Beach volleyball drought-breakers rejoice

·2-min read

Chris McHugh and Damien Schumann are celebrating graduation from their own school of hard knocks after securing their spots as the first Australian men's beach volleyball Olympic team since 2008.

The pair earned their berth by winning the Asian Volleyball Continental Cup last month.

The Commonwealth Games gold medallists will join fellow medal prospects Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy in a four-strong Tokyo team.

Their qualification was only possible with the help of countrymen Max Guehrer and Zach Schubert, whom they partnered to win the Cup in the Thailand teams event.

McHugh, 31, said the competitive break because of COVID-19 denied them match play but had come with hidden benefits.

"This Olympic cycle has been one of the most challenging periods of my life and I wouldn't have changed it for the world," he said.

"I have become a father (to Jack) and we are expecting another child in October after the Games.

"I've had a shoulder reconstruction, four knee surgeries in 10 months, won a Commonwealth Games gold medal, switched teams twice and then like everyone else having to deal with COVID for the last 18 months.

"Of course we haven't been able to compete internationally whilst other countries have, but we're confident we can surprise some teams."

Schumann said the competition break had been key in the pair reuniting as a team after winning gold on the Gold Coast in 2018.

"We have both been through so much in our lives in pursuit of this goal and to have it realised, is nothing short of a dream come true," he said.

"This Olympic cycle has included some of the biggest highs and lows of my volleyball career.

"Breaking into the top 20 teams in the world and having success at tournaments like the World Championships, Commonwealth Games, and now winning the most pressure-filled Asian qualifying tournament I have ever been a part of, has been a dream."

The competition will run from July 24 to August 7 at Shiokaze Park.

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