Jake Gibb already has two gold medals in his collection, and now, he’s hoping to make it a historic third. If he’s able to complete his final career goal, he’ll become one of the few athletes in history to win gold medals in three separate sports.
Jake Gibb is a 45-year-old American beach volleyball player who will compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He has made it to the finals in three of the four Olympic tournaments he has participated in, and is currently the five-time US Open champion. His career has not been without its troubles, however. Gibb spent several years battling depression, and in 2009 he attempted suicide. He made a recovery and tried to get back into competitive play, but he has not been able to remain healthy long enough to make it back to the Olympics.
45-year-old Jake Gibb has a new focus in life. After retiring from the professional beach volleyball circuit, Gibb is now training for the 2024 Olympic Games. But this isn’t the first Olympics that the father of three has participated in. In fact, Gibb’s already competed in the 2012 Summer Games, serving as a member of the U.S. volleyball team. So, how does the 45-year-old train for the Olympics? Gibb told the Associated Press, “I’m trying to maintain the form I have in my 40s as opposed to my 20s. I’m trying to get as comfortable as I can.”
Jake Gibb isn’t sure whether he’s at the conclusion or the beginning of his journey. The four-time Olympian has successfully kept time at bay as he prepares for his last year in beach volleyball at the Tokyo Olympics, but he has never quite figured out what’s on the other side of the net.
On Sunday evening, the 45-year-old began his fourth Games at Shiokaze Park on Tokyo Bay, becoming the oldest beach volleyball player in Olympic history. After a 20-year career in the sport, that wasn’t how he had envisioned his last performance. Gibb, on the other hand, is accustomed to life tossing him curveballs.
He was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2003 and had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma from his left shoulder. He was told seven years later, in 2010, that he had failed a drug test due to unusually high hormone levels.
So he did some research and discovered the following in the fine print: Testicular cancer may possibly be to blame for the rise in these levels. In December of 2010, I was given the diagnosis. Gibb was informed he’d probably require three rounds of chemotherapy, which would have effectively ruined his chances of qualifying for London 2012 since he and partner Sean Rosenthal would not have been able to win enough races.
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Jane, who worked two jobs to support Gibb as he pursued his goal in 2001, informed him the night before surgery that he was going to be a father. Looking back, he considers 2011 to be the most difficult year of his life, as he struggled with contradictory emotions and life-altering news. However, the waves subsided. He was informed after surgery that the malignancy had been detected early enough. He was back in training four weeks later, attempting to regain his form. He participated in his second Olympics at the Horse Guards Parade in London in the summer of 2012.
He finished ninth in Rio 2016 after two consecutive fifth-place results in Beijing 2008 and London 2012. Tokyo 2020 would be his last chance for a podium finish. He was preparing his sports swan song — his “final dance” — four months ago, in March 2021. He reflected on his own athletic career in an eight-minute video posted on Instagram, with retirement on the horizon.
His motive for competing in Tokyo 2020 was to be able to participate in front of his family. Crosby, his son, was just 5 years old when his father participated in Rio 2016, and his recollections are based on highlights rather than seeing his father compete on the beach. Cora Jane, his daughter, is now six years old. Crosby watched the Olympics from his family’s house in Huntington Beach, California, leaping and mimicking every one of Gibb’s blocks while his idol competed 5,500 miles away in front of empty bleachers.
What has kept him going has been his family and the thrill of “throwing everything out there” in front of a raucous crowd. He also intended to accomplish all of this with his beach volleyball partner, Taylor Crabb. Crabb, on the other hand, tested positive for COVID-19. The findings arrived just as the USOPC was about to submit its squad roster.
To allow Crabb ample time to quarantine, Gibb volunteered to forfeit the first match. That situation would have effectively destroyed any chance of winning a medal. Crabb turned down the offer. Tri Bourne stepped in to provide Gibb with the ideal Olympics send-off.
Crabb told The Associated Press, “I wasn’t going to jeopardize this chance for Jake and [coach] Rich [Lambourne].” “Jake is in his last year of high school. This is the culmination of his efforts. I want him to leave on a high note. This is how we want to approach the situation. And I’d want to see him follow through on it.”
On Sunday night, Gibb and Bourne began their trip with a straight-sets victory against Italy. They aim to compete in the final by Aug. 7, after which Gibb will travel to the United States to seek closure on a California beach.
Jake Gibb is attempting to win an Olympic medal for the last time. Felipe Dana/AP Photo
Gibb has three bronze plaques on the Manhattan Beach Pier, the world’s most famous beach volleyball destination. They honor his three victories in the Manhattan Beach Open, which he won in 2005, 2009, and 2017. They’re a testament to his long life, but they also serve as a reminder of all he’s been through. He’s hoping for a fourth.
There will be a period of contemplation after Tokyo and the Manhattan Beach Open, when he hopes to compete with Crabb. It’s time to see what’s on the other side of the internet.
“You understand who’s with you and who’s going to drift away,” Gibb, who is considering a coaching career, said. “All those folks who come up to you and tell you how wonderful you are will vanish once I’m done. My family, on the other hand, will not. I’m not sure whether it’s the conclusion or the beginning of my narrative, but it’s something I truly desire. That’s how I want to leave this world: as a champion.”
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