Steve Larkin / AAP News
The Aussie duo of Chris McHugh and Paul Burnett have held their nerve to win the men’s beach volleyball gold medal at Birmingham 2022.
Australia’s beach volleyball men claimed a gallant gold but the women’s pairing Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy have again fallen at the final hurdle at the Commonwealth Games.
Hours after Chris McHugh and Paul Burnett’s stirring comeback win, del Solar and Clancy were defeated in their gold medal match – just as they were four years ago.
And just as at the 2018 Gold Coast Games, del Solar and Clancy lost to the same Canadian duo, Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, who prevailed 22-24 21-17 15-12.
McHugh and Burnett came from a set down and saved two match points to prevail over Canada’s Sam Schachter and Daniel Dearing in a thriller, 17-21 21-17 20-18.
McHugh captured the sport’s inaugural Commonwealth medal on the Gold Coast four years ago with Damien Schumann as his partner.
In 2018, the McHugh-Schumann combination also beat a Canadian pairing – Schachter and Sam Pedlow – in a tight three-set tussle.
“It’ s hard to put it into words – being back-to-back Commonwealth Games gold medallist in beach volleyball is something really special,” McHugh said.
The Aussies lost the first set, hit back in the second, and then prevailed in a dramatic deciding set.
With the scores locked at 12-12, referee Giovanni Bake was baked in temperatures that ground staff said approached 40 degrees on court.
It was 24 degrees in the shade when Bake wobbled on his perch and was helped down by McHugh and Canada’s Schachter.
“In 15 years of volleyball, I have never had that happen,” McHugh said.
Canada soon had two championships points. The Australians saved both despite 24-year-old Burnett saying his nerves were jangling “pretty high”.
“Sometimes you’re able to control the nerves better than others … we were able to do it today.”
The Aussies then had three match points of their own saved before making a golden cash-in on their fourth.
“It’s incredible. This is why we play, to chase feelings l ike this,” Burnett said.
In the women’s final at night, del Solar and Clancy raced to an early four-point break in a seesawing first set before the Canadians struck back.
The Australians saved two set points and then closed it out but their momentum then stalled as the Canadians took the last two sets and the gold medal