SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Age is just a number. Just ask Utah native Jake Gibb.
At the age of 45, Gibb is about to become the oldest Olympic volleyball player ever, passing the previous record of 41. He and his partner Taylor Crabb will compete in Tokyo in beach volleyball beginning July 24th or 25th.
This will be Gibb’s third Olympic Games, and after finishing 19th in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 with partner Casey Patterson, the former Bountiful High star thought that was the end of his Olympic career.
“I thought I was done,” Gibb said from his home in Huntington Beach, California. “I was going to play one more year. I had this idea that I was going to play with this new young partner, show him the ropes and just kind of ride off into the sunset.”
But just one problem — Gibb and Crabb, who is 16 years younger than Gibb, kept winning, and eventually qualified for the U.S. Olympic team.
“I’ve always said that I wanted to retire as soon as I feel like I can’t win anymore, and we kept winning,” Gibb said. “Then Covid happened and all of a sudden I’m 45 going to the Olympics.”
Breaking the record as the oldest Olympic volleyball player, indoor or beach, is an achievement that Gibb embraces.
“I’m very proud of it, but I never think about it,” Gibb said. “So, I think about it when you ask me that, and then I’m like, oh yeah, that is cool. But I never think about it on the court. I look at it as not only experience, but I’m 45 and I’ve been put in almost every situation out there. There’s a big advantage there, so that’s the way I look at it.”
Gibb says there are times when his two opponents’ combined age doesn’t equal his own. But make no mistake, it does take Gibb a little longer to recover now.
“After a couple matches in a day, the next morning when I get out of bed, I’m like, oh man, my body hurts” he said.
Gibb and Sean Rosenthal made it to the quarterfinals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. In 2016, Gibb and Patterson did not make it out of pool play.
But playing with Crabb has re-energized Gibb’s love for the sport.
“I feel fortunate that I have this kid that is in the prime of his life,” Gibb said of the 29-year-old Crabb. “He’s my partner right now, and I’m holding on to him. I’m riding his coattails. I think he’s the best player in American right now.”
You wouldn’t think a kid from Bountiful would grow up to become one of America’s greatest beach volleyball players. And he still gets questions about it.
“Before I moved out to California, I was the number one beach volleyball player in Utah,” said Gibb, who graduated from the University of Utah. “Which is kind of like being the number one snow skier in Hawaii. It’s maybe something that you don’t want to go around bragging about.”
Gibb can brag about having beaten cancer twice. He was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2003 and testicular cancer in 2011. Gibb has become an inspiration to other cancer survivors.
“I’m a 2-time cancer survivor, which is crazy to talk about,” he said. “But it’s not something that I think about that often if I’m being 100 percent honest with you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very vigilant with my checkups, and I’m on top with everything there. But it doesn’t play a big role anymore.”
While he may be getting old, walking in the Olympic opening ceremonies never does.
“I’m so excited for it,” Gibb said. “Especially since I’m going through it with a new coach and a new partner. That to me is a new team that has a new feel and a new energy. We did it, we got here, we’re in the Olympics. It’s a really special moment to share.”
Gibb will leave for Tokyo on July 16th.