England’s men’s teams continue to set new national records on the international beach volleyball circuit.
Not only did Issa Batrane & Freddie Bialokoz and Javier & Joaquin Bello position themselves to become the first English teams to enter the qualifiers of an Elite 16 tournament – the highest level of the FIVB’s new international circuit – both won back-to-back matches in Cape Town, South Africa, to qualify for the 16-team main draw.
Issa & Freddie emerged from the qualifier without dropping a set after beating Switzerland’s Zürcher / Jordan (21-18; 21-14) and the USA’s Crabb / Sander (21-19; 21-16).
The Bello Brothers, playing together for the first time since they won a bronze in Cortegaça in August, marched into the main draw with a 2-1 (21-17; 15-21; 17-15) victory over USA’s Mewhirter / Caldwell and a 2-0 (21-19; 21-19) over France’s Krou / Gauthier-Rat.
The heat was turned up even further on the 2nd and 3rd days of the competition, but both teams showed their quality with performances of the highest calibre.
Issa & Freddie’s winning streak continued with a 2-1 (21-19; 12-21; 15-11) over Austria’s Pristauz / Ermacora in their first group B match. But despite competitive performances in their remaining games, the pair lost 0-2 (18-21; 17-21) to Australia’s Carracher / Nicolaidis and 0-2 (18-21; 17-21) to world no. 2 pair Brouwer / Meeuwsen of the Netherlands.
The European Champions Åhman / Hellvig provided the Bello Brothers with a stern test in their group C opener, the match ending 0-2 (13-21; 14-21) in favour of the Swedes, who would go on to take silver. Next up were Luini / Penninga, a tight match that finished 1-2 (22-24; 21-13; 12-15) to the Dutch side. With confidence-boosting performances behind them, the Bellos started strong in their final match against the Tokyo 2020 bronze medalists Cherif / Ahmed, taking the first set. Unfortunately, the team from Qatar, who also went on to win bronze in Cape Town, came from behind to take the match 1-2 (25-23; 14-21; 11-15).
After an exhilarating few days going toe-to-toe with Olympians, both teams’ tournament ended after the group stage, finishing joint 13th. Another major achievement in what has been an exceptional year for England’s trailblazers.