Elite16 - Doha, QAT - 2023 - Beach Pro Tour 2023 season - News


Cheng and Hughes are determined to start their Olympic qualification campaign with a good result

Things couldn’t have gone better for Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes since the Americans started their second stint as beach volleyball partners, about three months ago.

The two players formed the winningest team in American collegiate beach volleyball in the past and reunited last November after more than four years apart. They have been nothing but dominant so far, winning all four tournaments they have played at.

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The 27-year-old Americans were very successful in their first event together in more than four years, winning an American AVP tournament in November. Right after that, they headed to Torquay, Australia, where they triumphed in Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge and Elite16 tournaments in consecutive weeks.

Their strong display in Australia was enough for the Americans to earn a wild card for the 2022 Beach Pro Tour Finals last week. Cheng and Hughes made the most of the opportunity, taking gold in Doha, Qatar, and securing the biggest victory of their careers so far.

“I think this team has a really high ceiling and I’m really excited to see what it is,” Cheng told Volleyball World. “We didn’t have as much time as other teams to prepare, but we had five years together in the past. It’s been exciting to see us battling with the best, as we’re still figuring each other out and tweaking things.”

The Americans, however, won’t have much time to celebrate their huge victory in Doha as a new and exciting challenge begins with the start of the 2023 Beach Pro Tour in the Qatari capital this week. The Elite16 event held at the Aspire Park sports complex will also mark the start of the qualification period for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

In 2018, Cheng and Hughes said they would attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics together - they had won as many as 103 consecutive matches in the American collegiate system playing for the University of Southern California. Their decision to end their partnership, however, changed those plans.

Almost five years later, the defender of the team, Hughes will try to qualify for the Olympics for the first time, while Cheng will hope to improve on a ninth place in Tokyo with Sarah Sponcil.

“I am looking forward to making it to the Olympics for the first time, especially with Kelly,” Hughes commented. “I don’t think there’s anything better than representing the United States at the Olympics, and even more at that beautiful venue at the Eiffel Tower. Could it be any more perfect?”


The Americans want to take advantage of their great form to start the Olympic qualification well

The Americans want to keep their good momentum going for at least another week so that they make a strong start to their Olympic qualification efforts in Doha. The two are in Pool B and will face Swiss pair Nina Brunner and Tanja Huberli, Canadians Brandie Wilkerson and Melissa Humana-Paredes and a team coming from the qualifier in the first phase of the event. Their opening match will be on Thursday.

“We want to do well, get on the podium and get a good start to Olympic qualification,” Hughes said. “That’s our main goal for the season and we’re really excited to get started.”