Chetumal, Mexico, November 13, 2019 – Sara Hughes’ first attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games is not necessarily going the way she expected, but the 24-year-old American defender is certainly learning a lot from the situations she’s facing as she tries to book her place in Tokyo next summer.
Considered by many the next great player of American beach volleyball, Hughes took the difficult decision to split with longtime partner Kelly Claes in 2018 as she joined Summer Ross. The team didn’t take off as the players expected and is currently 29th in the Olympic ranking, behind four other Americans, all of which have at least 1,000 points more than them.
“You always learn and grow, especially when bad things happen,” Hughes reflected. “Olympic qualification is over when it’s over and there’s still a lot to happen, so we’ll keep working. That’s just who I am and fortunately I have a great support system at home with my friends and my family and they keep saying ‘you’re young, if it’s not this time around, it’s going to be the next one’”.
Sara Hughes (left) is playing with Terese Cannon in Chetumal
The team was put in this situation, for the most part, by a back injury Ross sustained at a critical point of the season. After losing a country-quota match in Gstaad, in July, the Americans were forced to miss the next three months of competition, which included three five-star and two four-star events.
The team was finally reunited earlier this month in Qinzhou, China but after they finished ninth the injury came back. With that, Hughes is playing in this week’s event in Chetumal, Mexico with former USC teammate Terese Cannon.
“When we got back home, Summer felt she wasn’t one hundred percent recovered and that she wasn’t ready to play at this level yet,” the defender reflected. “It’s obviously not an easy situation and the fact that it’s not in my control, it makes it even harder, but all I can do is to keep working hard and growing my game.”
Cannon, however, is not the only familiar collegiate face the defender has by her side in Mexico this week as she turned to another member of her USC family, coach Anna Collier, to help the temporary team this week in Chetumal.
“It’s so nice to have her back,” Hughes said. “I asked her to come back specifically for this and she was more than happy to. She’s helped us to train and Jose Loiola is helping me train a lot too, so it’s just nice that I can have two elite coaches around right now.”