Pairs from China and Iran were also among the medallists
New Zealand’s Alani Nicklin and Bradley Fuller (pictured above; credits: phototek.co.nz), benefitting from FIVB Volleyball Empowerment support, took the men’s silver at the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Wenzhou Cangnan Futures in China last week.
China’s Wu Jiaxin and Ha Likejiang triumphed as tournament winners, while the bronze went to Abbas Pourasgari and Alireza Aghajanighasab of Iran. An all-Chinese podium shaped up in the women’s tournament topped by Zeng Jinjin and Lin MeiMei and completed by Wang Xinxin and Zhu Lingdi with silver and Yan Xu and Zhou Mingli with bronze.
Representing New Zealand, whose national beach volleyball duos have already been allocated a total amount of CHF 252,000 for Volleyball Empowerment coach support, 28-year-old Nicklin and 27-year-old Fuller earned their first Beach Pro Tour medal as a pair. Last year, Fuller had a Giardini Naxos Futures gold and a Balikesir Futures silver with Sam O’Dea, while Nicklin had a Balikesir Futures bronze with Thomas Hartles.
After stopping at the quarterfinals of all four of their previous appearances on the Beach Pro Tour as a team, this time Nicklin and Fuller went all the way to the final. Seeded eighth in the 16-team main draw, the Kiwis started off with a loss in their first pool match, but then went on a four-game winning streak crowned by a 2-0 (21-17, 21-14) semifinal victory over Iran’s Abbas Pourasgari and Alireza Aghajanighasab.
Nicklin and Fuller’s victory run was stopped in the final by the top-seeded home pair. 30-year-old Wu Jiaxin and Ha Likejiang mastered a 2-0 (21-15, 21-17) win over the New Zealanders to celebrate their fourth gold and fifth podium on the Beach Pro Tour. They went through their five games in Wenzhou Cangnan undefeated, dropping only a set along the way, in their quarterfinal encounter with another Volleyball Empowerment-supported pair from New Zealand, John McManaway and Thomas Reid. In the semifinals, the Chinese standouts produced an emphatic 2-0 (21-14, 21-9) straight-setter against compatriots Wang Yanwei and Li Jie.
Third-seeded Pourasgari and Aghajani finished with the bronze after a 2-0 (21-18, 21-19) sweep of the third-place match against Wang and Li. It was the first Beach Pro Tour appearance and the first Beach Pro Tour podium for the Iranian pairing of 34-year-old Pourasgari and 24-year-old Aghajani as a duo.
The women’s gold…