Virgen will be the most accomplished Mexican player in action at the World Championship

Host country Mexico will have 12 players in action at the 2023 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship in Tlaxcala from October 6-15 and all of them are counting the days for the start of the event, including veteran Juan Virgen.

A Rio 2016 Olympian, the 36-year-old Virgen will have a major role in the tournament, not only representing Mexico’s main hopes of a good result alongside partner Miguel Sarabia, but also leading the country’s young group of players in the biggest event of the year.

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Virgen, who’s been playing internationally since 2006, has appeared in each edition of the World Championship since 2013, but he’s particularly excited with his first opportunity to play such a big event in front of his home fans.

“I’m really excited and honored to play an edition of the World Championship at home,” Virgen told Volleyball World. “I honestly never thought I’d have an opportunity to do it and that was only made possible because of the several Beach Pro Tour the country hosted over the last few years. I’m sure it’s going to be a huge success as the fans are very excited and can’t wait for the start of the matches to support all the teams.”

Players from around the world and him know exactly what to expect from the Tlaxcala fans as the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour hosted its historic first-ever event in the Mexican city, at the start of 2022.

During the five days of competition, players and fans enjoyed a festive atmosphere inside and outside the Tlaxcala bullring and that will probably be taken to another level at the World Championship as a secondary venue will be set at the Plaza de la Constitución and bullrings at neighboring cities Apizaca and Huamantla will also host matches.

“We played last year in Tlaxcala and it was a crazy atmosphere from start to finish,” he recalled. “The local people were a bit incredulous that such a big event was coming to their city, especially because the ocean is not there, but once the teams started arriving, it all changed and the atmosphere was unbelievable. For the Mexican teams, it will be a unique opportunity to play such a big tournament in front of our fans at the bullrings and to feel the support of our people.”

Centre court in Tlaxcala (photo: Tupak Cilia leal.)

The bullring in Tlaxcala will host matches of the World Championship

In his 18 years of international competition, Virgen has appeared in 132 events, more than all of the other 11 Mexican players set to represent their country at the World Championship combined.

The veteran’s tremendous experience gives him a key role in terms of facilitating the development of his young compatriots and the experience of playing the World Championship at home will certainly play a big part in it.

“I’m definitely the most experienced player among the ones who are with the national team right now and I try to help them with my knowledge and by sharing some information that I think could help their development,” Virgen commented. “I believe we have several young players with a lot of quality and with the ability to do some really great things for Mexican beach volleyball. I keep telling them that the first step is to believe in it and then to work hard and remain focused.”

Virgen, however, is not the only beach volleyball veteran supporting the development of the up-and-coming Mexican talent. Since last November the country’s national teams have been coached by the legendary Brazilian Ricardo Santos, a 2004 Olympic champion and 2003 world champion.

As part of the Mexican preparations for the World Championship, Ricardo took the country’s national teams for a training camp in Florida, the United States, where his family lives, and the period brought great benefits for them, according to Virgen.

“Ricardo has been helping us a lot, sharing his knowledge and helping us become stronger and more competitive, it’s been great to have him with us,” the defender explained. “The training camp in Orlando was excellent because it took us away from our routine and we had to push really hard because of the hot weather and the humidity there. We also got to practice with different players, such as Brazil’s Alvaro Filho, and I feel that the days we spent there were really important to help us prepare for the World Championship.”

Virgen and Sarabia are part of Pool L at the World Championship and will start their campaign on October 6, in Huamantla, at 19:00 local time (01:00 UTC, October 7), against Moroccans Mohamed Abicha and Oussama El Azhari. In pool play, the two will also face Brazil’s Vitor Felipe/Renato Lima and Canada’s Sam Schachter/Dan Dearing.

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