Tocs severely handicapped them, forcing the two to win their final two matches, against Mexico’s brilliant rising stars Josue Gaxiola and Jose Rubio, and Russia’s Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy. They’d manage the first but drop the second, signaling a premature end to their Tokyo journey.

It left the world wondering: how different could these Games have gone had there not been a positive test?

A glimpse of that was had at the World Tour Finals, when Perusic and Schweiner were positively magnificent in their run to the gold medal match. They smashed Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb (21-12, 21-16), Plavins and Tocs (21-13, 21-17), Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai (21-16, 21-19) and won a bruising battle over Steven van de Velde and Christian Vaarenhorst (27-25, 27-29, 15-10). They’d drop the Italians once more in the semifinals before an excellent bout in the gold medal match against Mol and Sorum, a match, it’s worth noting, the Czech’s controlled much of.

“Almost unbeatable,” Mol said of Perusic and Schweiner afterwards.

While Tokyo was a bizarre event for the two, their impact has been felt: Perusic and Schweiner have established the Czech Republic as yet another formidable European power in a world becoming thick with them.

Let the partner carousel begin!

One of the most fascinating elements in watching these World Tour Finals was the fact that only a handful of the 10 teams are going to continue playing together. It was well-documented that Jake Gibb was playing in his final tournament, which will leave Taylor Crabb in search of a new partner. No matter whom Crabb chooses, the trickle-down effect will be massive in the United States, with the Paris Olympics only three years away.

Martins Plavins and Edgars Tocs, too, are finished playing together, in spite of a fourth at the Olympic Games. Tocs didn’t elaborate, commenting on Instagram only that “life is life.”

Life has already begun anew in Brazil, which was entirely absent from the World Tour Finals. Both of its Olympic teams have split and reformed, with Alison Cerutti picking up Guto Carvalhaes and Evandro Goncalves partnering with Alvaro Filho.

More partnerships will be broken and replaced, and while rumors of course abound – in Russia and Italy, in particular – little has been confirmed.

All that is known is this: the 2022 beach volleyball season will have an entirely new look.