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Youssef Krou & Arnaud Gauthier-Rat celebrate after winning the final

Youssef Krou and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat topped the men’s podium at the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Torquay Elite16 event on Saturday. The sixth-seeded Frenchmen, who had never advanced to the final four on the Tour before, won the final to celebrate their first gold.

· Watch the matches at the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Elite16 event in Torquay live and on demand on Volleyball TV.

The silver medals stayed in Australia. Home heroes Thomas Hodges and Zachery Schubert, seeded seventh at the tournament, made it all the way to the final at their first Elite16 appearance and fought hard, only to settle for the second place. Previously, their best results on the Beach Pro Tour were three quarterfinals at the Challenge level and two Futures podiums.

Fifth-seeded Italian Olympians Adrian Carambula and Alex Ranghieri, who won the Torquay Challenge silver last week, will also go home from their first Beach Pro Tour trip together with an Elite16 bronze.

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The Torquay Elite16 men’s podium

It took Krou and Gauthier-Rat two extended sets and saving three opponent set points to claim a hard-fought 2-0 (22-20, 23-21) victory over Hodges and Schubert in the gold medal match. Krou produced the match high of 19 points, including four kill blocks. The first set of the final was really tight. The margin never went wider than two points in favour of the French or one point in favour of the Australians. The home team were the first to reach set point on a block-out hit by Hodges for 20-19. A successful swing by Gauthier-Rat levelled the score and then two consecutive unforced errors in attack by the Aussies gifted the set to the Europeans at 22-20. In the second set, the advantage swung from three points Krou and Gauthier-Rat’s way to three points Hodges and Schubert’s way before it was all level again at 15-15. An immaculate ace by Schubert for 18-16 was delivered, and soon the Aussies found themselves with a double set point. The Frenchmen denied it and then reached their first championship point on a monster block by Krou. Hodges levelled it back with a powerful swing, but an off-the-block hit by Gauthier-Rat put the French in front again. Finally, a Schubert hit on two landed out of bounds to set off the French celebrations at 23-21.

“I don’t know what to say, but ‘thank you’. Australia has always been very supportive. I’m always glad to come here. The tournaments are always really on point, and I play pretty well in Australia,” Krou said after the game. “I do look forward to the Olympics at home in Paris, but the path there is still pretty long. Step by step, tournament by tournament, we’ll see what is going to happen.”

“It takes incredible courage to come back from scratch, build your side-out game again and come to the top like Youssef did after his really bad shoulder injury a couple of years ago. So he deserves the best,” said Gauthier-Rat. “With the pressure of the Olympic cycle, sometimes you lose sense of what’s important and it is to find pleasure in the game. That’s what we found at this tournament and I’m very happy.”

Hodges & Schubert vs Krou & Gauthier-Rat 0-2 (20-22, 21-23): match highlights

34-year-old Carambula and 35-year-old Ranghieri mastered a 2-0 (21-15, 21-16) shutout of eighth-seeded Americans Paul Lotman and Miles Evans in the bronze medal game earlier on Saturday. Ranghieri’s blocking made a great difference in this match, producing as many as eight stuffs towards the victory. He was the game’s top scorer on 23 points, including an ace for the match winner. After a tight beginning of the first set, Lotman and Evans broke away with five consecutive points to take a 12-8 lead, but it did not last long. With Ranghieri dominating at the net, the Italians responded with five in a row to break away with a 16-13 advantage and never looked back. Another four back-to-back points, crowned by three consecutive Ranghieri monster blocks, brought in set point at 20-14, before an attacking error by their opponents ended the set at 21-15 in favour of the European team. The second set was quite competitive through 10-10, but that was the last time the score was tied. Gradually, the Italians started opening a gap, which in the end went as wide as five points when Ranghieri aced for the match winner.

Carambula & Ranghieri vs Lotman & Evans 2-0 (21-15, 21-16): match highlights