Monday, 26 February 2024

International Volleyball

Perusic, Gottardi steal show at 2023 Beach Pro Tour Player Awards

Perusic, Gottardi steal show at 2023 Beach Pro Tour Player Awards

The 2023 Beach Pro Tour season was a long and winding and wonderful and wacky one. New hierarchies were established — hello, Ana Patricia and Duda — and old ones broken down, or at least put into question. Who, for example, is the best men’s team in the world? Is it still Norway, they of eight medals in nine events, or is it the World Champion Czech Republic…or the Beach Pro Tour Finals claiming Swedes, with their Tour leading four gold medals?

For the first time since 2018, we genuinely don’t know.

Young talent burst onto the scene, not least of all Miles Partain, the 21-year-old Jedi returning the force to USA Volleyball. Three medals did he and Andy Benesh win, all at Elite16 tournaments, including a gold in Gstaad. Combined with the six medals won by David Ahman and another two from Italian sensation Valentina Gottardi, 11 medals were won by 21-year-olds.

The old guard, too, held up just fine. The first tournament of the season, in La Paz? Won by 41-year-old Pablo Herrera, whose first win came in 2004. When Partain was 3.

Comebacks, too, were made. Three-time Olympian Chen Xue of China thought she might have to retire in the wake of the Tokyo Olympic Games. After a successful surgery and a reinvigoration, she returned to the Beach Pro Tour at the Itapema Challenge, winning gold in her first event back with her old but new partner, Xinyi Xia.

Dutch defender Yorick de Groot, too, made an impressive comeback. He was never in danger of retiring, but a hernia kept him out of much of the 2022 season. How’d he do in his return with Stefan Boermans? A bronze medal in La Paz.

Comebacks were made on the court as well. Twice, teams found themselves down 8-14 in the third set. Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles marched all the way back in the Montreal Elite16 quarterfinals against Duda and Ana Patricia, stunning the world No. 1 on their way to a silver medal. Austrians Moritz Pristauz and Robin Seidl, too, stared down the barrel of an 8-14 deficit in the Goa Challenge finals. No problem: They would win 17-15, claiming their first of two gold medals on the season.

Indeed, it has been as unpredictable year as one could hope.

One more than deserving of post-season awards, which were halted in 2020 on the FIVB and never revived until now.

The process for these awards was a week-long nomination process, where athletes in the International Beach Volleyball Players…

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