Bello brothers balance intense year on and off the beach
Javier and Joaquin Bello in action at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires (Credit: Jed Leicester for OIS/IOC)
Life’s a beach for volleyball’s fast-rising Bello brothers. In the midst of their busiest year yet, the sand-loving siblings still found time to talk to TASS.
TASS: Can you sum up your Youth Olympic Games experience now that the dust has settled on an incredible journey?
JAVIER & JOAQUIN BELLO: From qualifying, through preparation and up to the competition itself it really has been an incredible journey. Looking back, the experience was so important for our sporting careers. The feeling of being part of Team GB and getting to play at such a high-level event, in front of 5,000 people, is difficult to describe.
TASS: Are you satisfied with a fifth-place finish or do you feel the tournament could have gone even better for you?
BELLOS: We are disappointed with the way we managed the game in our quarter-final, especially as we were playing at a high level and had just come off a great victory against Australia. Playing against Argentina we knew it was going to be an extremely close game. Despite having nine set balls we lost the first set 35-33 and quite simply we did not recover. Despite this, we did all we could to enter the fight for the medals and fell short due to a few minor mistakes. Of course we will always think we could have done some things differently but in the end we played some excellent volleyball on the way to the quarter-final – and in the quarter-final – to finish amongst the best teams in the world.
TASS: What did you learn in Buenos Aires that you can use moving forward?
BELLOS: We got to experience a multisport event on an even larger scale than the Youth Commonwealth Games last year. The atmosphere at the Olympic village, the volunteers, mixing with so many different athletes, watching other sports…it was a true celebration of the values of the Olympic movement and those moments will be in our memory for a long time to come. On a personal level, although it may sound obvious for any student athlete, we have learnt you have to set yourself new challenges every day and continue to push to achieve them. We have also learnt how to better deal with the frustration and disappointment of a bad day that leaves you without a medal.
TASS: Has the Youth Olympic Games experience only fuelled your desire to compete for podium places at major competitions in the future?
BELLOS: Absolutely! It has showed us that we can be competitive and fight for a podium place against countries with a long tradition of beach volleyball and much more resources than us. Before the Youth Olympic Games we already had solid international experience. We’d won more than 110 caps for England and we’d started competing and winning in senior tournaments. Seeing how close we are to the podium, we have set ourselves some new challenges for the upcoming season. We’d like to say the YOG were only the beginning of more success to come.
TASS: You had one day at university before heading off to Argentina – what are you most looking forward to about going back?
BELLOS: We are really looking forward to getting back into a routine. For us, this summer has been really crazy. Since March, we have been all over the world – training, playing and living the life of an elite athlete 24/7. It was fantastic but it took a toll on us mentally and physically. We really want to have a proper off-season and finally get some rest in order to be able to prepare for the season ahead. And of course with the added bonus that we have a little bit more time to catch up on our studies!
TASS: How important is it for you to study for a degree at the same time as progressing your volleyball careers?
BELLOS: We always knew we wanted to have the best of both worlds. We really value our education and so it’s important for us to study as well as maintain a semi-professional sporting career. It will be difficult to balance but we are used to this challenge and will continue to strive for better things in both aspects of our lives.
TASS: Are you ready for the unique challenges facing dual career athletes at university and what do you anticipate will be the most difficult aspect of juggling your studies with your sport?
BELLOS: We have been doing it for as long as we can remember and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s true that the demands are different and now greater as we start university. But we are also more prepared to meet those challenges and will always have the support of other people around us – most notably our parents. The most difficult part is going to be how we manage our training schedule and competitions calendar with exams, assignments and deadlines.