Brouwer/Meeuwsen (NED) vs. Herrera/Gavira (ESP) - Pool B #6497321

Herrera has never missed an edition of the World Championship since his debut, in 2003

The FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship is set to return to Latin America for the first time in two decades this week, when the Mexican city of Tlaxcala hosts the 14th edition of the tournament.

To 95 of the 96 athletes set to compete in Mexico from October 6-15, it will be the first time playing the World Championships in the region. Spanish veteran Pablo Herrera is the only exception.

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The legendary Spanish, who went to win the silver medal at the Athens 2004 Olympics, made his World Championship debut one year earlier, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at the age of 21, and has never missed an edition of the tournament in the last two decades.

The only player to have competed in 2003 to remain active in international beach volleyball, Herrera, now aged 41, will make history when partner Adrián Gavira and him go on the court on Friday to face Australians Chris McHugh and Paul Burnett in their Pool H opener as he’ll then become the first player to have appeared in 11 editions of the event.

“I’m very happy to see that I’m still able to battle the best players in the world and having one of them, Adrián, by my side certainly helps a lot,” the Spanish told Volleyball World. “The younger players are all very strong and the level is incredibly high now. I believe we’re the oldest team on the Beach Pro Tour and we’re still competing in every match. I don’t look for records and stuff like that, all I want is to feel good on the court and help my team the most I can.”

Herrera’s international career, which began in 2001, in an FIVB World Tour event in his home sand Tenerife, now includes as many as 208 senior events, 11 of which were editions of the World Championships.

Since his debut, the Spanish legend has competed with three different partners and has a fifth-place finish, which he repeated four times in seven appearances with Gavira, as his best result.

“I have some beautiful memories from the previous World Championships,” Herrera added. “Each edition is different and I always get to it determined to do better than I did two years before. Hopefully we can go further this time in Mexico.”


Gavira and Herrera in action during last year's World Championship, in Rome

A good result in Tlaxcala would push Herrera closer to another record in international beach volleyball as Gavira and him are strongly positioned in the race to qualify for next year’s Paris Olympics. The 41-year-old veteran, who since his first appearance in the Games, in 2004, has never missed an edition of the tournament, could then become the first beach volleyball player to compete in six Olympics.

“We started the year very well and got some good results,” he reflected. “When Adrián had dengue fever, that stopped our run and it took us a little while to find our rhythm again, but we’re ready now. The World Championship will be critical in terms of Olympic qualification and I believe that a good result in Tlaxcala would put us in a really good spot to make it to Paris. The Olympics are getting closer and it’s very important for us to get a good finish.”

After ten appearances, Herrera certainly feels very comfortable at the World Championship and the same can be said about the host country Mexico. Besides speaking Spanish, the local language, the veteran also built some great recent memories in the country when Gavira and him won the Volleyball Beach Pro Tour La Paz Challenge earlier in March, returning to the top of the podium in an international event for the first time in five years.

“We were in Tlaxcala last year for the Beach Pro Tour and the people were amazing to all the players,” he recalled. “I’m sure they will be even more excited this year with the World Championship. And for us, playing in Mexico is always nice. The people stay behind us and we always have a lot of support. Earlier this year we took gold in La Paz and I was really emotional to return to the top of the podium in an international event after some years.”

Besides the Australians, Herrera and Gavira will also play the home team of Jorge Barajas and Gabriel Cruz and Italians Paolo Nicolai and Samuele Cottafava in Pool H. The first two teams in the pool advance to the elimination rounds, as well as four of the 12 third-placed duos – the remaining eight sides will play a lucky loser round.

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