It took them three attempts, but Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan will leave the Cancun Hub with gold medals around their necks. Silver medallists in the first two FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour 4-star events at the Playa Delfines, the Qataris climbed another step on the podium on Sunday as they won the third and final tournament in Mexico.
After losing back-to-back finals to Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum, the 25-year-old Cherif and the 26-year-old Ahmed remained strong and secured the title of the final tournament on Mexican sand with a 2-0 (21-15, 21-12) win against Russians Konstantin Semenov and Ilya Leshukov.
“It’s great that we finally managed to reach our goal, but we weren’t rushing anything”, Cherif commented. “We trust the process and we know it’s a long-term process. We just remained patient and tried to play better than the tournaments before, we weren’t even thinking about the gold, but we are really thankful that we won it. We are physically and mentally exhausted now, but we kept our focus as strong as we could and that made the difference.”
It was the first victory for the Qataris together in a 4-star event and just their second as a team, following their triumph in a 1-star tournament in Doha in February. Cherif and Ahmed have won more medals than any other men’s team in 2021, with two golds and two silvers in five tournaments.
“It’s a historical moment for us,” said Cherif, who was very emotional after the final point. “It’s the first gold for us in a four-star event and it feels amazing. To make it to three finals in three weeks and to get the gold at the end, it’s unbelievable. We just kept fighting, that's what we did."
American veterans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena won their first World Tour medal since March 2019 as they finished third in Cancun after defeating Italians Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi 2-0 (21-19, 21-15) in the bronze medal match.
“I think we handled the skyball better in the second set than we did in the first,” Dalhausser said. “It’s such a game-changer, especially in this wind. The ball moves probably five meters from where it starts and it’s a really tough pass.”
The Americans had a good run during their three weeks in Mexico and added a third and two nine-place finishes to their Olympic totals, results that might prove pivotal to their hopes of competing at the Tokyo Games in less than three months.
“We put ourselves in a better position,” Lucena added. “But our goal is just to continue to get better and hopefully when we get to Tokyo we’re playing at our best. We’re so grateful to be here in Mexico and have these events. We had such a great time and the promoter was so great.”
Team Qatar also rank in the ninth place in the classification of the teams that will qualify directly for the next Olympic Games in Japan, after achieving 7000 points.
After Cancun, the World Tour heads to Sofia, Bulgaria, for a double-gender, 1-star event from May 20-23.