| Outside magazine, July 1996|
At the Jose Cuervo Gold Crown event last April in Clearwater, Florida, all was right with beach volleyball. The world's best players were all there, with Karch Kiraly (below) and Kent Steffes taking their eighth-straight tournament. Which left most with one thought: Shame the Olympics won't be this good. Indeed, there's overriding skepticism that the sport's Olympic debut will be but a pale facsimile. The major gripe involves the qualifying process, which required players from the Association of Volleyball Professionals tour to battle it out at a grueling five-day trials last month. Meanwhile, Sinjin Smith and Carl Henkel, who no longer compete on the AVP tour, grabbed one of three slots by being the number-one ranked U.S. team on the weaker international circuit. "And they haven't won a tournament," grumbles one AVP official. "Why are we sending a team that can't beat international competition?" Another rub is Olympic rule changes allowing techniques regarded as aesthetically impure. Says one player, "The international committee thinks this is the indoor game played with two men on the beach. They're wrong."