TOKYO — “Love Rollercoaster” was blaring from the speakers at Shiokaze Park, but for American beach volleyball players Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, it was another ride on the rollercoaster of weirdness as they took on a tough Brazilian team on a stiflingly hot Saturday morning.
Team USA’s youngest-ever beach volleyball team was able to dispatch Ana Patricia Silva Ramos and Rebecca Cavalcanti Barbossa Silva in three sets to win their third straight victory in the Tokyo Olympics and stay in medal contention.
But Tokyo is under a state of emergency because of a rise in Covid-19 cases, so there was only a smattering of applause when it was over. Most of the 12,000 seats were empty.
“Yes,” they answered in unison when asked if they find it jarring to compete to an audience of empty seats.
“We’ve gotten kind of used to it, but it’s still weird,” Claes, her skin glazed with sweat and sand, said after the match. “You can’t feed off their energy, so we have to feed off our energy.”
What’s worse, Sponsil said, is they can’t really cut loose and celebrate. They’re only allowed to spend two hours a day together because Claes, 25, is in quarantine until Sunday.