If you like sport, you have probably already heard the phrase “staying at the top is harder than getting there”. And Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan are well aware of the challenges ahead as they begin the 2022 international beach volleyball season.
Ahmed: “We’ll fight to stay at the top”
Qatari beach volleyball athlete Ahmed Tijan and partner Cherif Younousse will defend their position in the world rankings when the Beach Pro Tour begins in March.
Опубликовано 10:00, 15 Feb 2022
The 26-year-old Qataris claimed top spot in the world rankings before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, and managed to hold on to that ranking until the end of last year. A lot will change in international beach volleyball in 2022 with the start of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour, but Cherif and Ahmed expect their position to remain unchanged.
“It’s a long process, it’s not something easy,” Cherif said in an interview to The Peninsula Qatar. “There were ups and downs, but we just kept working hard. And to be at the top is not easy. Staying at the top is what is most difficult. I mean, last year we were really looking to be consistent at every tournament, trying to achieve at least the same result, or something better. That is the main thing that helped us to be at the top of the world.”
Although it didn’t directly interfere with their position in the world rankings, the Tokyo Games contributed to establishing the Qataris’ image as an elite team in international beach volleyball. Ahmed and Cherif entered the tournament in Japan as the number one team in the world and even though they didn’t finish top of the podium, they claimed a historic bronze medal for their country and cemented their place in the elite of the sport.
“It’s a great feeling,” Cherif added. “(The) Olympics are the top event in the world and every athlete wants to play. It was an honour for us to attend and to win something for Qatar. We were able to put on a really good performance and before the tournament started it was announced that we were the number ones. Being No. 1s and playing at such an event was not an easy weight to carry. It was an honour to be there, but we wanted more.”
Outside the courts, however, Cherif and Ahmed accomplished exactly what they hoped for at the Olympics. Their unprecedented result boosted beach volleyball’s popularity in their country.
“After we won the medal, we felt great,” the blocker commented. “Now we get so much support from the fans, and people really recognise us more and more. We received greetings from the Olympic Committee, from the media in Qatar, and especially after the Olympics, we felt that people really started to get interested in the sport.”
Their challenge, then, is to win a few Elite 16 tournaments in 2022, starting in Rosarito, Mexico, in March, and to retain that top spot in the world ranking to continue to make their country proud.
“It’s not like we feel as if we are better than other competitors,” Ahmed reflected. “There is no favouritism for us, we are all the same. The competition’s level is also very high, so it’s a matter of one small mistake. There are a lot of teams that can challenge us and there are always surprises, which sometimes you don’t see. But we are always ready for those challenges. We are ready both mentally and physically. It is not easy to be at the top. You need to fight a lot to stay there.”