In their 12 seasons of international beach volleyball, cousins Marco and Esteban Grimalt have certainly achieved a lot. But by the end of the month, the Chilean Olympians will be able to add an entirely new line to their CVs when they compete at the first-ever Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Finals in Doha, Qatar from January 26-29.
Grimalts looking for more glory in Doha at the Beach Pro Tour Finals
Motivated by earning one of the wild cards for the event, the Chilean cousins are excited to return to the location of one of their most special victories
Опубликовано 09:00, 16 Jan 2023
The Finals of the inaugural Beach Pro Tour season will reunite the top ten men's and women's teams in a four-day event to be held at the stunning Aspire Park sports complex. There will be a massive 800,000 US Dollar prize purse.
Marco, 33, and Esteban, 31, have been among the top teams in the world for the last decade. They represented Chile at both the Rio 2016 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but missed the five editions of the FIVB World Tour Finals held from 2015 to 2021.
“We’ve been playing internationally for quite some time but it’s the first time we’ll play in the Finals and that feels really good,” Esteban told Volleyball World. “We’ve had very good moments, but, more often than not, we’d end the season between the 10th and 15th place and wouldn’t make it to the World Tour Finals. It’s something we’ve been trying to accomplish for some time and we’re really motivated to make the most of this opportunity.”
Until they could finally book their tickets to Doha, however, the Chileans had to be very patient. They were ranked ninth in the FIVB World Ranking after the Elite16 event in Torquay, Australia, narrowly missing out on a place in the top 8, which qualified teams automatically for the event. Although they were confident that they had a strong case to get one of the two wild cards, the Grimalts couldn’t relax until they saw their names confirmed on the entry list.
“We are really happy that we’ll be able to compete in the Finals,” Esteban added. “We were the ninth team in the World Rankings at the deadline and, although there were indications that we could get one of the wild cards because of that, we only celebrated when it was made official. We had already planned our end-of-year break and return to training based on the dates of the Finals, so it was really good to see we were indeed going.”
The trip to Doha and the chance to compete at the prestigious Beach Pro Tour Finals will come as a reward for the Chileans after they endured and ultimately overcame a handful of challenges during the season.
With Marco still recovering from knee surgery, the Grimalts clearly weren’t at their best level when the season started, finishing 33rd and 17th at the Tlaxcala Challenge and the Rosarito Elite16. They ended up finding their form to end the year on a high, however, with semifinal appearances at two of the three Elite16 events they appeared at (including their victory in Gstaad) and a top-ten finish at the 2022 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships.
“We started the season with a lot of questions and uncertainties,” Esteban recalled. “It took Marco a long time to recover and we didn’t start practising together until February. We had to slow down a little bit after he felt some pain in his knee and weren’t in our best form when the season started in Mexico. But once we recovered our rhythm our results kept improving and after we won gold in Gstaad and made it to the semifinals in Paris, we can say it was a really positive year for us. Winning in Gstaad was something special. It’s always been our favourite stop and it’s an event with a lot of tradition and prestige. It’s a day we’ll never forget, for sure.”
It won’t be the pair's first trip to Doha and it will be a special occasion for the Chileans, who won one of their four international beach volleyball golds in the Qatari capital back in 2019. That was, actually, one of the victories that meant the most to them.
“Doha is a special place for us,” Esteban remarked. “When we won the World Tour stop there in 2019, every top team in the world was competing at the event, so it was a big victory for us. We have had other good results there and even this season, I feel that the fifth place we got in Doha was pretty important for the turnaround we were able to make.”
Marco and Esteban know they will have tough competition from the other nine men’s teams confirmed to take part in the event. Their opponents will include Qatar’s Cherif Younousse/Ahmed Tijan, Norway's Anders Mol/Christian Sørum, the Netherlands’ Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen, Brazil’s Andre Loyola/George Wanderley and Vitor Felipe/Renato Lima, Poland’s Michal Bryl/Bartosz Losiak, Italy’s Paolo Nicolai/Samuele Cottafava and Adrian Carambula/Alex Ranghieri and the Czech Republic’s Ondrej Perusic/David Schweiner.
Because of that, they planned a quick break at the end of last year, but returned to the sand in December to be in their best form by the time of the event.
“We started preparing for the Finals quite some time ago now,” said Esteban. “We want to give our best and get the best possible result. Olympic qualification starts right after the Finals and we want to be well-positioned from the start and make the most of the first half of the 2023 season. We believe it will help us a lot in terms of qualifying for Paris.”