Smith & Stoklos Become First FIVB Gold Medal Winners 

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, February 22, 2021 - 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. 

 “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.” 

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. 

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.”