Smith & Stoklos become first FIVB gold medal winners

The first step in making beach volleyball an Olympic sport

The second memorable moment in the history of sanctioned FIVB beach volleyball events occurred Monday of this week when Americans Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos won their first of 10 World Tour gold medals at the inaugural tournament 34 years ago in Brazil.

Also read: First FIVB-sanctioned beach volleyball event begins 34 years ago

 “Needless to say,” Stoklos started to say about the first sanctioned international beach volleyball event on iconic Ipanema beach. “It was our first time playing in an unruly atmosphere with centre court packed with Brazilian fans that wanted their country to be No. 1.”

Randy Stoklos talks about winning the gold medals in the picture behind him

To reach the final on February 22, 1987, in an event that attracted 20 teams from seven countries, Smith and Stoklos opened with a win over an Italian pair (Andrea Ghiurghi/Massimo Penteriani) before defeating three Brazilian teams featuring renowned indoor players Renan Dal Zotto, Jose Montanaro and Bernard Rajzman.

“I also remember so vividly playing with the people that were excited to see us play,” said Stoklos, “but remember, this was the first time they had Americans come down to their soil and they wanted to see them lose. And so, there wasn't a lot of great favours going in our way.”

In their fifth and final match, Smith and Stoklos prevailed over compatriots Karch Kiraly and Pat Powers in a two-set sideout scoring affair (12-9, 12-5). The four United States teams in the competition compiled a 13-2 record against the international teams highlighted by nine wins in 11 matches against Brazilian pairs.

1987 Rio Open Results

As for playing against Kiraly and Powers in the final, Stoklos said he “played Karch so many times in my life and we played together at UCLA, it's really hard to remember anything about that match. Karch playing with anybody was a grueling effort, to say the least. I think he felt, as we did, the heat and the humidity basically were the deciding and determining factor of really how it all came down. And I think that possibly Sinjin and I were in a little bit better shape.”

Stoklos remembers “how incredibly organised the event was. It was incredible to see the lines of fans out the door of the hotel that we were staying in on the beach.  They were like ants in a line trying to get in. And what was really interesting is, is that everybody went through like a little mini house to get their Camisa (t-shirts) to promote the sponsors. Everybody was wearing the yellow-coloured Camisa.”

After winning 43 of their first 78 tournaments on the American domestic tours since forming their partnership in July 1982, the Ipanema gold started another string of successes for Smith and Stoklos, who never finished lower than fourth in their 12 FIVB World Tour starts together.

“Since the FIVB had obviously run indoor events, they knew exactly what they were getting into,” said Stoklos about the first event. “The backdrop of the first event being in Rio de Janeiro on Ipanema beach with more than 10,000 people inside of the stadium was just an incredible sight to behold.”

Stoklos said he and Smith “had gotten to Rio a week early just to try to get acclimated to the weather because of the heat and the humidity. As we practised, we saw the building of the stadium out of pipes and wood. It was incredibly made, and they knew exactly what they did. And one of the other things that stood out in my mind was the water cannon that they had out there. The temperatures at all the Rio events were extremely hot, and the water spraying the sands, in the crowd, it was just a sight to behold. And really an incredible time for not only Sinjin, or myself, but for the whole sport.”

A five-time winner with Smith in Rio, Stoklos noted that the “inviting aspect of the event was it was billed as the world championships. We were going down there to represent our country. And needless to say, there was some prize money involved.”

Stoklos also remembered coming back home and going through customs where he was asked what he did in Brazil. “I told the customs that we were playing in the world championship and we won, and we had this big trophy,” Stoklos noted. “And the guy said well, welcome back to the United States and congratulations. So, we didn’t have to deal with any of the money aspects of things.”

When asked what made his partnership with Smith successful as the pair won 114 domestic and international events together, Stoklos said “Sinjin as a defensive player was incredibly good around my block. My blocking put a lot of pressure on the opposition which gave opportunities for us to score. And we continued to always put pressure on our opponents.”

Stoklos also said his jump serve was “a weapon to get the teams off balance. I only realised how good Sinjin and I really were when I retired, and we played an exhibition together and in the first play Sinjin digs four balls and I block a ball and we scored the point. And there was just this magic of the salt and pepper and everything else coming together to make this ingredient.”

In remembering the inaugural international beach volleyball tournament in Rio, Stoklos said the event “really was the first ingredient that made it an Olympic sport. It was the ingredient that propelled it to be a world tour. And you see how many people around the world are playing the game across their country because of that beginning.”

 Here are the other FIVB gold medal winning teams for the week of February 21-27.

 February 23

·       In 1991, Smith and Stoklos won the Rio de Janeiro Open. It was the fifth of 10 FIVB World Tour wins for the team.

·       In 1992, Smith and Stoklos won the Rio de Janeiro Open. It was the ninth of 10 FIVB World Tour wins for the team.

·       In 1997, Ze Marco de Melo and Emanuel Rego of Brazil won the Rio de Janeiro Open. It was the 11th of 15 FIVB World Tour wins for the team.

·       In 2020, Christopher McHugh and Damien Schumann of Australia won the Phnom Penh Open. It was the second and final FIVB World Tour win for the team.

The 2020 Phnom Penh Open medal winners featured Austrians, Australians and Germans

 February 24

·       In 2018, Mariusz Prudel and Jakub Szalankiewicz of Poland won the Kish Island Open. It was the first and only FIVB World Tour win for the team.

·       In 2019, Vasiliki Arvaniti and Penny Karagkouni of Greece won the Phnom Penh Open. It was the second and final FIVB World Tour win for the team.

2019 Phnom Penh Open podium placers from the United States, Greece and Japan

 February 26

·       In 1989, Smith and Stoklos won the Rio de Janeiro Open. It was the second of 10 FIVB World Tour wins for the team.

 February 27

·       In 2005, Ji Linjun and You Wenhui of China won the Bangkok Satellite. It was the first and only FIVB win for the team.

Three Olympians celebrate birthdays this week, including two-time participants Peter Gartmayer of Austria (43 on Thursday) and Christian Penigaud of France (57 Saturday), and London 2012 competitor Anna Vozakova of Russia (32 on Saturday).

After placing 19th at the Athens 2004 Olympics with Robert Nowotny, Gartmayer and Clemens Doppler finished ninth at the Beijing 2008 Summer Games highlighted by a pool-play win in three sets over eventual silver medal winners Marcio Araujo and Fabio Luiz Magalhaes of Brazil. 

Austrian Peter Gartmayer (right) hitting against Fabio Luiz Magalhaes of Brazil at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

Penigaud and Jean-Philippe Jodard placed 13th at the Atlanta 1996 and 19th at the Sydney Summers Games. They were the first French men's or women's team to place on a World Tour podium as the pair competed in 85 FIVB events together with one title, four medals and 10 final four appearances.

1994 World Series 13 finalists (left to right) are Jean-Philippe Jodard, Bjorn Maaseide, Christian Penigaud Jan Kvalheim

Vozakova placed ninth at the London Summer Games with Anastasia Barsuk as the pair won three-set pool play matches over Chen Xue/Xi Zhang of China and Simone Kuhn/Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland before being eliminated by the Schwaiger sisters (Doris and Stefanie). 

Russia´s Anna Vozakova with a Mikasa reception at the London 2012 Olympic Games

Quick links:
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour

Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

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