Two new Beach Pro Tour Elite 16 champions were crowned on a perfect summer day in Torquay, with two Australian teams also claiming spots on the men’s and women’s podiums.

Thomas Hodges (South Australia) and Zachery Schubert (Victoria) scored their best ever result at the Elite 16 event, finishing second just behind the French team of Youssef Krou and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat. 

Olympic silver medalists Taliqua Clancy (Queensland) and Mariafe Artacho del Solar (Queensland) also took home a medal, defeating team USA of Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth in the women’s bronze medal final. USA’s Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng claimed gold defeating compatriots Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles in straight sets.

At their first Elite 16 final, Hodges and Schubert fell just short of their dream of gold, but didn’t go down without a fight, conceding defeat against France only after two hard-fought, close sets.

“Our minds run straight after the game thinking about what we could have done and what we should have done, but to be honest Gauthier-Rat played amazing. He shot us off the court,” Schubert said.

“It was a close game, we had our opportunities, we just didn’t quite take them, but it was an amazing tournament and we’ve got to be proud with second.”

“I’ll never forget these games,” added Hodges. “These were some of the best crowds I’ve ever played in front of, whether it’s beach or indoor.

They really helped us when we were down by a few points, the crowd got behind us, they reinvigorated us and they gave us energy. It was an amazing game and France played unbelievable. Torquay turned the weather on for us today so we couldn’t have asked for much more,” he said.

The two Aussies came a long way, forming their partnership at the start of the year. In that period of time, they went from playing in the Beach Pro Tour third-tier, Future division, to standing on the podium at an Elite 16 event.

“We laughed about it before this event,” confessed Schubert. “We actually finished 12th at a Future event at the start of the year.”

“Tom has been the most supportive partner during this whole year. I came from a double knee surgery and I didn’t know whether I was going to play again. If you told me I would be here, playing for a gold medal and finishing second, I would have not believed you 12 months ago. It’s been an unbelievable season,” he said.

“We had to build a long way in our first season together, so you couldn’t really ask for much more to cap off the season with a silver medal at an Elite 16 at home,” echoed Hodges. 

“It’s been a massive journey for us. A lot of hard work, a lot of building, a lot of patience. A lot of learning to understand one another and knowing that it wasn’t going to come all at once. 

“Even if deep down you know you can get to this level, to get to the level of consistency that we have achieved in these past couple of months, in the amount of time we’ve done it, it is pretty amazing. We’re looking forward to building on that next year,” Hodges said.

In the women’s bronze medal final, Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy mounted a gutsy comeback to defeat Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth after the American duo had dominated the first set. In front of a roaring Torquay crowd, the two Olympians managed to take the match to a decider before they closed out the third set 15-13 to claim bronze.

“It feels amazing,” commented Artacho del Solar after the match. “It was a tough match. This is our second tough battle against them so we knew we had to bring our A-game, but it was just a matter of staying patient, just sticking at it until the end.” 

“They are a new combination on the tour and they’ve come out really strong,” Clancy added. 

“They definitely solidified themselves as one of the top teams on tour now. They are just incredibly crafty, they’ve got it all. We’ve faced them twice now and it’s always really great battles against them.”

“We definitely needed them [the Torquay crowd]. Torquay put on a show for us and really really helped us,” Clancy said.

Earlier in the day, the Italian team of Alex Ranghieri and Adrian Carambula had the best of Americans Paul Lotman and Miles Evans to win the men’s bronze medal, the second for the Italian pair in Torquay after claiming silver in the Challenge event last week.

Torquay hosted the last Elite 16 event of the season, with the Beach Pro Tour now making its way towards Doha, Qatar, where the inaugural Beach Pro Tour Finals will take place between 26-29 January, 2023, with Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy amongst the team qualified for the tour grand finale.

Torquay Elite 16 – Results

• Men’s gold medal final: Youssef Krou & Arnaud Gauthier-Rat (FRA) bt (AUS) Tom Hodges & Zach Schubert (AUS) 2-0 (22-20; 23-21)

• Men’s bronze medal final: Alex Ranghieri & Adrian Carambula (ITA) bt (USA) Paul Lotman and Miles Evans 2-0 (21-15, 21-16) 

• Women’s gold medal final: Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes (USA) v (USA) Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles 2-0 (21-17; 21-11)

• Women’s bronze medal final: Taliqua Clancy & Mariafe Artacho del Solar (AUS) bt (USA) Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth (USA) 2-1 (14-21, 21-19, 15-13)

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