Klagenfurt, Austria, July 29, 2016 - No one makes more noise on the court or shows more emotion on a Beach Volleyball court than Argentina’s Georgina Klug and Ana Gallay.
When the Rio 2016 Olympics get underway in a week, they’ll be certain to be heard around the world. It’s just the way they planned it, no matter how many might have doubted them.
They’re not tall enough, critics of the pair of 5-foot-8 scramblers will say. And, of course, they might get on the nerves of some opponents with their on-court antics.
But look, in their situation, they’ll take any advantage they can. And when they are undersized, they’ll search for any way possible to get the ball on the side or keep the ball in play to frustrate opponents. After winning a point, they’ll scream, they’ll gesture, they’ll play to the crowd.
Their talent is one thing. Klug can find angles and pound the ball. Gallay, the blocker, will shock some by combining her jumping ability with an uncanny knack of knowing when to peel off from the net to make a defensive play.
But make no mistake, their biggest weapon is emotion. And they know how and when to deploy it.
“Sometimes it’s too much and you don’t realize it,” said Klug, the 32-year-old from Mar del Plata. “You always lose energy with it, but we don’t care because I think it’s important, but sometimes we activate the other teams. So we have to see how the other team is reacting to our energy because sometimes the other teams are low and you activate them just because we are fighting too much and they react. We lose energy a lot, but that’s how we play.”
Following a remarkable three-set comeback win over Americans Brooke Sweat and Lauren Fendrick at the smart Hamburg Major in June that sealed their Olympic qualification, Gallay tore around the sand and almost looked like she would climb the netting surrounding the court.
When they upset second-seeded Olympians Karla Borger and Britta Buthe Friday to reach the A1 Major Klagenfurt semifinals, the 30-year-old Gallay did a cartwheel while Klug dropped to her knees and threw sand around before they piled into each in an embrace.
That might never have happened if their partnership didn’t click right away. Klug had finished her indoor career and Gallay, who played in the London 2012 Olympics with Virginia Zonta, had one condition for continuing her career on the beach.
“I had to be patient because she was starting with Beach Volleyball,” Gallay said. “It was the first she was playing the World Tour and trying to be a professional. I said, ‘Be sure that if we lost any qualification, I’m going to be back home and never play Beach Volleyball again.’
“It was kind of funny, but we are both winners. Even if we lose, we are trying to fight until the last minute, so that’s the best part of our team.”
They did get through all of their qualifiers in their first two seasons together, but the main draw was a different story. It took a long time to click, but steadily they made progress.
In 2015, they were struggling through the summer until they reached the Pan Am Games in Toronto. They caught fire and won the tournament. About a month later, they reached the podium with a silver medal in the Xiamen (China) Open.
“The Pan American gold medal was a lot of energy for us for playing the (FIVB) World Tour for the Olympic Games,” Gallay said. “We didn’t start real good last year, so after that we got that first World Tour medal in China, and we started playing better.”
They opened the 2016 qualifying season with a fifth place followed by two final fours and started to build up points. They had a similar four-event stretch through April and May and steadily moved into contention for the one of the 17 Olympic spots from the World Tour. Finally in Hamburg, they edged themselves into No. 16 and had their ticket to Rio.
“We are so excited because we have worked so hard the last four years,” Klug said. “At the beginning we thought it was impossible to qualify for the World Tour and then step by step, we started being multi-dimensional, getting some good results and we started getting excited.
“Then we had a really bad World Championship but we kept working anyways. We started getting better results at the end of the year. She played in London, but it’s my first Olympic Games, so it’s amazing.”
Imagine their energy in volleyball-crazy Brazil. No matter what, they’ll be a sight to see.
“We are for sure the most emotional team,” Klug said. “And the craziest team also.”