After fellow U.S. beach volleyball player Taylor Crabb tested positive for the coronavirus last week, Dalhausser was deemed to be a close contact because he sat near Crabb on a flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco en route to the Olympics. Crabb returned home to Hawaii and was replaced, but Dalhausser remained in Tokyo and entered a quarantine period in his hotel per organizers’ close-contact guidelines.
Dalhausser’s temporary living quarters were so small, he recalled Thursday, that he could stand in the middle of the room and nearly touch both walls with his outstretched hands.
While Dalhausser was able to smile at the absurdity of that situation, his ordeal since arriving in Tokyo has been anything but funny. Instead of focusing solely on a gold medal bid with his playing partner, Nick Lucena, Dalhausser is still living in quarantine away from his fellow U.S. beach volleyball athletes when he isn’t competing or practicing, and he is forced to comply with onerous and oblique restrictions.
“It’s just frustrating,” Dalhausser said. “I feel like [the Tokyo 2020 organizers] didn’t have a plan set. They’re just kind of rolling with it. … Monday, they said we had practice set up. Nope, can’t practice. Tuesday, same thing. Nope, can’t practice. Wednesday, [we were supposed to] practice from 6 to 8 [p.m.]. At 2:30 that day, they were like, ‘We need a covid test and you can’t practice from 6 to 8.’ Excuse me, this is f---ing bulls---. They finally let me practice that night at 10.”
Throughout his three-night stay of uninterrupted quarantine, Dalhausser was unsure when he would be allowed to leave and return to his typical training regimen. All told, he missed five days of practice, and he and Lucena still can’t practice against rival teams, a crucial aspect of their Olympic preparation.
Dalhausser remains barred from receiving treatment from a trainer. For his only workout in quarantine, Dalhausser lifted books and a box of water bottles as a makeshift weightlifting routine. These fundamental and unexpected restrictions only complicated a major adjustment process that involved flying across the Pacific, adjusting to Tokyo’s 90-degree temperatures and heavy humidity, and competing in an eerily empty arena.
Dalhausser said that his play still felt “very choppy” Thursday, while Lucena added that they played “real tentative” and with “no energy” until the third set. The duo, which advanced to the quarterfinals at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, managed to beat Argentina’s Nicolas Capogrosso and Julian Amado Azaad, 21-19, 18-21, 15-6, for its second win in three preliminary-round matches.
“[The playing field] is definitely not level, but I understand the situation,” Dalhausser said. “I understand that Tokyo is trying to be as cautious as possible. It just sucks that it happened to us. … The worst part about it was not knowing. We weren’t getting any answers, and the [hotel] conditions made it even worse.”
Other indignities and inconveniences remain. Dalhausser, who has been moved to a Hilton near Tokyo Disney, still cannot leave his room except to travel to and from matches and modified practices with an official escort. His hotel quarantine will continue until at least Saturday. He can’t shower after matches at Shiokaze Park, the beach volleyball venue. When he needs to use a shared bathroom on match days, the facility must be sanitized afterward.
“USA has one of the best, supportive teams,” Lucena said. “That’s what it’s been this whole time, minus Phil, which kind of sucks. Because Phil is kind of separated from everything. If I get into it, I’m just going to get angry and probably swear a couple of times.”
Meanwhile, Dalhausser, who declined to say whether he has been vaccinated, estimated that he has passed 21 coronavirus tests since arriving in Tokyo, in addition to the two he passed before his departure from the United States. The night before the match against Argentina, Dalhausser was tested. Shortly after the match, he was tested again.
To fill all the extra time he has to himself, Dalhausser has read books, watched countless hours of the Olympic beach volleyball competition and begun researching how to trade stock options with the help of YouTube instructional videos. While he awaited direction from organizers, his negative tests gave him confidence that he would be cleared to play, and he insisted that he never thought about going home early because he “couldn’t leave the team like that.”
Both Dalhausser and Lucena expressed their gratitude toward USA Volleyball for its support and stressed that they remain excited to be competing in the Olympics. Still, what should have been a dream experience has been reduced to something else entirely, best expressed in beach vernacular.
“It’s a little bit of a bummer,” Dalhausser said.