2020 Tokyo Olympics: Team USA Volleyball Duo Eliminated After Controversial Replay

by Anna Dunn
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 01: Kelly Claes #1 of Team United States and Sarah Sponcil #2 react against Team Canada during the Women's Round of 16 beach volleyball on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Shiokaze Park on August 01, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

A Team USA Volleyball duo has been eliminated from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after a controversial replay challenge reversal. While it’s one thing to lose fair and square, it’s another to be eliminated. Many have described the elimination as “maddening.”

While it appeared that Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes had won a pivotal replay challenge late into a 16 elimination match, the outcome was reversed upon further consideration. As the U.S team was trailing 12-11 in the third set, Sponcil hit a serve that Canada’s team, consisting of Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson, let pass.

Initially, a judge for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics v ruled that the serve did in fact go beyond the boundary line. A TV replay had commentators agreeing, but with NBC commentator Brian Dalton calling it, “the closest play we’ve ever seen.”

According to volleyball rules, the ball is considered in if a part of it touches the boundary line. The ball is fully out if no part of it touches the line. Considering how close the ball was, the US team asked for a replay review. Initially, it appeared the two had won the replay review, but then it kept going when the Canadian team challenged that ruling and the referee went back on that decision.

Brutally, the judge accidentally pressed the wrong button, indicating that the American team had won the replay review even when they hadn’t. For a game this high stakes this was a crushing and confusing blow to the US team.

The team argued with the referee, resulting in the referee giving Sponcil a yellow card warning. Ultimately, the two weren’t able to get their heads back in the game and lost to Bansley and Wilkerson.

Fans who Watched The 2020 Tokyo Olympics Match are Not Happy

Clearly, the confusing call is not sitting well with fans.

“Claes & Sponcil were ROBBED, i am so MAD. How can you challenge a challenge? In what other sport is that okay? WHATEVER,” one fan Tweeted.

“I’ve been a sports fan my entire life, so it is RARE that I see something that I never have before, but Claes and Sponcil just challenged a call and won the challenge, then Canada challenged the challenge and they overturned the call again? US beach volleyball just got hosed,” another fan explained.

But even though Sponcil and Claes were eliminated, nothing could take away how well they performed earlier in the games. Many now look at them as some of the finest US competitors in the sport. Hopefully, they will have a more fair shot at a medal in the 2024 games.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics hasn’t been short of both incredible and frustrating moments. If you want to watch the Olympics, you can do so on NBC, it’s streaming service alternative Peacock, the NBC Sports App, or NBColympics.com.