Pool B in this weekend’s Paris Elite16 is both metaphorically and literally a family affair. Of the four teams in the pool, two – Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum, and Hendrik Mol and Mathias Berntsen – include actual brothers, with the elder, Hendrik, battling with his World Championship-winning brother, Anders. The other two members of the pool, Chileans Marco and Esteban Grimalt – they are cousins – and Noe Aravena and Vicente Droguett, are not technically related, but in a brief interview with Marco Grimalt and Aravena, the word “brother” was used four times.
Pool B: The pool of brotherly love
Both Norwegian and Chilean teams wound up in Pool B, which was a family affair on the opening day of the Paris Elite16
Pubblicato 12:47, 30 set 2022
“He always talks like he’s our big brother, which is awesome because they are the Grimalt Cousins, they are legendary, you know?” said Aravena, the sensational 20-year-old defender who is in the midst of his first full professional season. “So to make a part of this team, us two, it’s an honour for us. We wouldn’t be here without them because they opened the door for so many people in Chile, specifically us. Thanks to them, we are where we are and we’re happy to follow their way.”
Still: While the brotherly love abounded on Thursday, someone had to win, and someone had to lose. For Norway, it was the younger, Anders, who claimed the battle of the brothers, as he and Sorum won, 21-14, 21-11. The Chileans did the reverse, with the elders, Marco and Esteban, sweeping their young counterparts, 21-12, 21-17.
“Our relationship is like brothers; they’re like our little brothers,” Marco said. “We’ve known them since they started playing when they were 14, 15 years old. It’s like a little brother for us, and now they’re here in the best tournament, the best level of beach volleyball, so we’re happy and proud for them. On the court, of course, we’re all rivals, and we have to play at 100 per cent to win.”
And then, as soon as it’s over, the on-court rivalry is finished, and they’re brothers once more, rooting one another on in the monumental effort that it takes to break pool in an Elite16. Paris marks at once the first occasion that both Norwegian teams are in an Elite main draw, as well as both Chilean pairs. Even with the inevitability of drawing a loss, it’s no small accomplishment for either federation to place two teams in the main draw of the highest level of the sport.
“To play against them in Paris – they’ve been increasing a lot in the rankings this season,” Anders said of Hendrik and Berntsen. “They’ve been one of the best teams to increase in the rankings so it’s been really cool to have them in the same tournament. This is all a big success for the team that we can all be in the Elite16 together. That’s never happened before for us. That’s great that the first time we met each other was in an Elite16, that means we’re going in the right direction.”
Anders Mol and Sorum continued in the right direction, topping the Grimalt cousins, 21-12, 18-21, 15-9 to finish the day 2-0. Aravena and Droguett rebounded from their morning loss to their “big brothers” with a comeback win over Hendrik Mol and Berntsen, 21-18, 21-19.
“Now these guys are following our steps, so we’re proud of them and now we’re happy to be here together,” Marco Grimalt said. “It’s not just two of us, we have more players, more teammates, and that’s how we feel about them. We’re happy and we’re hungry for more as a team and a country also.”
Other than Mol and Sorum, the only other team to begin 2-0 in Paris is Spain’s Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera, who logged wins over the Czech Republic and Lithuania. The pair of home teams for France, Arnaud Gauthier-Rat and Youssef Krou, and wild cards Remi Bassereau and Julian Lyneel, combined to go 0-2, though both were well-fought matches.
Krou and Gauthier-Rat played what is arguably the match of the day in a 23-21, 21-23, 16-18 battle with Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan of Qatar. Bassereau and Lyneel, meanwhile, who are making the transition from indoor to beach, played their first career matches against the hottest team in the world in Poland’s Bartosz Losiak and Michal Bryl. After a choppy first set led to a 21-13 loss, Lyneel and Bassereau jumped out to an 18-13 lead in the second on the backs of excellent side out play from Lyneel and a number of blocks for Bassereau. Losiak and Bryl, however, have not won consecutive gold medals by accident, and finished the second set on a 9-2 run, closing out a 21-13, 22-20 victory.