Lucerne, Switzerland, May 12, 2016 – Issa Batrane and Harry Jones have won only two out of three matches at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships U21 so far, but the English qualifiers are still having the time of their life.
Not only are they blown away by the Swiss hospitality in Lucerne, playing at the World Champs is a dream come true, says Jones (18). A dream that was inspired by the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“I think the Olympics have been a massive source of inspiration for me”, says Jones. “It was awesome. I was able to get some tickets and I was able to go and watch the most amazing beach volleyball I have ever seen in my life. I was fourteen or something and that inspired me to push on for the last four years and to be here at the World Champs.”
His partner Batrane (18) totally agrees. “For me it was definitely inspiring. I mostly got to go to indoor games. I was more an indoor player and I have switched over to beach in the last couple of years. Watching that and meeting some of the players was a great inspiration to be the next generation to do this.”Lucky losers
Jones and Batrane started their first FIVB age-group World Championships on Wednesday with qualification. They beat Greece, but lost in the final round to Poland. On the verge of going home they were added to the main draw at the last moment, as lucky losers.
Seeded 31st in pool play their first match on Thursday was against the second seeded Russians Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Artem Yarzutkin, who also happen to be the reigning youth olympic champions. The English team lost 2-0 (21-12, 21-14).
Batrane: “It was a tough game playing against the Russians. It’s a very strong team, one of the top seeds in this competition. And you can tell by their physicality and their ball skills. But we tried to play our game, tried to give them some discomfort. And we saw it was not clicking with them all the time, so we’re quite happy with the way we played and taking this with us to tomorrow.”
Being a ‘tiny’ bit shorter than tall 2.05 metres tall Stoyanovskiy, did not make it any easier for Jones (1.84m). “It makes things more difficult when you’re both not that tall, because we’re less physical so we have to rely more on our ball control and defence. But we try loads of different stuff, trying things other teams are not used to. A lot is in our mindset, we try to stay aggressive. And the more aggressive we feel, the more impressive we will be on court.”
The other two pool matches are scheduled for Friday, against Argentina and China. Batrane: “Ideally we want to get out of our group. So tomorrow we have two games against China and Argentina. So we’re going go back with the team, get the game plan sorted out and watch a couple of their games and see what we can do to cause the next two teams some more discomfort and hopefully take a win.”Swiss hospitality
Meanwhile the boys are enjoying being part of the beach volleyball scene and the amazing venue at the shore of Lake Lucerne. “Lucerne is definitely the nicest place I have ever played beach volleyball”, Jones says. “The scenery, the whole set up, the tournament organizers, everyone has just been amazing.”
“It’s just such a friendly environment”, he continues. “Everybody just understands beach volleyball so well. It just makes such a difference when you’re playing, that was one thing we were so grateful for when we were offered the lucky losers. That we got to stay here another two days. Soaking all the atmosphere - literally soaking with all the rain - and go from there. I am happy to hang around here for a bit longer.”
Batrane: “Definitely one of the most beautiful places I have been to personally. I love it here. The scenery with the mountains in the backdrop, the courts and the way it’s been set up. With all the volunteers and helpers, which we are thankful for. It has made our stay really welcoming and easy.”Quick linksFIVB Beach Volleyball U21 World Championships Lucerne 2016Men - Qualification resultsWomen - Qualification resultsMen - Main draw resultsWomen - Main draw results