For Chris McHugh, the past nine months or so have been frustrating, to say the least, with two knee surgeries impacting on time spent on the court with
new partner, Zac Schubert.
Despite their limited time together, McHugh and Schubert won the South Australian Open and the Australia Day long weekend carnival in Cobram.
The early signs are that this new combination will be a success. Beyond wins in Australia, McHugh and Schubert finished fifth in a 3-Star event in China. But the momentum was halted with McHugh suffering a knee strain the following weekend.
Twenty-nine-year-old Chris says he is excited by the new partnership with Zac who is one of the emerging talents in Australian beach volleyball. Coincidently, both emerged through the South Australian Volleyball program.
It has been a roller coaster ride for the Australian men’s beach volleyball teams.
McHugh’s partnership with Damien Schumann came to an end two months after they won an historic gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. That partnership had reached a high of ninth at the 2017 World Titles. The move was instigated by Volleyball Australia in an attempt to qualify two Australian men’s beach volleyball teams for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
That campaign effectively moves into overdrive with the 3-Star FIVB World Beach Tour event as part VolleyFest 2019 at Manly Beach from 1 to 10 March. The event is the first 3-Star tournament of the year, with Olympic qualification points on offer.
Damien Schumann is now playing with Cole Durant. All four players train against each other on a daily basis in South Australia with the VA Beach Volleyball National Training Centre.
Chris says there is no animosity, with all four good friends off the court. But he predicts there will be a little more intensity if they are drawn to play each other at VolleyFest, which includes the Australian Championships in the first part of the week, with the World Tour event towards the back half.
McHugh says one of the key aspects he is looking forward to is how his combination with Zac develops. Both players are still working out how they react emotionally under pressure, “We just need to play more tournaments together, we need to string games together.” McHugh believes the best is yet to come.