Chetumal, Mexico, November 12, 2019 – When Juan Virgen heard Chetumal was going to host an FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event last season, he couldn’t help but smile with the thought of playing a home tournament for the first time since 2016.
The event in October 2018 ended up being a women's-only tournament, but this week the 32-year-old Mexican will finally have his chance to have the home crowd behind him and partner Lombardo Ontiveros as Chetumal returns for the 2019-2020 season, this time with a double-gender, four-star tournament.
“We wished last year’s event had a men’s tournament too,” Virgen said. “But here we are now, and it’s a four-star this season with Olympic points up for grabs. We only heard great things about Chetumal last year and I’m really looking forward to be in the city for the first time. We know it’s going to be very emotional not only for us, but for all Mexican teams. We count on the support of the fans to help us get our best result this year.”
Virgen and Ontiveros, who represented Mexico at the Rio 2016 Olympics, when they finished ninth, could certainly use a good result at this point of the year. The veterans, who are partners since 2012, had uncharacteristic results in 2019, failing to reach the quarterfinals of a World Tour event for an entire season for the first time since they joined forces.
The highest point of their season was a silver medal at the Pan-American Games, a tournament they won in 2015. But to keep their hopes of taking Mexico to another edition of the Olympics alive, they know they will need better results.
“Things didn’t go exactly the way we planned this season, but we remain focused on the goal of qualifying for the Olympics,” the blocker added. “It’s a tough road, but there’s still a chance and we’ll keep dreaming and working for it.”
Virgen and Ontiveros have played in World Tour events in Mexico together just once and they took a bronze medal in Puerto Vallarta in 2014. The team will count on two opportunities to play in front of their fans this year as Cancun, also in the state of Quintana Roo, is set to host its first-ever World Tour event in March 2020.
Ontiveros and Virgen have been partners on the World Tour since 2012
The impact of the events in the country, Virgen believes, goes far beyond boosting their chances of having good results and qualifying for the Olympics.
“Having this tournament and the one in Cancun in March is a great opportunity for Mexican players to compete against the best in the world,” the veteran added. “It helps us as we pursue Olympic qualification but also strengthens beach volleyball in the country. Step by step, more Mexicans are getting to know the sport and we can already see more people playing it.”
Besides Virgen and Ontiveros, the four other Mexican teams set to compete in the men’s tournament in Chetumal are Josue Gaxiola/Jose Rubio, Raymond Stephens/Miguel Sarabia, Habid Chay/Elian Yepez and Jose Cardenas/Juan Espinoza.
The host country will be represented in the women’s event by Martha Revuelta/Zaira Orellana, Danna Cortes/Susana Torres, Atenas Gutierrez/Silvia Herdrick, Diana Lizarraga/Maria Quintero and Assul Lopez/Karla Valdez.