Chris McHugh and Damien Schumann will be Australia’s first male Olympic beach volleyballers since 2008, with the pair selected by the Australian Olympic Committee today.
Schumann and McHugh join women’s pair Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy to complete the four-strong Australian Beach Volleyball team for Tokyo.
Coached by Andrew Schacht, Australia’s last male beach volleyball Olympian in 2008, and Simon Naismith, the pair secured Australia’s return to the Olympic arena by winning the Asian Volleyball Continental Cup in Thailand in late June.
The tournament, featuring two teams from each participating country, saw Schumann and McHugh and teammates Max Guehrer and Zach Schubert beat Indonesia in the final tie to secure a single Australian team spot for Tokyo.
The pair won Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 and had an undefeated 2020-2021 summer, providing the perfect base to claim the last remaining Asian volleyball quota spot in Thailand.
Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic Team Ian Chesterman welcomed the athletes to the Australian Olympic Team.
“Congratulations Chris and Damien, today is a fantastic reward for decades of striving towards this Olympic goal,” Chesterman said.
“It’s fantastic to have an Australian men’s beach volleyball team back at the Olympics for the first time since Beijing. For these players to have come so close on several occasions and to keep coming back hungrier than before is a testament to the character of both these players.
“I know you will represent Australia proudly both on and off the sand, and you will have millions of Australians cheering you on from back home. While they are in hotel quarantine after returning from their qualifying tournament, I know Chris and Damien will be celebrating virtually with their families, friends and teammates who have helped them reach this moment.
“Thank you to Volleyball Australia for helping young volleyballers chase their Olympic dreams and to the other squad members who also helped qualify this spot and ensure we will have a men’s and women’s team on the sand in Tokyo.”
31-year-old McHugh said being selected to represent Australia at the Tokyo Olympic Games is a humbling experience.
“I am so excited to be going to my first Olympic Games and this is a realisation of a dream which I have had since I was a child,” McHugh said.
“This Olympic cycle has been one of the most challenging periods of my life and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I have become a father (to Jack) and we are expecting another child in October after the Games. I’ve had a shoulder reconstruction, four knee surgeries in 10 months, won a Commonwealth Games gold medal, switched teams twice and then like everyone else having to deal with covid for the last 18 months.
“The Covid break is a period of time I would not take back as it gave me the time to spend with my young family without travel and work on my body which is now in the best shape it has been in for a very long time. Of course we haven’t been able to compete internationally whilst other countries have, but we’re confident we can surprise some teams.
“We will not only be representing ourselves but