It's not every year you win gold at the Olympics and get selected as the tournament's MVP. But it's the kind of year USA captain Jordan Larson enjoyed in 2021, leading her teammates to glory in Tokyo.
Year in Review: Superlatives only for Jordan Larson
Published 08:00, 05 Jan 2022
The international season began well for Larson as USA looked unstoppable during the FIVB Volleyball Nations League. Coach Karch Kiraly's team claimed 14 victories in 15 Preliminary Round matches before claiming gold, and the country's third consecutive VNL title, with the United States captain finishing her country's top scorer in the competition.
VNL victory put USA in a strong place ahead of the Olympics, and the North Americans did not disappoint. Again leading the team, Larson was a constant and reassuring presence. Again she was her team's top scorer in the tournament and even hammered home the winning point in the final against Brazil.
Volleyball World caught up with Jordan Larson to ask her about an exceptional year.
Volleyball World: What was your highlight of 2021, Jordan?
Jordan Larson: “Wow! It is so hard to summarise. First I would say getting married was the biggest blessing. We were lucky we didn’t have to postpone. Secondly, I would say coming together as a national team after almost two years away from the gym, winning VNL (while naming our Olympic roster), and winning the first ever Olympic gold medal, which is still so surreal. It was truly an unbelievable summer!”
Volleyball World: What is your best memory of the Olympics?
Jordan Larson: “My best memory was how our team was adapted and adjusted when a couple of our teammates went down with an injury. Seeing how those that were injured responded and those that came into play responded, it was really such a great sign of how special our culture was.”
Volleyball World: What have your learned from volleyball?
Jordan Larson: “Volleyball has made such a huge impact in my life. It has taught me so many lessons both good and bad, and it has allowed me to grow in ways I could never have imagined. I am very grateful for what the game has given to me and I do believe it will continue to have a great impact in my life.”
Volleyball World: Turning to what comes next, are you looking forward to playing with Kim Yeon Koung in China?
Jordan Larson: “I have really enjoyed playing in China for Shanghai. The club treated me very well and I feel lucky to be returning for my third season. Being able to play with Kim is going to be so much fun. She is obviously a great volleyball athlete but she is also one of the funniest people I have ever met.”
Volleyball World: What is your next big goal?
Jordan Larson: I am not sure what is next. I am trying to stay present and really enjoy this time.
A young Jordan tried several sports while she was growing up, including football, basketball, softball and track and field. But it was volleyball that took her from her small hometown of Hooper in the state of Nebraska to international glory as a world champion and three-time Olympic medallist.
She started playing volleyball at the age of 12 and shone on the courts at high-school and college levels, claiming an NCAA Championship title with the University of Nebraska in 2006. Her progress did not go unnoticed and Jordan was soon called up to USA's youth national team for the 2003 FIVB Volleyball U18 World Championship in Poland , when she topped the best servers' ranking.
Larson’s international career really picked up speed in 2009, however, when she joined the senior American women’s national team and started playing for Russian powerhouse Dinamo Kazan.
Her time in the Team USA jersey brought the outside hitter huge international success, with a first major peak in 2014 when the North Americans won gold at the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship in Italy.
“It was memorable because that year we had a great team with unbelievable chemistry. We were able to pull off a great victory against a very talented China team. I think what made it most special is that it was the first time the United States had ever won a World Championship. It was a huge victory for us!” Larson told Volleyball World.
Larson's international career now also includes three Olympic Games, claiming silver at London 2012, bronze at Rio 2016 and gold at Tokyo 2020. The 1.88m-tall athlete has also won three FIVB Volleyball Nations League titles (2018, 2019, 2021), three golds (2010, 2011, 2015) and a silver at the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix, two silvers and a bronze at the FIVB Volleyball World Cup and a silver and a bronze at the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup, alongside individual honours and multiple successes at a continental level.
In her club career, Larson has played mainly for two clubs, both among the best in the world. She spent five seasons with both Dinamo Kazan and Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul and claimed the highest international honours with both. With the Russian club, she won gold at the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Women's Club World Championship and the 2014 CEV Champions League, to add to a continental bronze in 2012.
As a player of the Turkish powerhouse, the American star won the World Championship title twice (2015 and 2016) and world bronze once (2018), as well as 2015 gold and 2017 bronze in the Champions League. In 2015, she was named MVP of both the continental and the world competitions.
Now playing for China’s Shanghai Bright Ubest, alongside Korean star Kim, Jordan Larson will also participate in the second season of the innovative Athletes Unlimited professional league in the United States in 2022, which will also feature international stars like Sheilla Castro and Nootsara Tomkom.