Challenge - La Paz, MEX - 2023 - Beach Pro Tour 2023 season - News

BPT Challenge Espinho - Men Bronze medal Match - LATvsPOL_12

Latvian veterans Smedins and Samoilovs have five Olympic appearances between them

After a 40-day break following the conclusion of the Doha Elite16, the 2023 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour is ready to resume in La Paz, Mexico, the city that will host the first Challenge tournament of the season from March 16-19.

The event, which will be the first international-level beach volleyball tournament ever held in the Mexican city, will have a very strong field on the men’s side, with 16 teams starting their campaigns in the main draw and another 32 competing in the qualifier for the eight final berths in the main phase of the event.

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Among the 48 teams that form the field of the La Paz Challenge, there are plenty of well-known faces on the Beach Pro Tour, with as many as 19 Olympians taking part in the four-day tournament that will feature beach volleyball teams from 26 different nations.

Italian defender Daniele Lupo, a silver medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and Brazilian Evandro Gonçalves, a 2017 world champion, are among the most accomplished players in the field, but here are five teams who could have solid results in La Paz:

Nolvak/Tiisaar (Estonia)

After several years of establishing themselves among the top teams in the world, Kusti Nõlvak and Mart Tiisaar had a strong 2022 season, finishing fifth in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship and getting fourths in the Itapema Challenge and the Jurmala Elite16. It’s very clear that the Estonians' first Beach Pro Tour medal is only a matter of time and that could very well happen in La Paz as they will enter the event as the second-seeded team among the men.

Schalk/Bourne (USA)

One of the several new teams that will be making their first appearances in La Paz, Chaim Schalk and Tri Bourne are seeded ninth in the Mexican event. Despite their recent union, the Americans have what it takes to hit the ground running as they have been competing internationally for more than a decade and are both Olympians – Schalk represented his native Canada at the Rio 2016 Games while Bourne played in Tokyo. They know they will need a strong result in their first event in the Paris 2024 Olympic qualification period to start it on the right foot and will try and get it in La Paz.

Virgen/Sarabia (Mexico)

The only Mexican team guaranteed in the main draw, Juan Virgen and Miguel Sarabia will have the home fans behind them when they get on the court in La Paz. A Rio Olympian, the 35-year-old Virgen is one of the most experienced players on the field and he looks reenergized by having the 23-year-old Sarabia by his side in 2022 after spending a full decade with Lombardo Ontiveros. The two had somewhat of an adjustment season  and will be looking to begin 2023 with a strong finish in front of their home fans.

10 122 M

Mexicans Virgen and Sarabia will looking for growth in their second season as partners

Pedro Solberg/Álvaro Filho (Brazil)

After going through a few different partners over the last nine years, Brazilians Pedro Solberg and Álvaro Filho are back together. Their first stint as partners was brief, lasting only two international events in 2014, but it was long enough for them to win an FIVB World Tour event in Stare Jablonki in their first appearance as partners. A lot has happened in both of their careers since then, with the 36-year-old Pedro playing in the Rio 2016 Games and the 32-year-old Álvaro representing Brazil in Tokyo, but they certainly hope that their second run as partners starts just like the first one did even if they will begin in the qualifier in La Paz.

Pedro Alvaro

Pedro and Alvaro won gold in an FIVB World Tour event in Poland back in 2014

Samoilovs/Smedins (Latvia)

Latvian veterans Aleksandrs Samoilovs, 37, and Janis Smedins, 35, have five Olympic appearances among them, but not much has gone well for the two since they failed in their attempt to qualify for Tokyo in 2021. The quality is obviously still there, and it was in full display when they won bronze medals at Beach Pro Tour Challenge events in Tlaxcala and Espinho last year, but other inconsistent results and a 17th-place finish at the season-opening Doha Elite16 have thrown them to the qualifier in La Paz, from where they will try to begin a turnaround in their season.