Beach Volleyball Odd Couple Eye Games Gold

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Anna Harrington / AAP News

Four years after watching from the couch as Chris McHugh claimed Commonwealth Games gold, Paul Burnett is determined to help his new teammate defend his title in Birmingham.

McHugh, 32, triumphed on the Gold Coast with Damien Schumann but has recently teamed up with 24-year-old Games debutant Burnett.

“He was here in 2018 in Coolangatta and I was sitting on the couch watching him from Adelaide,” Burnett told reporters.

“So actually this time being here and being able to step on the court I don’t think will really kick in until we’re out there.

“But we’re hoping to be able to replicate what he did four years ago and get on that podium.”

McHugh delighted in the reinvigorating experience of competing alongside a young, exuberant teammate.

“Paul brings a lot of enthusiasm to the court and he’s kept me feeling quite young and springy this time around,” he said.

“Beach volleyball is one of the unique sports. It’s more like a marriage than anything. I see this guy more than my wife.

“For most of the year we’re sharing a twin room and he’s throwing thongs at my head when I’m snoring at 2 am.

“You get to know a person really, really well, but also with no coaching on the court as well, it’s one of those unique situations where you’re solely relying on each other to make decisions.”

McHugh backed the budding partnership to flourish in Birmingham.

“Our best volleyball is up there to compete with anybody in the world,” he said.

“We’re just trying to bring our best no matter who’s on the other side of the court, but confident that we can come away with gold as a team.”

McHugh and Burnett kick-off against the Maldives on Saturday (local time) before facing South Africa and Rwanda.

Meanwhile, women’s pairing Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar, silver medallists on the Gold Coast and at the Tokyo Olympics, are eyeing gold.

They face Sri Lanka on Sunday and also play Trinidad and Tobago and Cyprus in the group stage.

“It’s just banking all that experience that we have now as a team. That’s really the extra five per cent,” Clancy said.

“For the first match we definitely just in there focused on ourselves. You’ve got to ride the emotions too.

“We’ll definitely feel the nerves and I think it’s just embracing it, stepping into the moment enjoying seeing a crowd full of fans, which will be incredible.”

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