Wild scenes as veterans claim gold on the sand
IT'S been an icon for ironmen for decades but the Coolangatta Gold belonged to Australian beach volleyballers Chris McHugh and Damien Schumann after an epic victory in the Commonwealth Games decider on Thursday night.
McHugh and Schumann played the game of their lives to down Canada in a three-set nail-biter and win a historic gold medal on the famous Coolangatta beach.
After Australia won the first set and Canadian pair Sam Pedlow and Sam Schachter fought back to claim the second, the two teams went into a nerve-racking third set.
In a see-sawing battle, Canada appeared to have edged into a winning position when they went up 12-9 in the race to 15.
But Schumann and McHugh dug in, clawed back the lead and on their third gold medal point, Canada sent the ball into the net. Jubilant scenes unfolded and the Aussie pair, who began playing together only after the Rio Olympics, embraced on the sand in front of a wild home crowd.
It was the first men's beach volleyball gold medal in the Commonwealth Games and a fitting reward for McHugh and Schumann, two long-serving veterans of the Aussie volleyball.
"I actually can't believe that just happened," a stunned Schumann said post-match.
"When we were down 9-12 I think we were just like: 'Oh well, let's find out, let's see what happens, let's see if we can do it'.
"I can't actually believe that. "
McHugh, who has a tradition of kissing his shorter teammate on the head for luck before every game, paid tribute to Schumann.
"Damo did really well, I am really proud of him and a big thanks to everyone who came out, the crowd got us over the line. Couldn't be happier," McHugh said.
McHugh's power and height at the net was again a huge factor, but Schumann's returns off service were so precise he was able to set for his partner to smash a winner with the second hit, and not allow Canada to block his attacks.
Men's beach volleyball has taken a back seat to the Aussie women's game since the 2000 Olympics but McHugh said he was stoked Australia could see such a high-quality match - and a home town win.
"Those guys (Canada) are so good, they are a top-10 team in the world for a reason and for the public to see a good quality, live, prime time, it warms our heart because we often don't get to do this in Australia," McHugh said.
"We are often overseas somewhere where no one knows what is going on. So, yeah, we are happy."