Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games European Qualifiers – recap

The dust, or should we say sand, has finally settled, and this past weekend certainly didn’t disappoint. Athletes from all over Europe took to the orange sand of Portobello to gain direct qualification to next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and two successful teams made that goal a reality yesterday.

Pool play was first up, with the first four matches taking place late afternoon on Friday (24th). The wind certainly made things difficult for teams, but partners worked well to overcome the changes in play. The Scotland pair of Graham Riddle and Jamie McHardy were up first, taking on the Welsh duo of Conor Robins and Billy Ewings. Matches were streamed live directly on the Scottish Volleyball Facebook and YouTube pages, as well as on BBC Sport Scotland and on the red button, and spectators both in person and online were treated to a thrilling 3 set battle, with Scotland eventually taking the win. Cyprus and Gibraltar took to the court next, countries perhaps unused to the changeable (and according to them, chilly) weather of late summer in Scotland. None the less, the Cypriot team of Charalampos Zorbis and Antonios Liotatis defied the weather to gain their first win of the tournament.

The women finished off the last two matches of the day. Scotland again were the first team up, Lynne Beattie and Mel Coutts taking on the Welsh team of Clare Skidmore and Elisa Ionascu that they’ve battle numerous times over the past months. Scotland took the win this time in 2 sets. The last match of day was Northern Irelands’ team of Rachel Montgomery and Becky Rankin taking on Cyprus’ Zoi Konstantopoulou and Erika Nystrom. The Cypriot team showed their experience, taking their first win of the tournament in two sets.

Day two would see more pool play, with matches dictating the semi-final match ups of the subsequent day. Jonathan Workman and Jeff Scott of Northern Ireland made their Commonwealth Games Qualifiers debut against the Cypriots in the morning, with the Cyprus team narrowly taking the win. Spectators thoroughly enjoyed the performances put on by athletes, with the grandstand being full to the brim during the day. By the end of Saturday, the women’s semi finals had been decided, with two more men’s matches still to go.

 Before we knew it, it was Sunday and that meant one thing – finals day. But first, men’s pool play. The results from these matches would determine the men’s semi-final. Northern Ireland cinched their 3rd win of the tournament over Gibraltar’s Mark Gomez and Martin Gomez, and Wales gave their best against Cyprus but couldn’t give it enough, losing the match 2-1. Now to the exciting part – semi-finals! In the women’s side, Cyprus beat Northern Ireland 2-0 to set up a Scotland v Cyprus final after Wales lost to Scotland in the other half. Wales would go on to beat Northern Ireland 2-0 to win 3rd place. In the men’s side, things looked very similar; Scotland beat Northern Ireland and Cyprus beat Wales, again setting up a Scotland v Cyprus final. Wales would also go on the win the 3rd place trophy, rounding off a successful haul for the Welsh.

The women’s final certainly didn’t disappoint – Cyprus and Scotland battled hard, much to the delight of the fans avidly watching from the promenade. Having previously lost to Cyprus in the pool play, the pressure was on Scotland. Despite their best efforts, Cyprus performed superbly and won the match 2-0, ensuring qualification for their country.

A similar sight followed, Cyprus and Scotland taking to the beach once again, this side in the men’s tournament. Scotland took the first set convincingly with a 6 point lead. Cyprus however weren’t ones to go out without a fight – they came back swinging (quite literally) in the 2nd, winning a close set 21-18. It was all to play for in the 3rd set, and neither team looked like they were giving up. However, one team always wins, and in this case it was Cyprus that took the win, making it a double qualification for their country.

Congratulation to all the teams who took part in the tournament. What a weekend it was! A massive thank you must be given to all the volunteers, staff, players and spectators who made our event one to remember. We would also like to thank Edinburgh Beach Volleyball Club for allowing us to host the event at Portobello beach, the City of Edinburgh Council, SportScotland and Team Scotland, QTV, Woosh and Graeme and Keith Easton, BBC Sport Scotland, Jake Sheaf and UK Beach Tour, and Zeon Teamwear for all the hard work they put in before, during and after the event. Without a dedicated team like this our event would have never been as successful as it was.