By Steve Keating
LIMA (Reuters) – Surf, sand, sun and fun are beach volleyball hallmarks but it was cold and gold at Pan Am Games on Tuesday as the United States and Chile claimed titles on a chilly, dreary afternoon on the Costa Verde.
The crowd at the Estadio Voleibol de Playa bundled up in fleecy jackets, woolly hats and scarfs to watch Karissa Cook and Jace Pardon of the U.S. rally for a 14-21 22-20 15-10 win over defending gold medalists Argentina.
It was a bad day for sunbathers and title holders alike as Chilean cousins Esteban and Marco Grimalt snatched the men’s gold from 2015 winners Mexico 21-19 22-24 15-10.
Lima offers plenty of thundering surf and wide expanses of sand but sun has been in short supply during the Peruvian winter that forced most athletes out of their swimsuits and into full body spandex.
While the weather may have been dull, the action was hot and atmosphere electric particularly during the women’s final where Cook and Pardon found themselves down a set and tied 20-20 in the second before mounting a comeback.
“Argentina came out really strong and I don’t think they ever let up,” said Cook. “I think it was just about us staying really gritty and even though we never felt it was beautiful volleyball we were playing we just found a way to score.”
Together since May, the new partnership has been a hugely successful one, the pair immediately winning a domestic tour title and cruising through the Pan Am tournament dropping just a single set along the way.
But while the Grimalts, who were the top-ranked team in Lima, immediately turned their focus towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Pardon and Cook will have to be satisfied with Pan Am gold.
“For Tokyo the beach volleyball qualifications have already started so we are not in hunt which is why we’re able to come here,” said Cook.
If Lima was not chilly enough, Cook’s next destination will be Argentina to take part in the last stop on the FIVB’s Snow Volleyball World Tour.
“I’m going to the snow tomorrow, flying to Bariloche,” laughed Cook.
Beach volleyball has been played in parking lots, like it was at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, and the Horse Guards Parade in central London for the 2012 Olympics and now the FIVB, world volleyball’s governing body, is working on its next cool thing — a snow volleyball World Tour.
Not everyone, however, is excited about the winter version. Canadians Aaron Nusbaum and Mike Plantinga, who lost the bronze medal contest to Argentina, may hail from the Great White North but insist snow is not for them.
“That’s definitely not for us,” assured Nusbaum. “It’s a growing sport and it is actually quite fun to watch but I don’t think it is anything I will be looking to do.”
(Editing by Toby Davis)