By David McPherson
It took every bit of three sets and every reserve of talent Australia could draw on, but Chris McHugh and Damien Schumann have become the first ever Commonwealth Games beach volleyball gold medallists.
With their backs against the wall and trailing 12-9 in a race to 15 in the third and final set, the Australian pair entered a realm that only a few select sportsmen can understand.
“It’s hard to describe those sorts of pressure-filled moments,” Schumann said.
“You can just feel you heart pumping and the adrenaline coursing. You’re not sore, you’re not fatigued, you’re not tired. Your eyes go a little bit wider and you’re just ready for anything.
“There’s no steadiness when it gets to that place in the game.”
His partner McHugh was feeling the same pressure.
“I think the biggest memory I had at the back end of the third set was thinking don’t stuff it up and don’t serve it into the net.
“Everybody has those thoughts at some point in the match and you’ve just got to find yourself to believe in the team and yourself.”
McHugh didn’t stuff it up. He didn’t serve it into the net either. In fact, he did quite the opposite.
It was his presence at the net that forced an error to decide the match.
“I don’t even know how that happened,” he says.
“I couldn’t get a block to save myself. I got a couple of good block touches and Damo was able to get them up. We had to keep persevering at the net and in defence and making them play another ball.”
The golden partnership of McHugh and Schumann that toppled one of the world’s leading teams on the sands of Coolangatta beach was born of circumstance.
“We were pretty much the last men standing after Rio,” McHugh says.
“There was a couple of injuries in the program and we had a chance to play with each other. We chatted with the coaches but also with each other as well [when deciding to give the partnership a go].”
Now the pair are champions of the Commonwealth. The first beach volleyball players to ever hold that title.
“That’s crazy man, how cool’s that?” Schumann says.