So far 2013 has been a good year for veteran AVP beach pro Jake Gibb. He’s got a new partner in Casey Patterson and the duo has been heating it up on the world tour, playing in three finals and winning a gold medal at the Shanghai Grand Slam.
I spoke to Jake by phone while he was at the San Francisco Airport awaiting a flight to the Beach Volleyball World Championships in Poland this week.
You’re off to Poland, you’ve been traveling a lot this year.
We’ve been everywhere. This will be our last big trip for the season.
How is it traveling with Casey?
He’s annoying and drives me up the wall (pauses). Just kidding. Actually we have so much in common that it’s pretty easy.
How does the atmosphere at events around the world compare to back home with the AVP?
It’s different, it really varies a lot from tournament to tournament and country to country. You go to Austria and it’s a total party atmosphere, they’re selling beer in the stands and it’s a riot, it’s insane. But it totally varies from country to country.
You and Casey are currently ranked No. 3, a couple weeks ago you were ranked No. 1. Does that give you confidence, pressure, or both?
Well, ranking this early in the season means nothing. The most important thing to me over ranking is we know we can win. We know we have what it takes to win. Now it’s just putting it together. And it’s a battle with a ton of really good teams.
Who are some of the tough teams you could face in Poland?
The hottest team right now is Latvia's Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins and Brazil's Pedro Salgado and Bruno Oscar Schmidt. Also the Polish team of Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel are really good.
Do you think you and Casey could be considered among the favorites?
Oh favorites, I hate that word. Everyone in the top 16 could be called a favorite. It’s just that tough out there. There’s so many good teams, I wouldn’t say that we’re the favorite.
But you have a gold medal, so you’re off to a good start with Casey.
Yeah, it’s been fun. It’s been fun to have some early success, and some early tougher times. We’ve been in three finals and so we know we can beat anybody in the world but we also know we can lose to anybody in the world, so we know we have to give it everything we’ve got in every match.
Do you see yourself going into the next Olympic cycle with Casey?
You’ll be 40 when Rio 2016 rolls around. Are there other beach players who’ve competed in the Olympics at that age?
Sure, Todd Rogers was 39 last year, I think Emanuel was 40. Three or four 40-year-olds played in the last Olympics for Beach Volleyball. For whatever reason we can maintain at a high level late in our careers, so I hope to do the same.
Do you think for USA Beach Volleyball players it’s important to have a strong domestic league like the AVP?
That’s what we are, we’re AVP athletes. It’s huge for us. I consider myself an AVP athlete and I like to supplement it with the world tour. That’s how I look at it. I love the AVP tour. It’s what beach volleyball’s all about.
What guidance or advice would you offer to young beach athletes who want to one day compete on the big stage, be it the AVP, World Tour or the Olympics?
Set realistic goals. If you’re not at the level going for the Olympics, don’t set that as a goal. Set more attainable goals and see if you can reach them. I think that’s a common mistake of people throwing out a general “I’d like to be the best in the world” when you’re not the best in your city.
It’s really important to learn to win in whatever place you are in life. I played in Utah for three years and won everything out there and I was probably ranked No. 200 in the nation. I wasn’t that great of a player but I learned how to win so I think that’s the important thing there.
Because you’re an athlete who’s come back from testicular cancer, I wanted to ask you about Lance Armstrong. Do you feel we lost a hero with everything that happened?
It was hard to witness to be honest. I’d kind of backed him when people questioned him. I’d just always thought that how could a guy be tested and go through what he went through and be cheating? So yeah it’s disappointing, you know he’s kind of a scumbag after it all comes out. It’s just my opinion, I don’t know him. My only connection with him is we both had testicular cancer and we’re both athletes.
Do you see yourself as an inspiration for people out there who might have testicular cancer? The fact that you beat it and you’re out there winning gold medals?
Not really. I think there’s a lot more inspirational people than me who have gone through a lot tougher time with cancer than me. I felt like I was lucky, I caught mine early and it didn’t affect my life as much as some people. So I think those people are the inspiration.
So there was never a point when you thought it could end your career?
Yes there was. I thought I was gonna have to go through chemotherapy and that was gonna crush down my year at least and probably at that point, maybe not be able to keep playing.
Must’ve felt good when you found out you didn’t need chemo.
Yeah it’s up there with the top three happiest days of my life.
For more information on the upcoming AVP Pro Beach Volleyball tour, visit www.avp.com.