The Pan American Games, which is the second largest international sports event behind the Olympics, will be held from October 14 – 30 and based in Guadalajara, Mexico. A few thousand athletes will compete in this quadrennial event, which many will use to prepare for the London Olympics next summer.
Beach Volleyball, one of several sports that will be contested in the nearby Puerto Vallarta resort, will attract athletes from dozens of countries between October 16 – 22.
USA Volleyball announced yesterday its nomination of both a men’s and women’s team, which requires an official approval from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Mid-ranked professionals Mark Van Zwieten and Andrew Fuller, as well as Emily Day and Heather Hughes, were chosen from a pool of athletes who participated in USAV’s high performance beach volleyball tryouts, and who trained at its Hermosa Beach headquarters earlier this year.
The Van Zwieten surname is practically a household word in Florida due to the family’s strong beach volleyball prowess. The 6’1” Mark, the youngest of three beach pros, is a steadily improving player, who has superb all-around skills. Andrew Fuller, whose towering 6’10 height causes havoc among opponents, will gladly handle the net duty. While the two have not competed together, they will have the opportunity to gel soon after the domestic pro season ends this month.
On the other hand, Day and Hughes have competed in 14 events together – almost a life-time by beach volleyball standards. These two former “young gun” event players, strengthened their game in the offseason, and the payoff has been huge. This six-foot-plus pair has notched a trio of third places in three separate pro tours this year – among several top ten placements.
These two rising tandems will compete among dozens of teams from countries spanning all of the Americas. Duos from Brazil, Canada, and Mexico will challenge these partnerships the most.
“The international game is different style and pace than the domestic (game), so to be exposed to it at such a high level is great for us. We are excited to compete against some of the best teams in the world,” said Day.
The highly-respected Jeff Conover, who is the coach of the second best American women’s team – Jennifer Kessy and April Ross, has been tapped to guide these players to the podium.
Conover said, “I am very excited and thankful to have the opportunity to work with these four very gifted and highly-motivated athletes. The PanAm Games is one of the biggest events we have in this sport and we will do our best to represent the USA proudly and hopefully bring home a couple medals in the process.”
Team USA last won a medal at the Pan Am 2007 Games in Rio de Janeiro, where Hans Stolfus and Ty Loomis earned a silver.