Phuket, Thailand, November 27, 2021 – Australians Christopher McHugh/Paul Burnett and Thailand’s Taravadee Naraphornrapat/Worapeerachayakorn Kongphopsarutawadee underlined their domination at the 2021 Asian Senior Beach Volleyball Championships at Bang Tao Beach here on Saturday, with McHugh extending his aura of invincibility to unchallenged fifth time in the top-tier competition.

McHugh, 32, who landed the gold medal at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games with partner Damien Schumann, has already captured the Asian title for four times including three (2012, 2014 and 2016) with Isaac Kapa and one with Schumann in 2020. He also competed in the Tokyo Olympic Games with Schumann and with the partner retiring after the Tokyo 2020, McHugh partnered up-and-coming star Burnett for the first time in Phuket.

Fresh from causing a major upset on the penultimate day of the intense contest against Cherif Younousse/Ahmed Tijan from Qatar with an exceptional 2-0 win over the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games bronze medallists and FIVB World No.1 in the highly-anticipated semifinal clash, the formidable Aussies set up a final showdown with Iranians Bahman Salemi/Abolhassan Khakizadeh.

The Australian third seeds showcased their resilience through spectacular blocking and powerful jump serves from McHugh, while the Iranians found the rivals too strong to go down 16-21, 13-21 in just 32 minutes. The last point of the showdown saw McHugh let out a jubilant shouting as he saw a serve from Khakizadech landing outside the court, behind the baseline. He hugged his partner Burnett and celebrated the victory with compatriots supporting them at the venue.

With the sensational win, McHugh and Burnett handed Australia the 5th Asian title on Saturday, with McHugh alone winning them all for the country. For the superb Australian duo, it was a perfect run in the top-flight five-day contest as they did not drop a single set to any rival prior to standing on the top level of the victory podium.

The win also smashed Khakizadeh’s dreams of making hattrick in Thailand as the 19-year-old Iranian has already captured both Asian U19 and U21 Championships early this year in Nakhon Pathom, while Salemi also left the competition site with his head low in disappointment as he failed to repeat the feat in the 2017 Asian Championships in Songkhla, Thailand, where he teamed up with Rahman Raoufi to reign supreme.

In the men’s third-place playoff clash earlier, Qatari second seeds Cherif/Ahmed, who had won the Asian title for two times on the trot in 2018 and 2019 as well as the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, were superior in every department against Dmitriy Yakovlev/Sergey Bogatu to cruise past the Kazakh pairing 21-15, 21-15 in 35 minutes for the bronze medal.

In the women’s event, Thai fourth seeds Taravadee Naraphornrapat/Worapeerachayakorn Kongphopsarutawadee were on cloud nine on Saturday as they survived a huge scare from Japanese second seeds Miki Ishii/Sayaka Mizoe to pull off a hard-fought 29-27, 21-19 win in exhausting 54 minutes in the thrilling gold-medal match.

Ishii’s high hope of making the maiden victory in the Asian Championships evaporated again this time. The Tokyo 2020 Olympian had the third place at the previous edition to her name as she teamed up with Megumi Murakami to beat Sayaka Mizoe/Takemi Nishibori in the all-Japanese bronze-medal match last year in Udon Thani, Thailand.

The unheralded victory in the Asian meet in Phuket ended the host country’s 13-year gold-medal drought in the continent’s biggest annual competition. Thailand had already claimed the Asian title for three times in 2005, 2007 and 2008 but never won gold medal since then. Varapatsorn Radarong and Tanarattha Udomchavee came close to winning gold in 2013 and 2014, but went down to China and Australia in the showdowns to claim silver in both editions.

“It was one of the most difficult matches I have competed so far and I admit that I had much pressure while competing in this match. However, I told myself to play my game and tried to avoid making any mistake,” said Taravadee after the match.

“I was very happy to win the Asian title. It’s the biggest tournament I have won. I think we still have a lot of things to do after this and to qualify for the Paris Olympic Games, we have to start participating in the World Tour. Every Thai team trained hard in preparation for the Asian Championships here and we have to continue doing so after this,” she added.

Meanwhile, Australians Phoebe Bell/Georgia Johnson put on a great display against Shaunna Polley/Alice Zeimann, winnners at the FIVB One-Star event in Cortegaca, Portugal last month, to put it past the strong Kiwis 21-17, 22-20 in 40 minutes in the women’s bronze medal match.

Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew and Thailand Volleyball Association President Mr Somporn Chaibangyang jointly presided over the awards presentation and the closing ceremony, with AVC Executive Director Mr Shanrit Wongprasert, himself AVC Honorary Life Vice President, in attendance as guest of honour.

Australian Christopher McHugh/Paul Burnett and Thailand’s Taravadee Naraphornrapat/Worapeerachayakorn Kongphopsarutawadee, respective newly-crowned men’s and women’s champions, received Champions’ Trophies plus US$7,500 cash prize apiece.

Iranians Bahman Salemi/Abolhassan Khakizadeh and Japan’s Miki Ishii/Sayaka Mizoe, who picked up silver medals in respective men’s and women’s events, took home trophies and cash prize of US$6,000 each.

Qataris Cherif Younousse/Ahmed Tijan and Australians Phoebe Bell/Georgia Johnson, bronze medallists in the respective men’s and women’s events, received trophies plus cash prize of US$4,500 apiece.





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