Copacabana’s Natural Sand Is Just Right for Olympic Beach Volleyball

When it comes to sand chemistry, there may be no one more knowledgeable than Todd Knapton, a vice president of Hutcheson Sand and Mixes in Huntsville, Ontario. The company is far from any ocean. Knapton has played volleyball once, he said.

But Knapton has been the official sand consultant for the volleyball federation since shortly after the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, where beach volleyball made its Olympic debut. When Canadian players told him that the sand was merely all right in Atlanta, Knapton obtained samples from some of the sport’s notable homes, places like Manhattan Beach in Southern California and the Brazilian coast. He wanted to see what made their sand just right.


The deep sand has been sifted many times for the Rio Olympics.

James Hill for The New York Times

The specifications he recommended for beach volleyball competitions have been in place for 20 years now. Organizers at F.I.V.B. tour events are required to send a sample of the sand that they are considering using — 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) from layers down to 40 centimeters (about 16…

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