2020 Tokyo Olympics: Fans Are Outraged Over Controversial Challenge Reversal in US-Canada Women’s Beach Volleyball Match

by Amy Myers

After Canada beat Team U.S.A. in beach volleyball during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Sunday, the response from fans was combative. Canada’s Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson squared off with the States’ Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes. The U.S. women won the first set of the match 24-22, while the Canadian women won the second 18-21. Following a controversial call in the third, Canada gained a lead on the U.S. that ultimately led to their victory of 15-13.

Before the final ruling of the call, the States struggled to keep the same momentum from the first set. Initially, in the third set, the U.S. led its northern neighbor by six points, however, the women seemed to lose focus of the game and allowed Canada to close the gap and gain the advantage of 11-12.

The next play seemed to solidify the odds of the match in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The lineman originally ruled the U.S. women’s next hit as out of bounds, but the team decided to challenge the call. Using a fairly new electronic system that debuted at the 2016 Olympics, Sponcil and Claes asked that the play be viewed again. Upon further inspection, the U.S. won the challenge and gained a point, tying the set at 12-12. Usually, at this point, that’s the end of the debate. The teams then set up for the next point and continue the match. However, this time, it seemed that the challenge was challenged.

Scoreboard Ambiguity Causes Challenge Reversal During the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

On the scoreboard, the message read, “Challenge successful. Ball out.” But this message was contradictory. If the U.S. women won the challenge, the ball would be in-bounds. Confused by the ambiguous message, the Canadian women asked for clarification. This led to the officials’ re-ruling in Canada’s favor, ultimately subtracting the point from the U.S. and adding it to Canada. Bansley and Wilkerson now led the game 11-13.

That was when Sponcil and Claes became frustrated. Once the verdict of the challenge changed, Sponcil called out, “Are you kidding me?”

She then approached the referee, who told her, “There was a mistake.”

Sponcil explained that the lineman pointed at “the wrong ball mark.”

“It wasn’t in the middle,” the 2020 Tokyo Olympics athlete said. But the referee was having none of it.

“Get ready,” she told Sponcil. However, the volleyball player continued to argue, earning her a yellow card. And in the sports world, that’s the international sign for “Stop talking.”

Twitter users were just as frustrated as the volleyball team.

One user, Maggie Hendricks, said in response to the U.S.’s loss, “So, in beach volleyball, the US challenged, won it, and then Canada challenged the challenge and won? I don’t understand it at all. Claes and Sponcil don’t, either.”

Meanwhile, others backed the decision of the referees.

“Canada didn’t challenged the challenge. On the first review, you see the call being ‘In’, than 5sec later it changed to ‘Out’. So the first ‘official’ review call was that the ball was out,” another user said in response to Hendricks’ tweet.