Maldives - challenge - Beach Pro Tour 2022 - News


Exactly two weeks prior to Sunday’s final of the Beach Pro Tour Challenge event in the Maldives, the world was warned that Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum were, in their own words, “back.” In a strange summer that has included three gold medals but also three forfeited tournaments, Mol and Sorum resumed their dominant form to which we’ve all become so familiar, winning gold in the Paris Elite16.

On Sunday, while Cherif Younousse Samba and Ahmed Tijan may not have physically spoken the words “we’re back,” they didn’t much need to. The Qataris were positively dominant in the gold medal match, sweeping Americans Chase Budinger and Troy Field, 21-17, 21-15, in a match they controlled from start to finish, in a style and setting that was very reminiscent of the Cancun four-stars a year and a half ago.

Hot and humid? Check. Windy and occasionally rainy? Check. In Cancun, under those hot and humid and breezy conditions, Ahmed and Cherif flew up the world rankings, making three straight finals, also winning the third event, which marked their first major gold medal as a team (their first came in a one-star at home in Doha two months prior). After, they made finals in Sochi and Gstaad, and claimed the first beach volleyball Olympic medal in Qatari history, winning bronze.

But after a finals appearance at the Jurmala Elite16 in early June, the podiums have been strangely absent for Ahmed and Cherif. They finished ninth at the World Championships, ninth again in Gstaad – both times they were eliminated by Brazil’s Bruno and Saymon – and fifth in Paris. For four months, they went without a medal, their longest in-season drought since 2019.

All of that changed on Sunday, when Samba and Tijan came back to defeat Sweden’s David Ahman and Jonatan Hellvig in the semifinals, 15-21, 21-12, 15-13, then followed it up by knocking off their third American team in four matches.

And while Budinger and Field didn’t win gold, simply making it to the final was no small accomplishment for an American federation suffering from an unprecedented shortage of medals. Sunday marked the first day in nearly three years that an American men’s team appeared in the final of a top-tier event – top-tier being four-star and above, and Challenge and above – since Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb won gold at the Chetumal four-star in November of 2019. Their silver is also the first medal won by an American team since Gibb and Crabb’s gold in Mexico.

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Sweden, despite a season shortened by injury, has had no such shortage of success this year. The bronze won by Ahman and Hellvig, defeating Ukraine's Sergiy Popov and Eduard Reznik, is their second medal on the Beach Pro Tour this season, to go along with victories at the European Championship and U22 European Championship. Not bad for only seven tournaments’ worth of work, as the Maldives was the first Beach Pro Tour event for Ahman and Hellvig since the Ostrava Elite16.

All three medal-winners will be bound for Dubai, which will be hosting back-to-back Challenge events, with play beginning Saturday.