This time last year, Jake Gibb was just days removed from Olympic defeat, a stinging quarterfinal loss that left him and then-partner Sean Rosenthal out of the picture for a beach volleyball medal in London. At 36, he wondered if he had the energy to shoot for the 2016 Games in Rio De Janeiro.
“To put yourself back out there for possible disappointment again, it’s scary,” the Bountiful native said. “But I’ve never backed down from that kind of stuff.”
In a year, Gibb has split up with Rosenthal, his partner of seven years, and experienced a reboot of sorts, playing alongside former BYU player Casey Patterson.
“I knew I would play,” Gibb said. “I just didn’t know how long. This year’s kind of been eye-opening for me, just playing with Casey and doing so well.”
Earlier this summer the duo won gold at a tournament in Shanghai and this weekend will be among a collection of pros competing at an AVP tour stop at Liberty Park, the first such tournament to come to Utah.
In addition to Gibb, household names including Kerri Walsh Jennings (who won gold medals at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics with Misty May-Treanor), Phil Dalhausser and Olympic silver medalists Jennifer Kessy and April Ross will compete at the Salt Lake City AVP Open, which runs Friday through Sunday.
The moment to watch for? If Gibb and Patterson match up against Rosenthal and Dalhausser. Gibb has no problem equating the splitting of an beach volleyball tandem to the disintegration of a romantic relationship, saying, “He dumped me. He said, ‘I want to play with Phil Dalhausser,’ ” after Dalhausser and his partner in a run to 2008 Olympic gold, Todd Rogers, separated.
“During the season, I spend more time with my partner than I do with my wife,” he said. “It’s a strong relationship whether it’s good or bad.”
In three matchups this year, Gibb is 1-2 against Rosenthal and Dalhausser, although he is more concerned with continuing to forge his new relationship than dwelling on his past one.
And if a beach volleyball pairing is in fact like a marriage, then Gibb is just bringing Patterson home to meet the family.
He never thought he’d see the day that landlocked Utah would host a beach volleyball tournament, particularly when the rest of the AVP Tour stops are in cities like St. Petersburg, Fla., Santa Barbara, Calif., and Huntington Beach, Calif.
But Gibb thinks he’s always known something others didn’t.
“It makes sense to me,” he said, “in that I’ve always said that Utah is the third best volleyball state behind California and Florida. It has a really good following.”
Salt Lake City AVP Open
O Professional beach volleyball tournament
When • Friday through Sunday
Where • Liberty Park
Who • 16 men’s and women’s teams, including Olympians Jake Gibb, Phil Dalhausser, Sean Rosenthal, Kerry Walsh Jennings, Jennifer Kessy and April Ross.
Tickets • www.avp.com