England Bello twins denied by Canada comeback in beach volleyball semifinal | Commonwealth Games 2022

When Javier Bello jumped into the air and pushed the volleyball down for the last time, sending the ball flying far out, his and his brother’s shoulders had already slumped in resignation. In the biggest game of their career, before the 4,000 spectators they had animated with their own excellence, they had been gradually smothered by the skill and more experience of their Canadian opponents. They fell to Canadian Sam Schachter and Daniel Dearing 15-21, 21-13, 15-7 in the Commonwealth Games semifinals.

Over the past ten days, Javier and Joaquin Bello, right in the middle of Smithfield, have made the show of themselves – two young, talented and dynamic twin brothers determined to put beach volleyball on the map in this country. The couple was born in Madrid, but moved to London when they were young. At the age of 22, they are a two-time British champion and are coached by their father, a former volleyball player.

Hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, they play in a stadium built on a glorified building site, but the scenes are unforgettable. The music, the dancers fluttering to the field every time the contestants walk away, the audience’s breathless enthusiasm for a sport many had probably never seen on television before this event. And especially the spectacle; on Friday, the Bello brothers narrowly passed a skilled Gambian team in a ferocious, tense three-set match that ended in an outrageous final point, giving them the chance to play for a medal.

A day later, they blasted through an amazing opening set, with Javier relentlessly firing point-winning spikes. Joaquin, the ice to his twin brother’s fire, was eternally solid, constantly saving points with his blocks and composure. They had the audience in the palm of their hands, the crowd exploded when they took the first set.

But the Canadian team is older, higher ranked and more experienced. They had gone through the rounds undefeated and quickly showed their class. When they turned the page of the first set, they were flawless and redeemed themselves from mistakes as Dearing constantly stood up to make spectacular blocks. “It felt like there was no passage at some point,” said Javier.

As they worked through the loss, Javier, the more outwardly emotional of the two, buried his head in a towel. He spoke bitterly of the missed opportunity, but despite his frustration, he acknowledged his hope that this will only be the beginning. That this Commonwealth Games will give such a low-profile sport in Britain a more permanent following.

“I hope many thousands of people have seen what beach volleyball is, what it is like,” he said. “I think that was missing in the UK – a lot of people hadn’t seen it. Everyone who has seen it for the first time now thinks how great the sport is, how much of a show, a spectacle it is.

“The music, the DJ, the dancing, the entertainment. This is beach volleyball, it should always be that way and I just hope that after tomorrow we will have more chances to play in a stadium like this. And that more athletes like me can compete for England at the highest level in beach volleyball.”

But before that, there’s one more chance. The brothers will get another shot at snatching a medal when they face Rwandan pair Olivier Ntagengwa and Venuste Gatsinzi in Sunday’s bronze medal match. Together with their opponents, they were the other big story in the competition, so desperately close to becoming Rwanda’s first Commonwealth Games medalists.

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