Beach volleyball is making its return to the Olympic Games program in Tokyo later this month, with Chris McHugh and Damien Schumann selected to represent Australia in the men’s side of the fixture.
McHugh and Schumann will become the nation’s first male beach volleyballers to compete at an Olympic Games since 2008, joining the already-announced Australian women’s beach volleyball team of Mariafe Artacho de Solar and Taliqua Clancy.
The team, who gained entry to Tokyo by winning the Asian Volleyball Continental Cup late last month, is coached by the country’s last male beach volleyball Olympian, Andrew Schacht, as well as Simon Naismith.
The pairing of McHugh and Schumann carries great form into Tokyo, winning gold at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2019, while also having an undefeated 2020/21 season.
Ian Chesterman, Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic Team said it was good to see the country send a men’s beach volleyball team in the sport’s readmission to the games.
“It’s fantastic to have an Australian men’s beach volleyball team back at the Olympics for the first time since Beijing,” Chesterman said.
“For these players to have come so close on several occasions and to keep coming back hungrier than before is a testament to the character of both these players.
“Thank you to Volleyball Australia for helping young volleyballers chase their Olympic dreams and to the other squad members who also helped qualify this spot and ensure we will have a men’s and women’s team on the sand in Tokyo.”
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For 31-year-old Olympic debutant McHugh, he said to be selected was a dream come true after many stressful moments throughout the last few years.
“I am so excited to be going to my first Olympic Games and this is a realisation of a dream which I have had since I was a child,” McHugh said.
“This Olympic cycle has been one of the most challenging periods of my life and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
“I have become a father 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.
“We will not only be representing ourselves but our families, support staff and of course the other members of the men’s beach volleyball team who without them we would not be in this privileged position.”
33-year-old Schumann echoed McHugh’s sentiments of there being a lot of hard work involved to be selected but was looking forward to the challenge in Tokyo.
“It’s completely surreal, it’s been a lifetimes worth of work aiming for this,” Schumann said.
“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.
“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.
“It’s extremely special to be the first men’s team to qualify since our coach Andrew Schacht was there in Beijing. It’s even more satisfying to know that as a country we climbed our own little Everest!
I say we, because I have been so lucky to have wonderful coaches not only over the last five years, but back in Melbourne, as well as a wonderful wife and family who have supported me through so much.”
Craig Marshall, Volleyball Australia National Performance Director remarked that today’s announcement is a testament to the hard work of both McHugh and Schumann.
“After a strong performance by our men to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games last week, we are looking forward to our women’s team of Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho Del Solar, and our men’s team of Chris McHugh and Damien Schumann representing Australia in Tokyo,” Marshall said.
“They have been gearing up to put their finest out on the court for this exciting, challenging and unique Olympic Games.
“Our preparation has been very different for these Olympic Games compared to others due to the COVID-19 pandemic and these Games will be like no other that has come before.
“Our teams are ready and enthusiastic to strive for their best and I know Australia will be proud of their fighting performances in Tokyo.”
Australian Beach Volleyball Team
|Mariafe Artacho de Solar||27||2nd (2016)||QLD|
|Taliqua Clancy||28||2nd (2016)||QLD|
Beach volleyball begins on July 24 to August 7 at Shiokaze Park.
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