TASS Stars Awards – Athlete(s) of the Year
Londoners Javier and Joaquin Bello are two of the rising stars of beach volleyball and were worthy winners of this year’s TASS Stars Athletes Of The Year award. We caught up with the high-flying 20-year-old twins following last week’s Under 22 Beach Volleyball Championships in Turkey.
TASS: How would you describe 2020 so far?
Bellos: It’s been a difficult year with most competitions cancelled but we decided to look at it as a good opportunity to develop and improve our game. All the planning we had for the season disappeared all of a sudden and, like all other athletes (and everyone!), we had to adjust our aims and ambitions.
TASS: What were the highlights of your sporting season prior to lockdown?
Bellos: This season was very special for us because we won our first World Tour medal – the first ever for an English men’s pair in beach volleyball. We also had several top five finishes and we became the number one ranked English team.
TASS: What have you missed out on as a result of the coronavirus pandemic?
Bellos: Apart from our training plans abroad (our training camp in Switzerland in March was cancelled 48 hrs before we were meant to fly out), we’ve missed the whole 2020 World Tour competition where we hoped to medal and gain lots of world ranking points. We also missed other international competitions like the second round of the Continental Cup (Olympic qualification tournament) and the FISU World Championships – as well as national tour events. After a long and productive pre-season it really killed our momentum but we’re grateful to have some competitions in the next few weeks and months.
TASS: How do you feel you have coped with the unprecedented challenge posed by Covid-19 and have you encountered any specific problems?
Bellos: Overall, we feel that we coped well and did everything possible to stay in shape and continue training – including installing a home gym. It was easier in our case because we live together so we weren’t so restricted.
TASS: What are you able to do now and what’s happening on the competitive front?
Bellos: We’ve been back to full training for some months and also started competing on the national tour again. We were due to compete together in the Under 22 European Championships from September 23 but Joaquin picked up a last minute injury. We were really excited to be playing as a team again and to have a big opportunity in such an important event. Javier and his partner were drawn in a really tough group but it still felt fantastic to be back in international competition again.
TASS: What are your targets for 2021?
Bellos: Our main goal is to continue winning and progressing on the World Tour but the second round of the Continental Cup and selection for the 2022 Commonwealth Games will also be at the top of our priorities. We’ll also have another chance in the Under 22 European Championship next year. It’s going to be a great season for us and we can’t wait to start preparing for it.
TASS: What does it mean to you to be part of the TASS family?
Bellos: It means so much to have TASS as part of our team because they offer so much to support many important aspects of our career – everything from strength and conditioning to psychology and nutrition. With the injuries and problems that we have had – and expect to face in the future – it means even more to have TASS helping us every step of the way. We’re really grateful for the work that they do with us.
TASS: What did it mean to be recognised at the TASS Stars Awards?
Bellos: We’re so honoured to be recognised by TASS and it feels great that the work we’re doing is acknowledged. It’s going to motivate us to continue on the right path and keep working hard into 2021.
TASS: Following a year of intense disruption do you think TASS will have an even more important role to play in the next few months and years and, if so, why?
Bellos: Yes. Undoubtedly. Like every international athlete on the scheme, we’re going to need TASS more than ever. The coronavirus pandemic is like no other challenge we’ve ever faced. TASS support and funding is vital as we try to compete against countries facing the same challenges and fighting harder than ever to be the best. The way we look at it, TASS could give us the edge we need to come back next season better than ever and be fully prepared to take on even bigger challenges.
Javier and Joaquin Bello were nominated as TASS Athletes of the Year in recognition of their teamwork, commitment and continued progress. Representing England and Great Britain, the twins are helping to change the perception of volleyball in the UK and created history by becoming the first homegrown pair to pick up a medal on the World Tour. Fifth place at the Youth Olympics and Under 19 World Championships in 2018 underlined the Bello brothers’ potential and they are ambassadors for the beach volleyball tournament at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. In 2019 the duo travelled more than 114,000km across 13 countries to gain valuable experience and improve their world ranking. Javier is studying medicine at Imperial College in London and Joaquin is in the third year of a Politics, Philosophy and Economics degree at Royal Holloway University.