Australian quartet head to Rio with World Champ slots locked away

Australia’s Chris McHugh and Damien Schumann, and Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy, join the FIVB World Tour in Rio next week content in the knowledge they have qualified for this year’s World Championships in Vienna.

McHugh and Schumann locked away their berth when they finished runners-up at last weekend’s Qatar Masters, to add to the two bronze medals they picked up in two earlier Asian qualifying events in Thailand.

“”Definitely satisfied to have qualified a spot for Australia at the World Champs,” Schumann said.

“Any time we can get an Australian team to the World Champs can only help beach volleyball in this country.

“We were definitely not that happy with how we played in the Thailand semi finals, but it was a good sign that we could bounce back and win bronze medals in both those events. I think the best of the three tournaments was the last one in Qatar, but again it was disappointing not to win that third set of the final.”

Injuries to their regular playing partners brought McHugh and Schumann together post Rio, and it’s a combination that has so far worked well.

The pair won FIVB World Tour events in Shepparton and Sydney, as well as the Australian Tour finals in Sydney.

But McHugh said despite sealing the spot in Vienna the pair aren’t satisfied.

“We still as a team have a lot to work on and are very hungry for that top step of the podium,” he said.

“The three Asian Tour events that have made up the qualification period has been great for our team. It has definitely pushed us both mentally and physically each event to our limits.

“The quality of teams in Asia has gone through the roof and there are certainly no more easy games. As a team we have grown and developed but for sure there is more there for us to do and we look forward to putting it out there next week in Rio.

McHugh and Schumann are now in the box seat to be the Australian team at next year’s Commonwealth Games, when the sport will make its debut.

Longer term, they hope to help Australia back to the Olympic Games for the first time since 2008.

“The more and more we play with each other the better we are getting at instinctively knowing when to make little adjustments to passes/sets/defensive set ups, but in beach volleyball it’s always a bit of a work in progress,” Schumann said.

“Naturally qualifying for the Olympics would be a dream come true, but to be honest, we have all been focussing on the goals in front of us which was to firstly qualify for the World Champs, and keep working of course towards the Commonwealth Games selections.”

Australia is also guaranteed to have at least one women’s team at the World Championships, with Rio Olympians Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy sealing their qualification through the Asian qualifiers.